Orders are shipped every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Blends are roasted on Mondays and Fridays each week whilst single origins are roasted only on Wednesdays at this stage (due to batch size requirements).
This coffee was produced by Carmela Aduviri from Copacabana, a small and remote settlement located 180 kilometres from La Paz in the heart of the Caranavi province. This region is the epicentre for specialty coffee production in Bolivia, with incredibly high altitudes, rich soil, and wide daily temperature ranges providing the perfect conditions for exceptional coffee.
The inhabitants of Copacabana first began farming coffee around 35 years ago. Farms here are small and traditional. Almost all work is carried out by the farm's owners and their extended families, with a handful of temporary workers taken on to help out during harvest. All of the producers at Copacabana were born into the Aymara, an ancient indigenous group which lived on the Altiplano (a vast plateau of the central Andes that stretches from southern Peru to Bolivia and into northern Chile and Argentina). The region was known for the world’s highest lake, called Titicaca, and when their families moved to Caranavi, they named their ‘colony’, or settlement, Copacabana.
Carmela has worked in coffee for fourty years while raising eight children. Her farm, “Carmelita”, is about 2 hectares in size, and is located at an altitude of 1,400 to 1,550 metres above sea level. Today Carmela manages the farm with her son, and together they have worked incredibly hard on improving and producing the best quality coffee they can. They grow a mix of Caturra and Catuaí variety trees on their farm, which grow in a rich clay soil under the protective shade of native forest trees, whose heavy leaf fall creates a natural mulch fertiliser, and whose canopy provides an important habitat for the many bird and insect species in the area.
The families who live in Copacabana, including the Aduviri family, used to depend on the local market to sell their coffee, meaning low prices and little reliability. Now they selectively pick their coffee cherries and are able to sell their top-grade coffees for substantially higher prices to MCM's partners at Agricafe, which processes specialty lots at its Buena Vista wet mill which is located in Caranavi.
Agricafe is a Bolivian family business which produces coffee from its own farms and also sources and processes high quality micro-lots from small, quality focused producers of the Yungas region, like Carmela.
Agricafe was established in 1986, when its founder, Pedro Rodriguez decided to ditch his suit and his accounting job to pursue his passion for agriculture. Over the last three decades, Pedro has worked tirelessly to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee, helping hundreds of local farmers recognise and realise the potential of their land and crops. He works alongside his daughter Daniela, in charge of the marketing and operations, and his son Pedro Pablo, who graduated in agriculture.
Over the last decade, Agricafe have been working to try and save the Bolivian coffee industry. Despite its international recognition and highly sought-after coffees, production of coffee across Bolivia has fallen dramatically. A combination of ageing coffee plantations, unsophisticated farming techniques and leaf rust have contributed to dramatically reduced yields, and this, combined with the competing coca industry (which is illegal in Caranavi but appealing as it is more lucrative for farmers), has seen coffee production more than halve over the last five years. To try to save coffee production in Bolivia and build a more sustainable future for it the Rodriguez family started a project called Sol de la Mañana.
The first of its kind in the country, the Sol de la Manaña program is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local producers to create better quality coffees in higher quantities. By doing so Agricafe hopes that coffee production can be a viable and sustainable crop for producers, like Carmela, in the region for many years to come.
Carmela joined the Sol de la Mañana program in 2015. As a member of the program, she has followed a very structured series of courses, focused on improving her quality and yield. The curriculum focuses on one aspect of farming at a time, and covers things such as how to build a nursery, how and when to use fertiliser, how to prune, has how to selectively pick coffee. Agricafe also hosts workshops with leading agronomists throughout the year. These forums have allowed the producers to meet one another, share their experiences and discuss ways to tackle problems they are experiencing. Over time the producers have become more experienced and confident and actively sharing their learning with each other.
The results of this program have been profound, with improved quality and quantities for all participating producers. In addition, the producers have become more confident and proactive and engaged as a community and are sharing their learnings and experiences with each other. Daniela explains that this is where the program becomes really powerful: “We are giving them the tools and know-how, but they are actively choosing to follow our advice and invest in their farms. Now they can see the results, they trust us 100% and helping their neighbours achieve similar results.”
Since becoming a member, Carmela has built a vibrant coffee nursery and learnt to prune, feed, and manage her coffee plantation in order to increase her yield. The program has helped her invest in her plantation and encouraged her to take a long-term view, and in doing so she has established the foundations for a more sustainable and ultimately more profitable future for her family. As her farm has increased its yield and quality has improved Carmela has recognised that she can live off her 2 hectares of land if she focuses on quality and takes a modern farming approach. She is now actively teaching her sons what she has learnt so that they can buy a farm themselves and implement best practice farming techniques from the outset.
