Visiting the Enciso family was destined to be a highlight of my Colombian sourcing trip after reading Peter Ebdrup’s blog post which he published earlier in 2019.
What really made this exciting from a coffee professional's perspective was to get to the source of some incredibly unique cups of coffee. Traditionally, the coffees we have been sourcing at Coffee Collective have been from the Huila region. Having brewed these coffees over the past 4 years I could see the trend of well-balanced coffees, focusing on the body and sweetness that Colombian coffees deservedly earned their reputation for. In recent times, our sourcing team pursued something different from this origin – they found it in the Tolima region.
I was shocked at the similarities in the cup quality between Tolima crops and Kenyan / acidic driven African cups. I guess that’s why Colombia has adopted the nickname the ‘Kenya of South America’.
It’s been two weeks on the road for us and after the visit of the fifth farm, I do have an idea of what to expect. However, in the region of Tolima on our way to the Enciso family, things were a bit different. The small town of Planadas felt a little more insecure as we were escorted by the Police to our Hotel and had soldiers guarding the entrance. In fact, the FARC movement used to be pretty active in this little town, one of the main reasons that Tolima is a newly discovered coffee region for buyers who couldn’t visit prior.
At 5:30 am my alarm rang, I jumped into a freezing cold shower that the hotel was providing and got myself ready to start the day. After a couple of hours on bumpy roads, we finally reached our destination. Edith and Wilson of the Enciso family welcomed us with a fresh beverage made of beer and sugar cane - very tasty! Along with that, I also remember a lot of kids running around laughing while we were introducing ourselves - a stark and refreshing contrast to the business meetings we’d expect on our side of the world.
After a quick introduction, a small Jeep was waiting for us and the 70-year-old driver informed that he’d be taking us around the farm. It turns out the farm is over 200 hectares, this was by far the largest farm we visited and the first time we had to be driven around to see the coffee plantations. The 6 of us crowded into the back of the vehicle, Wilson at the front showed us the delimitation of their total land.
As the farm is so big, the infrastructure and the number of people working there are also much higher so they can cultivate the coffee. On the way to the top of the farm, I remember Wilson picking up different kinds of fruit for us to try every 20m. There was a big focus on biodiversity, helping them to farm organically.
After a little while, we reached a kind of cantina where all the pickers were having lunch. There were about 12 of them and 8 were actually from Venezuela. Wilson explained that because of the situation in the country, a lot of Venezuelan people are coming across to Colombia seeking work.
After a long lunch break with the whole family, we wanted to shoot a couple of interviews to have their opinion on the industry, their motivations and their thoughts on their future. It was very important for me to understand and hear their point of view as they are the beginning of the whole coffee chain. As I often say “You can be the best barista or the best roaster in the world but there is not much you can do if your green is poor quality." Facing a reality that less and less farmers are willing to produce high quality, it is crucial to listen and be supportive.
Reflecting on the words from the Enciso family, I realised how important Caravella’s role is. Caravella is a Colombian exporter Enciso work with that follows every single step from the farm all the way through dry milling, sorting before finally packing and exporting the beans to us in Copenhagen.
One of the biggest elements for the Enciso family is Caravella’s focus on developing the farm, bringing along an agronomist on each visit to help maintain an overview of the soil. With their guidance, the Enciso family have been able to increase the quality grade of the beans which have resulted in a higher income per pound of coffee.
We are very excited to develop our relation with the Enciso family. They have the specificity to be able to produce high volumes whilst being certified organic with an amazing quality (Edith won the Cup of Excellence in Colombia a few years back).
To end the day, the family insisted for us to stay a little longer to have a cup of coffee of course but more specifically share Wilson's birthday cake!