Nariño is located in the far south-west of Colombia bordering Ecuador, and is one of the most challenging, and most interesting places to work. Coffee is grown on the steep hillsides of remote areas. Farms are small by Colombia standards, around 1 hectare in size, and frequently sit at extremely high elevations, up to 2200 meters.
El Desvelado is ourcrafted concept for high-end micro blends from Nariño. The project represents great cup quality at a lower price point than our other Colombian coffees. It also comes in bigger lot sizes than our micro-lots, as the El Desvelado blend is composed by several farmers at the cooperative. The combination of lots is based on cup profile, score, and regionality.
Our partners in this project include Café Occidente Cooperative in Nariño, which was founded on March 1, 1977 with only 50 members, mainly from the municipalities of Sandoná and Pasto. Today it has 18 purchasing points and eight farm supply stores in 12 municipalities of western Nariño, including Consacá, La Florida, Linares, Samaniego, Ancuya, Yacuanquer, Buesaco, El Tambo and Chachagüí, among others. The cooperative continues to grow, currently serving 1,670 members, including four first place and two second place Cup of Excellence winners since 2005.
In contrast to other regions in Colombia, Nariño can have extremely dry conditions during the harvest time, and humidity in the area is low. This, combined with the high altitudes, creates a unique flavour profile, unlike anything else from Colombia.
Variety: Caturra, Colombia, Caturra Chirozo
Coffees are picked in three to four passes, meaning the producers and workers will pick the ripe cherries in one block, then wait a few weeks before returning to pick in that same block. Generally the first and last passes are of lower quality, and the second and third will be higher quality, with more ripe cherries and uniform quality. When we can, we try to buy parchment harvested in these two passes.
The coffee from Nariño is generally fully washed, meaning pulped and fermented the traditional way. There are a few exceptions where farmers are using eco-pulpers with mechanical removal of mucilage, and some are processing honeys, but it’s still not very common.
This is the most widely used method. The farmer will have a small beneficio, a small manual or electric pulper and a fermentation tank. They pulp the cherries in the afternoon then send the coffee directly to the fermentation tank. It can sit there from one to two days, depending on the temperature. Higher temperatures will speed up the fermentation process, and lower temperatures will slow it down. Some producers do intermediate rinsing with water, that can also help them control the process.
Washing and grading
The pulped coffee is stirred in tanks or small channels before they remove the floaters. Producers without channels commonly wash the coffees in the fermentation tank and skim off the floaters before sending the coffee to dry.
For the smallholders in regions like Nariño the coffees are commonly dried in parabolic dryers that almost work like green houses. The better producers have well ventilated facilities. There are many different variations and constructions, but generally they are all systems designed to protect the coffee from rain. Drying in Nariño is a big challenge due to rain and high humidity. During drying the producers hand sort the parchment coffee for impurities and defects.
We have found that the producers whose dryers have good ventilation and can reach the desired 11% humidity in 10 to 18 days tend to produce consistently good coffees.