Carmela carefully hand-picked this coffee and delivered it to the Buena Vista washing station via taxi. This meticulously run washing station is owned Agricafe, who painstakingly process each of the exceptional specialty lots they receive separately, allowing for full traceability back to the individual farmer or colony.
Evenings at the mill are always bustling as arrivals of fresh cherries begin in the late afternoon (after the day’s picking) and continue deep into the night. It is widely known around Caranavi that only perfectly ripe cherries will be accepted by this mill and all lots are inspected on arrival prior to processing. In an arrangement somewhat unique to this mill, many farmers use taxis to deliver coffee, and by 7pm in the evening a long line of taxi cabs forms along the road leading to the mill.
After the coffee was delivered, it was placed into a floatation tank and all floaters were removed. The whole cherries were then dried on on raised beds in the sun and turned turned regularly to ensure it dried evenly. The drying was then finished off at a very low temperature in a stationary drier. The coffee was then transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled at the Rodriguez family’s brand new dry mill. At the mill, the coffee was carefully screened again by machines and also by hand to remove any defects.
Carmela worked hard to collect and process the cherries for this special micro lot and carefully hand polished all of the cherries before delivering them to the mill! A whole lot of love and hard work has gone into this coffee.. we hope you enjoy it!
Read about the Sol de la Mañana program here and Pedro Rodgriguez here and about Bolivian coffee more generally here.
Fazenda Progresso (Natural) - Brazil
Toasted nuts, butterscotch and milk chocolate.
Country: Brazil State: Bahia Region: Chapada Diamantina Town: Mucugê Altitude: 1,150m above sea level Variety: Catuaí Processing: Natural Owner: Borré Family Awards: Cup of Excellence 2015 #15 Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants ---
Fazenda Progresso is a beautiful farm nestled in the Chapada Diamatina mountain range in the heart of Bahia. The farm is surrounded by the Chapada Diamantina National Park, known for its mountainous cliff formations (Chapada) and 19th century diamond mining (Diamantina).
The history of Fazenda Progresso dates back to 1984, when the Borré family migrated from southern Brazil to the northeast and purchased some land in the municipality of Ibicoara, near the town of Mucugê. In the early years, the family tried growing crops such as soybeans, wheat, and English potatoes. The potatoes turned out to be an incredibly successful crop, stimulating investments and making the family one of the largest producers of potatoes in Brazil!
In 2005, the Borré family sought to diversify the activities on their land, and so began to focus on coffee. As MCM learnt when they first met the family, when they commit to a new project, they seek to do it to the very highest possible standard. Their work with coffee is no exception. The family’s commitment to producing exceptional coffee has been unwavering over the last decade. They have sought advice from some of the most respected professionals in the field, including Silvio Leite, founder of the Cup of Excellence and president of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, with 30 years’ experience in coffee grading, tasting, and quality control.
The Borré family has invested heavily to ensure that they have the very best infrastructure to process coffee, which allows them to control quality every step of the way, from picking right through to export. They have a dedicated quality control lab with a talented cupping team headed up by Ednaldo Nascimento (AKA ‘Gandula’—nicknamed after the boy that replaces the ball during a soccer match)! Gandula and his team assess every lot of coffee produced and ensure that the quality is the very best it can be.
The Borrés are very hands-on in their approach to managing the farm. They are extremely professional in the way they conduct their business, and they take great care to create an excellent work environment for their staff. Throughout the year, there are around 200 permanent staff members on the farm, and this number grows to 650 during the harvest. Many of these harvest workers return every year, and all are provided with daily bus transportation and food.
In total, 700 hectares of the property are dedicated to coffee; this land is divided up into different plots, which are processed separately. Over time, the family has worked out the optimum way to plant coffee trees in order to maximise productivity, with 50 centimetres between each tree and three metres between each row of trees.This year we have purchased coffee from four different plots on the property; each is extremely unique in its profile, and all are exceptional!
Historically all of the coffee at Fazenda Progresso was processed using the pulped natural method, but in 2017 Fabiano started to experiment with naturally processed coffee, and the results have been exceptional. This lot is a natural processed lot from the farm, which was carefully hand-picked by a specially trained team in August. The cherries were selected at the peak of ripeness, and then carefully dried on meticulously clean patios in the sun, and turned regularly to ensure they dried evenly. When the cherry was almost purple, the dried fruit skin and parchment was taken off with a mechanical huller at Progresso’s mill. The coffee was then rested until ready for export.
