Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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CAPTION 113 farm or implement the traditional techniques of identifying and commercializing green beans. Once I returned to Colombia, I decided I wanted to start a coffee farm project, and so we started saving money to invest in it. In 2011, I began the adventure that would become La Palma y El Tucan with my wife, Elisa, and we soon brought in my longtime friend Carlos Arévalo as head of quality. First we studied and analyzed the spe- cialty-coffee market, as well as what coffee consumers and coffee professionals were seeking. We then started looking for the right place to start a project that could help us deliver on our promise of innovation, qual- ity, and sustainability. We looked at over 100 farms in more than 10 coffee-producing re- gions during the fi rst year, searching only for the ideal ecotopo [environmental landscape] that could meet the strict criteria we had defi ned: an ideal altitude and latitude combi- nation, the perfect weather and temperature ranges, the right amount of sunlight and nat- ural shade, good amounts of fresh water, and healthy soils, among others. We were able to fi nd an amazing spot in Colombia's Cundina- marca Department that had everything we were looking for. BMag: Sebastián, how did you come to join the project in 2015? SV: I had studied business administration in Bogotá and was working as a consultant for a British company. I learned Elisa and Felipe were looking for a person who could join the team and lead the sales strategy because the project was growing. I actu- ally heard about this opportunity from my mother—Felipe and I are cousins, and our mothers have always been very close. I immediately became very curious because I had always wanted to join the agricultural industry, but it was difficult to join without the proper opportunity. I was captivated by everything that I saw from the project and from the coffee industry. BMag: Felipe, what was your original vision and philosophy for the farm? FS: At the time, our vision of Colombia's coffee industry was marked by the deep frustration of our surrounding coffee-grow- ing community. For decades, coffee growers had been asked to deliver high-quality cof- fees that could meet the standards required by our industry, even though most of them didn't even have the right equipment, or the knowledge, infrastructure, or resources to deliver such quality. We knew that we needed to create an inclusive and innovative produc- tion model that could address these challeng- es by working not only with our own farm, but with as many small-scale coffee growing families around us as we could. We eventu- ally achieved this through our Neighbors & Crops program. BMag: Can you guys tell me how that pro- gram works and why you launched it? FS: Due to the economic, institutional, and climactic problems that affect the cof- fee-growing industry in Colombia, many local families have been forced to replace coffee plantations with other crops, thus indirectly forcing the newer generations out, toward the bigger cities, in search of better opportunities. We created the Neighbors & Crops pro- gram to incentivize growers with monetary and non-monetary benefi ts, and to allow each member to focus on what they do best. Our neighboring coffee growers dedicate the entire year to growing the best possible cof- fee trees and coffee cherries, and our team focuses on processing and commercializing their coffees with the utmost transparency, quality, and dedication. SV: We buy coffee cherries from them instead of green beans—this is one of the biggest differences between our project and most other farms and coffee mills in Colombia. There are other big differences as well: We pay much better prices per kilogram to our growers; we pay premiums for quality and loyalty to our program; we provide transportation; we train special cherry-picking teams that we send to every farm we work with; we provide our growers with organic fertilizers that are made at our compost facilities; and we work with each farmer to train them on every aspect of the coffee-growing process. BMag: La Palma y El Tucan has had a great deal of success for still being a pretty young company—how did you go about marketing the farm and connecting with the coffee community? SV: In the beginning we were very focused on creating interesting and dynamic content for our social media, especially for our Instagram account. This strategy helped us establish strong relationships with roasters around the world and was highly effective in promoting our project. We're grateful that many quality-oriented roasters and coffee professionals believed in our project and started to acquire our coffees since the very fi rst harvest in 2014. These relation- ships helped us promote the project through R 03/11/19 COFFEE & TEA TRADE SHOWS Ask the Experts: Barista Edition in partnership with INDIANAPOLIS May 31 - June 2, 2019 This interactive, 90-minute panel discussion will present leaders in the barista community discussing timely and relevant topics. Bring your questions! PLUS! More Barista-focused free seminars like: Barista Theory: The Basics Career Mapping for Baristas Campfire Cafe: Navigating Customer Service NEXT IN More free seminars & paid workshops at #coffeefest

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