Antioquia is known for solid, but maybe slightly boring coffees, but there is a lot going on right now, and we think these coffees are proof of that.
The La Virgen farm is owned by Jaime Ariza, but the farm practices and processing is managed by his friend Juan Saldarriaga. Juan is a producer that got two farms on his own, La Claudina and El Encanto. But he’s also working with friends and are managing the production for some surrounding producers with Caturras and other cultivars up to 2000 masl. Many of them are young small farmers that are eager to prove that Antioquia have more than chocolaty and heavy bodied coffees. As for now we are experimenting a lot together to figure out what works for us and our market.
Region: Bolivar, Antioquia
Variety: Colombia & Castillo
Farm size: 18 hectares
La Virgen - the farm
It is located at 1850 - 2100 masl in the municipality Concordia in Antioquia. Its currently about 34 hectares of coffee. The varieties is mainly Caturra and old Variedad Colombia, Yellow Caturra they also have small amounts of SL28, Tabi, Maragogype and Bourbons
They have a traditional disc pulper with separator and fermentation tanks. For drying they have 200 square meters of newly built shelves that can be moved from sun to shade. For other drying experiments they move the coffee to their other farm La Claudina where they have a roofed facility with beds, a traditional parabolic dryer, a very interesting mechanical «cold» dryer.
La Virgen will have two harvesting periods, September – January and March – June. The weird thing here is that it’s also related to cultivars. The Tabi for instance is mainly producing for the September-January harvest, but the main harvest for Caturra and Castillo is March – June. But all of the trees generally have a fly crop too.
They have one person on the farm managing the pickers and the quality. They always pick the coffee by block and keep everything separate. That way it will also be processed by cultivar. The pickers get a good premium for every bag of high quality. They separate the bags of the higher qualities to go in to quality production and special prep. The cherries for naturals are always going through an extra and very thorough hand sorting and selection before they go to the drying.
Pulping and fermentation:
After cherry selection the cherries are soaked in water and the floaters removed before they go in to production. The coffees are then pulped in a traditional disc pulper with a separator for greens etc. The quantity and availability of the tanks will sometimes determine what kind of fermentation they are doing. When they have big amounts like 5000 kg of cherries in a day they dry ferment everything in tanks. They add fresh cold water and rinse every 6-8 hours. Normal fermentation time will be about 24 hours. As the altitudes are not to high at the wet mill they want to keep the temperature down and control the fermentation. When the amounts are smaller and for experiments they ferment one batch as described above, but they add a new batch of coffee after 24 hours. The total fermentation time can be 48 hours, but still with a rinse of cold water every 6 hours.
They have 4 different drying options. Traditional silo (mechanical dryer) cold dryer (mechanical), African beds in a parabolic dryer (greenhouse) and African beds in the shade drying area. The traditional silo is only for the conventional and “commercial” qualities. They move micro lots from all three farms to La Claudina for drying experiments. For the shade and parabolic they mainly do washed coffees, and washed and naturals in the cold dryer. It takes from 20 up to 30 days and the space and quantity they can do there is limited. They are also experimenting with honey in shade. In the parabolic dryer it takes about 10 – 20 days. So far they have focused on Tabi in the parabolic as well as some honey. The cold dryer have been used both for washed and naturals. But naturals have priority as they really seems to benefit from the controlled environment. They experiment with drying from 25 degrees to 40 degrees. Most naturals are dried between 25 and 30 degrees.