The Borré family business has always been managed and directed by family members and is now in its third generation of operation. Fabiano Borré looks after everything to do with the coffee side of the business. He is young, focused and very motivated to produce the very best coffee he can. You can read an interview with Fabiano Borré here.
“Working with something so sensitive, so changeable, involving the most varied areas of knowledge and then get to share all this with incredible people… it’s amazing. That’s why I choose coffee!” – Fabiano Borré
The Borré family takes great care to protect and preserve the ecological health of their area. Water is conserved and meteorological stations are positioned throughout the farm to optimise irrigation and ensure the trees get the right amount of water. Cascara pulp from processing is composted (along with potato wastage, which is very high in potassium and great for coffee trees!) and used to fertilise trees throughout the plantation.
In 2015, for the first time, the Borré family entered their coffee into the Cup of Excellence competition. It placed 15th—a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work, resources, and focus that have been put into producing exceptional coffee.
Gedebe (Natural) - Ethiopia
White chocolate, dried cranberries and baked apple.
Taking its name from Gabana Mountain, a peak standing proud on the horizon throughout the Oromia region in west Ethiopia, Ethio Gabana pays tribute to a powerful sense of place. These lands are the birthplace of coffee. Their natural elements foster fundamental gifts, both environmental conditions and gifts of culture: a living tradition so rich and tenacious, the celebration of which is a celebration of life itself. It’s the passion of these families embodying this tradition that Ethio Gabana bring to celebrate with the world.
Providing ongoing training, certifications and thereby increasing their premiums, Ethio Gabana partners with farming families local to their washing stations that share an upmost commitment to producing their land’s highest quality coffees. Chelchele Wet Mill Station in Gedebe District of Gedeo Zone, brings together 488 small farm holders from Chelchele and Kore villages in SNNPR.
Sourcing only from a selection of coveted varieties endemic to the area, coffee trees of Dega, Kurume and Welisho are commonly intercropped beneath mango, avocado and false banana. Innovation on the shoulders of generations of coffee farming, best practices are second nature in all areas, including organic composting and water conservation.
During harvest, multiple passes are necessary to ensure cherries are only picked when perfectly ripe. For their natural processed lots, cherries delivered to the washing station are soaked to remove any floaters. From the tanks, they are transferred to raised drying beds and further graded for visible defects by hand. A natural processed lot can spend up to 3 weeks spread across the beds, being carefully turned, protected from the night’s humidity and shaded from the hottest period of each day. The patience and hard work of these families is a labour of love. Their dedication to delivering cups with exhilarating aromas and flavours of immense complexity is a legacy to be revered and indeed celebrated together.
About Ethio Gabana
Ethio Gabana is a specialty coffee company founded in Ethiopia by Ethiopians. Their dream is to share the taste and tradition of Ethiopian coffee with the world while sharing the value with the people who grow it.
Established in 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethio Gabana takes its name from a mountain in the western coffee region of Ethiopia. They source specialty coffee from the finest growing regions in Ethiopia, with six washing stations in West Guji and Gedeo in the southern coffee heartlands and a plantation, Anderacha, in the southwest. They partner with the very best suppliers and farmers in each region to produce top-grade quality coffee in some of the country’s most sought-after varietals. Each of their sites is located in a different zone and produces its own unique coffee.
In Ethiopia, the roasting, grinding and drinking of coffee form part of a ceremony, in which people gather together to experience the spectrum of sights, sounds and aromas that accompany the preparation of a perfect cup, before enjoying the results in company. Ask any Ethiopian and they will tell you this is how coffee should be drunk. Respect the coffee, celebrate its journey from bean to brew and share the experience with people you love.
"For us, it’s not just about the diverse and exhilarating flavour profiles that Ethiopian coffee provides. It’s about the sense of reverence and community that comes with every cup. This is the attitude that we at Ethio Gabana want to share with the world."
Hadeso (pronounced “Had-ess-o”) is a privately-owned washing station that is located in the Shakisso ‘woreda’ (administrative district) in the Guji locality in Ethiopia’s renowned coffee region, Sidamo, in the south-east of the country. It is named after the ‘kebele’ (local village) of Hadeso. The washing station is one of ten owned and managed by Testi Coffee, a family-owned company founded by Mr Faysel A. Yonis. Hadeso produces exceptional washed and natural processed lots.
Coffee is delivered daily to Hadeso by around 850 small local coffee growers. The majority of these families farm organically on tiny plots of land, which average just 2–5 hectares in size. Coffee is their main cash crop and grows alongside food crops of corn, grain and bananas, under the shade of native Birbira, Wanza, and Acacia trees. The average elevation of the farms in this region is very high – around 1,900–2,050m above sea level – and this, combined region’s cool temperatures, is ideal for the slow ripening of coffee cherries, leading to denser beans and a sweeter, more complex cup profile.
