Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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111 www.baristamagazine.com as LPET's profi le continues to rise. Importer Ally Coffee is the exclusive distributor of La Palma y El Tucan in the USA; its chief operations offi cer, Ricardo Pereira, calls the farm a "coffee para- dise" where every detail has been carefully thought out. "Felipe and Sebastián are some of the most innovative and dynamic people in the coffee industry that I've ever met," he says. "Their passion and vision for coffee has longevity and sustainability all over it." We talked to Felipe and Sebastián about their paths to coffee, their support for the Colombian coffee community, and much more. Barista Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about your childhoods? Where did you each grow up? Felipe Sardi: I was born in Cali, Colombia, 40 years ago and raised in Bogotá, where I studied until I turned 18. To be honest, the situation in Colombia during my childhood wasn't really what you'd call a safe haven for kids. I grew up in a time where Pablo Escobar and other drug lords rose to prominence. Car bombs and kidnappings were on our news channels every day and affected our daily lives. Some of my relatives were kidnapped by the guerrilla movements during those days, including my 70-year-old grandmother, and a few uncles and friends who were kept hostage for years. I would've preferred not to mention this part of my story, but the way I see it, the past has a powerful way of shaping the future; in my case, it led me to discover new places and cultures where coffee would eventually open many doors for me and my family. Sebastián Villamizar: I was born and raised in Bogotá several years after Felipe, so Bogotá was a more peaceful place. Growing up in the capital city was fun since there are many different cultures and people. I learned to appreciate people of all walks of life, and I believe this had a big infl uence on my personality. Most of my inter- ests were related to outdoor activities—I'm a big fan of football, and sports have always played an important role in my life. They taught me how to be persistent and how to work hard. BMag: How did you get started working in coffee? FS: I left Colombia to study abroad and had the opportunity to at- tend college in New Orleans—in my opinion, one of the coolest cities in the world! I attended Tulane's Business School, where I obtained my bachelor's of science in management. I graduated in 2001 and worked in investment banking for a short period. I soon lost interest in the fi nancial sector and moved on to create my fi rst coffee-related company in early 2003. To make a long story short, my uncle Diego and I structured a green-coffee importing business that operated out of Miami, and which targeted the small but fast-growing specialty-coffee movement. It quickly gained a good reputation among specialty-coffee buyers on both the East and West Coasts. Unable to move enough volume in specialty to sustain our over- head, we decided to complement our portfolio and explore the com- modity side of the business, trading container loads of Central and South American coffees for a minimal profi t. A few years later, the hybrid model for which we were aiming failed miserably, forcing us to fi le for bankruptcy. In 2008 I lost every single penny I had saved. Consequently, I had to return back to Colombia and ask my family for a job, all the while desiring to work in specialty coffee again. BMag: That sounds like a diffi cult path. How did it eventually lead to La Palma y El Tucan? FS: Our story may be slightly different from the traditional stories of other coffee-growing farmers. We did not inherit a productive coffee

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