The Torres family have been working together in coffee for many generations. While their production previously has been done in a more commercial way they are now focusing on quality. They are very motivated to improve and change their production, and to be producing quality coffees. This year, 2018, has been the year they actively dedicated themselves to producing better coffee. After the tragic death of Juan’s father, Jesus Maria Torres, 30 years ago his mother Doña Flora inherited the farm. Initially Doña Flora managed the farm with the help of local pickers, while the boys were still in school. Now her two sons, Juan and his brother are managing the farm. They take this responsibility very seriously, and shared with us some insight on their management perspective,
“We, as the owners, aren’t the only ones who really benefit from the business. We have to consider our workers too, without them, we are nothing”
Coffees are picked in 3-4 passes. Meaning the producers/workers pick the more or less ripe cherries in one block. Then they might wait a few weeks until it’s again a decent amount of ripe cherries to pick in that same place. Generally the first and last pass is of lower quality, and the second and third will be considered as the best, with more ripe cherries and uniform quality. When we can, we try to buy parchment harvested in these two passes.
The coffee from Tolima is generally fully washed, meaning pulped and fermented the traditional way. There is a few exceptions where farmers are using eco-pulpers with mechanical removal of mucilage, and/or are doing honeys, but it’s still not to common.
This is the most common and 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. The coffees are going straight from the pulper in to the fermentation tank. Fermentation time will vary depending on the temperature, at El Porvenir this is usually 24 hours. Higher temperature will speed up the fermentation process, and lower temperature will slow it down. Some producers do intermediate rinsing with water, that can also help them control the process.
Washing and grading
They normally stir the coffees in tanks or small channels before they remove the floaters. For the ones without channels it’s common to wash the coffees in the fermentation tank and skim off the floaters before it goes to the drying.
For the smallholders in regions like Tolima the coffees are commonly sun dried in parabolic dryers that almost works as green houses. The better producers have well ventilated facilities. There are many different variations and constructions, but generally they are all systems that is able to protect the coffee from rain.
In general, producers that have constructions with good ventilation and manage to dry the coffee down to below 11%, Juan drys his coffees from 15-20 days having very good and consistent coffees.
By receiving premium payments, the producers can improve their facilities, by building new or reconstruct the dryers to increase ventilation and potentially add shade nets to slower drying, and hence improve the quality and longevity of the coffee. In this case for Juan’s coffee we paid COP 1.2 mil per 125 kg (carga). At a time where the normal price set by the FNC was approximately COP 835,000 per 125 kg