This coffee lot was produced as part of Testi’s quality improvement initiative, Premium Cherry Selection (PCS). Launched in 2018, the Premium Cherry Selection program ensures that best practices are used for growing, harvesting and processing the coffee cherry. Through the program, Testi pay a premium to farmers who pick and deliver only the ripest cherries from their farms. Coffees produced as part of the program represent the highest quality and cleanest cup profile available from the washing station and wider region.
About Testi Coffee
Testi Coffee was established in 2009 by Mr Faysel A. Yonis as a coffee exporting company. Testi’s objective is to build long term relationships with buyers and growers by producing exceptional coffees and establishing transparent business practices. Today, the company owns ten washing stations – located in Guji, West Arsi, Sidama and Yirgacheffe – which are operated with meticulous attention to sorting, screening and processing, with the goal of achieving the highest coffee quality. The company aims to secure high prices for their coffees, which allows them to pay fair and sustainable prices to the growers who deliver cherries to their washing stations.
Testi’s business model is to buy coffee cherry from local ‘out-growers’ (an Ethiopian term for a smallholder farmer who contributes to a particular washing station) to be processed at their own washing stations, as well as coffee in parchment from partner washing stations. The company is committed to maximising the potential and profitability of Ethiopian coffees and works closely with their producing farmers and washing station partners to improve the quality and yields of the coffee at farm level and in processing.
The company’s philosophy revolves around supporting and growing with the farming communities that produce their coffee. Mr Faysel strongly believes that increased rewards for the out-growers should be shared with, and benefit, the entire community. In pursuit of this goal, Testi has launched a social program called Project Direct, which focuses on directly supporting coffee farmers and their families in tangible and positive ways. Project Direct initiatives are funded by Testi and are designed to motivate and empower farming communities, develop social conditions and improve livelihoods. To date, Project Direct has built a primary school in both Aricha and Guji, where they fund all school supplies and provide financial support and scholarships to top performing students. The project has also helped communities’ access clean water and electricity in the remote areas around their washing stations. Beyond providing increased opportunities, such initiatives contribute to improved safety, healthcare and productivity at the farm level.
About the Guji Region
The Guji zone was established as a unique production area in 2002. It is located in the Southern portion of Sidamo and is named after the Oromo people: a tribe with a long, proud history in coffee production.
Coffees from Guji were previously classified as ‘Sidamo’ (a very wide geographical classification encompassing much of central-south Ethiopia), however more recently they have been separated from this classification and recognised for their unique and distinctive cup profiles. This distinctiveness is driven by the unique combination of elements in this production area, including high altitudes, rich, fertile soil, and exceptional heirloom varieties.
Guji is bordered on the south and west by Borena, on the north by Gedeo and Sidama, and on the east by Bale and the Somali Region. Coffees that are classified as ‘Gujis’, originate from the ‘woreda’ (administrative regions) of Adoola Redi, Uraga, Kercha, Bule Hora, and Shakisso, which is where this lot is from.
Most communities in the region still live rurally and make a living from farming. Coffee remains the major cash crop for most families in the Guji region, who grow coffee alongside food for consumption.
About the Sidamo Zone
Sidamo is a wide geographical classification that encompasses much of central-south Ethiopia and includes renowned coffee producing localities such as Yirgacheffe, Kochere, West Arsi, Bensa and Guji. Sidamo is located in Ethiopia’s South East Coffee Zone, extending across the states of Southern Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR), one of nine ethnically based regional states of Ethiopia. The Sidamo zone is named for the Sidama people; a tribe with a long and proud history of coffee production. After a 2019 Referendum, the zone is currently awaiting separation from the SNNPR and transformation into an autonomous Sidamo Region.
Sidamo is a renowned coffee area and produces exceptional natural and washed coffees that showcase an extremely diverse range of flavour profiles. Coffees from Sidamo are noted for their intensely fruit-forward, tea-like, floral and complex character and are sought after worldwide. It is widely accepted that the coffee species, Arabica, originated in the lush forests of southern forests of Ethiopia and hence growing conditions in this area are perfectly suited for producing exquisite coffees.
Coffee has been cultivated in the Sidamo Zone for centuries and is an important source of income for rural households, who grow it as the primary cash crop. Family plots are small and intensively farmed with intercropped coffee, food crops like pulses, grain and yams, and other cash crops like khat (similar to tobacco) and Ethiopian banana. Most farms are planted amongst or alongside indigenous forest trees, which provide a thick canopy of shade for the coffee trees. Historically, farmers in this area will use organic farming practices (although it is unlikely to be certified) as there is no ready access to artificial fertilisers or pesticides.
This coffee is a mix of varieties that we refer to as “heirloom varieties”. This is a term that is all-encompassing and used by many actors in the coffee industry to generally categorize Ethiopian coffee varieties that are from native forest origins. Whilst this describes many of the varieties found in Ethiopia, it is also a bit simplistic and does not recognise varieties that have been specifically developed and widely distributed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC) or locally recognised and cultivated varieties. This is a term that is all-encompassing and used by many actors in the coffee industry to generally categorise Ethiopian coffee varieties that are from native forest origins.
JARC varieties are developed for disease and pest resistance, rather than cup profile, and are released by number. For example, 74110, 74112 and 74116 are all widely propagated in the Sidamo growing region. There are also native or “landrace” varieties in the region that were originally selected from the forest and have been propagated in the Sidamo region for decades. There are five popular ones that all have been named after indigenous trees in the area—they are Bedessa, Kudhumi, Mique, Sawe and Walichu. There is little documentation on the history of these varieties, and it is hard to know if they represent single varieties or a wider group of varieties, however, it is widely accepted that they play a major role in the quality of the coffee from this region, with a distinctive floral and citric cup profile.
This coffee has been processed using the washed method, using fresh, clean water. It is classified as Grade 1, the highest quality classification for Ethiopian coffees, indicating a great deal of effort has been put into the selection and grading during processing.
Each day, carefully hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the Hadeso washing station and are meticulously sorted by hand and in a floatation tank prior to processing to remove unripe, overripe, or damaged fruit, in order to enhance the quality and sweetness of the cup.
After sorting, the coffee cherries are then pulped to remove the fruit and skin and graded by weight; heavier beans are of superior quality and deliver a sweeter cup. After grading, the parchment-covered coffee is soaked in tanks of clean water for 36–48 hours to remove the mucilage (sticky fruit pulp) by allowing it to ferment and detach from the coffee. The coffee is then re-washed and graded again by density in washing channels and soaked in clean water for 12 hours.
The coffee is then dried for 10–12 days on raised African drying beds, firstly under cover (for around 3–5 hours) and then subsequently in the sun. Whilst drying, the coffee is carefully hand-sorted, and any defects are removed. It is also turned regularly to ensure that it dries evenly and consistently. At midday, the coffee is covered to protect it from full sun. It is also covered overnight to prevent damage from morning dew. Once the coffee is dry and has reached its desired humidity, it is rested in parchment until it is ready for milling and export.
Hasambo (Natural) - Tanzania
Mixed berries, granola and brown sugar.
Washing Station: Hasambo Co-op Region: Mbozi District Country: Tanzania Processing: Natural Elevation: 1,600m Varieties: Bourbon & Kent Sourced Through: Upstream Imports
Ripe cherries pour in from the villages of Ilembo, Hasamba, Masangula and Kilimapima, into the Hasambo Agricultural Marketing Cooperative and Society (AMCOS) located in the southern highlands of Tanzania. One of the producers working with this cooperative is Communal Shamba who specialises in working with smallholder producers to deliver sustainable, high-end specialty coffees as a part of their program “Goods for Goodness of our Communities”.
Communal Shamba, meaning ‘Farms’ in the Swahili language, is spearheaded by Kerembe Warioba and Dr Mkunde Chachage. Together, this duo not only supports the farmers of the Mbozi district with better coffee cultivation techniques but they also helped to build the local health clinic. In 2018, Dr Chachage was recognised by the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) as the ‘Best Scientist in Tanzania’ and as the ‘Best Research Scientist’ for her efforts in finding permanent solutions for HIV, TB and co-infections.
Just like Communal Shamba, Hasambo AMCOS, too, is actively involved in community building and environmental initiatives. The group protects the regional water bodies by building 2-metre-wide buffer zones along the rivers and springs. Discharge channels and water collection tanks are also constructed to collect hazardous waste. The cooperative supports cultivation by planting shade trees and efficiently using fertilisers and pesticides.
Farms in the region are located at over 1600 masl and growers cultivate Bourbon and Kent varieties. Over 500 members and 500 non-members are part of the Hasambo AMCOS, who collectively produce 100 to 400 tonnes of parchment, annually. Hasambo was registered in August 1993 as a subgroup of Mbozi Cooperative Union before striking out as the first independent AMCOS in 2002.
This micro-lot was produced by Juan Carlos Diaz and his father Carlos Julio Diaz on their 12-hectare farm, El Naranjal (meaning “the orange” in Spanish) located near the small community of Laureles, in the municipality of Ibagué, in Colombia’s Tolima state.
El Naranjal is situated in the high hills to the South West of Tolima’s capital city, Ibagué. There are no roads that access the farm, so visitors must climb a steep and slippery path from 1750 meters to 1900 meters above sea level, across rugged terrain. The double story farmhouse sits on the peak of a hill, surrounded by high mountains and coffee trees. The highest points of the farm are over 2000 meters above sea level and can only be reached on foot or by mule.
Carlos Julio purchased El Naranjal in 1994 and today co-manages the farm with Juan Carlos. The farm is 12 hectares large, 8 hectares of which are planted with coffee trees of the Caturra, Colombia and Castillo varieties. The family also farms plantain, beans and oranges (for which the farm is named). Juan Carlos and his wife, Eliana, live at his parent’s farmhouse with their two children, Juan Julio (8yrs) and Renata (2yrs) and are saving to eventually purchase their own property.
Historically the area around the small town of Laureles has been known for cattle, sugarcane and vegetables. Coffee is a relatively new crop for the region, having only been planted in the last 30-40 years. Most coffee farmers purchased land in the area because it was more affordable than traditional coffee farming areas like Planadas and Chaparral, in Tolima’s south. Higher elevation areas were considered less prosperous than lower areas because they typically achieve lower yields. However, this region has since gained acclaim for the high cup quality, sweetness and complexity of the coffees produced here.
Most farms in the region are planted with the Caturra variety, which was the most popular variety during the 1970s and 1980s when the farms were established. Coffee in Laureles is farmed with traditional techniques. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used. The coffee is selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families.
Coffee from Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result, it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible to the international market.
The word ‘Tolima’ comes from the local indigenous language and means a “river of snow or cloud”. The region sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that provide a range of microclimates well-suited to high-quality coffee production. Coffee is the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
The most well-known regions in Tolima for specialty coffee are Planadas and Chaparral in the south. This coffee comes from the areas surrounding Ibagué, which is further north in the state. The city is also known as the “Ciudad del Abanico” or the “city of the folding fan” because when you look at it from the sky the rivers running from the mountains split up the crops of rice and cotton, and it looks like a beautiful handmade folding fan.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffee is sourced by MCM's export partners, Pergamino, who purchase coffee from about 40 independent coffee growers in the region of Ibagué. This is the second year that Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio have sold coffee to Pergamino. During a visit to his farm, Carlos Julio recounted the story of the first time they sold a coffee lot to them when the coffee only achieved a cup score of 80 from the QC team. Following the advice of Pergamino’s co-founder and agronomist, Léonardo Henao Triana, Carlos Julio began fermenting his coffee to remove the sticky fruit of the coffee cherry from the seed, rather than using a mechanical demucilager. The result was a significantly higher cup score, which could be sold with a higher premium. With Pergamino’s assistance, Juan Carlos and Carlo Julio’s goal is to have a consistent cup score of 86 or higher, which will secure the best premiums. They intend to add a second fermentation tank to his ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill) so that he has the space to ferment all of his coffee, even during peak harvest.
During harvest, the Diaz family deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s Ibagué warehouse every 1-2 weeks. Mules are used to transport the coffee down from the highest parts of El Naranjal to Laureles, where it is transferred into small trucks to complete the journey to Ibagué. Only recently a bridge was built over the river that runs through Laureles, Rio Luisa – previously mules had to carry to coffee through the river and many drowned as a result. The new bridge is an incredible point of progress for the small community.
The warehouse in Ibagué is operated and overseen by manager Gonzales, who has a long history of working with Pergamino – in fact, he was Léo’s first boss in coffee! Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment.
The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the team in Ibagué the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, Antioquia, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.
Each season the team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots from independent farmers, looking for coffees that exhibit excellent cup characteristics and showcase the region where they were produced. This year, Carlos Julio’s and Juan Carlos’ coffee was selected to be processed separately as a micro-lot for its distinct character and high cup quality.
Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout Tolima and have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but historically have not had access to specialty buyers. Read more about their work here.
How This Coffee Was Processed
This lot was selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the family. During peak harvest, the family hires about 10 local labourers to help harvest the coffee cherry, who are paid on a daily rate. Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio prefer to work with the same pickers every year as they have taught them how to select only the ripest cherry for processing. To ensure pickers come and work for them they pay a 15%-20% premium on the local daily rate and provides workers with three meals a day.
The coffee was fermented for 24hrs in the cherry, before being processed using the washed method at El Naranjal’s ‘micro-benficio’ (wet mill). The coffee was floated in the mill’s plastic hopper and then pulped using a small electric pulper. The coffee is then fermented for a further 36hrs in bags, before being finished in the tank for another 12hrs. This is a space saving method, which will change once new tanks are added to the mill.
The coffee was carefully dried on raised beds over 20-30 days. Following fermentation, the coffee was washed using clean water from the Rio Luisa. It was then carefully dried (over 20-30 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse is constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
Read more about MCM's Colombian export partner Pergamino here.
Produced by Sebastian Gomez at Finca La Divisa - coffee cherries are carefully handpicked to ensure only the ripest are used. Sebastian primarily grows Castillo, Variedad Colombia and Pink Bourbon (which this lot is); in 2018 he also planted 5,000 Geisha trees.
Sebastian has been working with Cofinet since 2017 and they have experienced first-hand his commitment to improving upon every harvest.
This particular micro-lot is composed entirely of coffee from Pink Bourbon trees. The varietal is currently under research to determine its origin - but suffice to say it is entirely unique and exquisite in flavour!
This coffee was produced by 32 small holder producers who farm coffee in the high hills surrounding Remera washing station, located in the Gaseke Sector of Nyamagabe District, in Rwanda’s Southern Province. The farmers are members of the Twitezimbere Farmers’ Group, a small association of producers who deliver coffee to Buf Coffee company, who own and manage Remera along with three other washing stations.
Most washing stations in Rwanda receive cherry from hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of farmers who own very small plots of land. Separation of such tiny lots is expensive and impractical, so the large majority of coffees are processed as a mixed lot from multiple producers. Typically, lots are separated as day lots (ie. cherries that were all picked on the same day) rather than by a single farm or producer group.
The farmers who make up the Twitezimbere group come from a nearby village called Nyabubare. Recently they banded together and made the decision to process and market their coffees separately as a smaller, more selected lot. The group also provide each other with invaluable support, by sharing resources and labour during the busy harvest period. They named their association Twitezimbere, which roughly translates to ‘we work together for development’ in the local Kinyarwanda language.
To distinguish their coffee and ensure it is processed separately, the producers have organised to deliver cherry to the washing station on certain days of the week. Selling their coffee as a separate lot allows them to directly benefit from any higher prices paid specifically for their coffees (rather than these profits being shared equally amongst all contributing producers) and results in a higher income to support their families. This creates an effective incentive for the farmers to work as a collective towards achieving the very best quality, and the results are evident in the complex and clean profile of their coffee!
About Remera Washing Station
This coffee was processed at Remera washing station, which was established in 2007 and is the largest of Buf’s washing stations, servicing about 722 local coffee farmers. The washing station sits at 1,953 meters above sea level in the high, rugged mountains of Rwanda’s Southern Province. The area surrounding the washing station has mineral-rich soil and a lush environment that is well suited to specialty coffee production.
Quality control and day-to-day operations at Remera are overseen by station manager, Alexis Dushimimana, who is assisted by Head of Quality Control, Esther Ingabire. Together, they ensure that the coffee is harvested and processed with care and that production standards are kept at the highest possible level. Remera provides jobs for 60-80 people during the peak harvest and staffs seven permanent positions. At the end of each season, any surplus profits are shared with the producers and washing station managers.
About Buf Coffee
Buf Coffee was founded in 2000 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a pioneering businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee community, and beyond. Buf is owned and operated by Mukashyaka – known to all as Ephiphanie – and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who has taken an active role in the day to day operations of the business. The word ‘Buf’ is derived from ‘Bufundu’ and refers to the former name of the region in which all of their washing stations are located.
Epiphanie’s story is one of great resilience and fortitude. After losing her husband and a child during the horrific 1994 genocide, Epiphanie was faced with the responsibility of independently caring for and rebuilding a life for her seven surviving children. With limited education and little money or support, Epiphanie – whose husband was a coffee farmer – decided to focus on coffee as a means to a better and more stable livelihood. By participating in the USAID-financed program, Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL), Epiphanie began to learn more about specialty coffee propagation and processing. This transformational program aimed at switching the focus of Rwandan coffee production to quality, rather than quantity, and thereby ending reliance on the notoriously volatile coffee commodity market. Rather, farmers were given access to far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The program and its successor, Sustaining Partnerships to Enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development (SPREAD), have been invaluable in helping in assisting Rwanda’s small scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the genocide, and the world coffee crash of the 1990’s.
Using the knowledge and resources she gained through PEARL, along with a small loan from the Rwandan Development Bank, Epiphanie was able to establish Buf Coffee in 2000, and purchased their first washing station – Nyarusiza – in 2003. She was the first woman to own a private coffee company and to establish a washing station in Rwanda. As Epiphanie says, “I came up with the idea to build this, and nothing was going to stop me.” Nyarusiza was followed by Remera in 2007 and now the family also own two other washing stations, Umurage and Ubumwe.
Before the proliferation of cooperatives and centralised washing stations in Rwanda, small farmers sold semi-processed cherries on to a middleman, and the market was dominated by a single exporter. This commodity-focused system – coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s – brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely.
Today, it’s a different story. From the beginning, Epiphanie’s goal has been to produce high quality, specialty-focused coffees by improving farming and processing practices and maintaining high standards at each of her washing stations. In doing so, she has been instrumental in shifting the focus of the Rwandan coffee industry from producing high quantity, commercial lots, to more specialised, high-quality lots. As a result, the farmers that sell coffee cherry to Buf’s washing stations have benefited directly through increased income, and also indirectly through the access to important community resources like safe water and electricity, which have been brought to their villages via the establishment of the washing stations.
Buf Coffee buys cherry from over 7,000 smallholder farmers in Nyamagabe and Huye Districts of Rwanda’s Southern Province. The company has strong links with the local communities around their washing stations and provide hundreds of jobs during peak harvest (May-July) as well as nearly 50 permanent positions year-round.
Buf Coffee’s exceptional quality has been recognised year after year. It was awarded a prize in the 2007 Golden Cup and placed in the Cup of Excellence in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Epiphanie and Sam care deeply about the communities they work with. Outside of providing economic opportunities, Buf has initiated many social projects that support farmers in improving their and their family’s quality of life. In 2018 Buf partnered with the Rwandan Government’s One Cow per Poor Family program to distribute 500 cows across organised farmer groups within their supply chain over a five year period. Farmer groups nominate the member that should receive the cow with an expectation that the cow will eventually be bred, and its calves gifted to other members in the same group, creating a positive and ongoing ripple effect within the community.
Besides practical advantages like being an opportunity for additional income and providing dairy to feed the family and excellent manure for the coffee farms, cows are also a traditional symbol of wealth and status in Rwanda. By gifting a family with a cow Buf is not only providing farmers with a source of nutrition and alternative income to coffee, it also reinstates a sense of pride to the household (which most likely suffered devastating effects from the genocide).
In February of 2019 Buf opened a kindergarten next to Nyarusiza coffee washing station to service the children of local coffee farmers and washing station workers. While school is compulsory in Rwanda, kindergarten is not, and Sam noticed that many families weren’t able to work and supervise their small children during the busy coffee season. In partnership with Swedish coffee company Selector Coffee, Buf was able to open Umuvumu Kindergarten, which now has over 150 students aged between 3–6 years old. The children attend kindergarten from 7.30 am–12 pm, allowing their parents to put in a full morning’s work in the field or at Nyarusiza before picking them up. Tuition is free and the kids are currently provided with breakfast and will also be given lunch once the kitchen building and dining hall have been completed.
How Coffee is Processed by Buf Coffee
The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station either on foot, by bike, or by trucks that pick up cherries from various pick-up points in the area.
Before being pulped, the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the floaters (less dense, lower grade cherries). The heavier cherries are then pulped the same day using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.
The beans (in parchment) are then dry-fermented (in a tank with no added water) overnight for 8–12 hours. They are then sorted again using grading channels; water is sent through the channels and the lighter (i.e. lower grade) beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel. The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to pre-drying beds where they are intensively sorted for around six hours. This step is always done while the beans are still damp because the green (unripe) beans are easier to see. It is also always done in the shade to protect the beans from direct sunlight (which they have found helps to keep the parchment intact and therefore protects the bean better).
The sorted beans are finally moved onto raised African drying beds in the direct sun to dry slowly over 10–20 days. During this time the coffee is sorted carefully for defects and turned regularly to ensure the coffee dries evenly. It is also covered in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
Once at 11–12% humidity, the coffee (still in its parchment) is stored in the washing station’s warehouse in carefully labelled lots until it is ready for export. The coffee is then sent to Buf’s brand new dry mill, Ubumwe (built 2017), to be dry-milled. Here the parchment is removed, and the beans are sorted again by hand and using machinery to remove any physical defects. This is done under the watchful eye of Edouine Mugisha, who has worked with Buf since 2011. Having control over the milling of the coffee means that Buf has greater control over the quality of sorting and processing from cherry delivery right through to export.
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