One of our first arrivals for this year’s Colombian main crop comes from a small cooperative in Huila known by its acronym ASOPCAFA, rather than its full name: Asociacion de Productores, Transformadores y Exportadores de Café del Municipio de Aipe – Huila. The coffee, much like the producing coop’s name, is a mouthful and its balanced profile of orange/cherry over sweet caramel notes does triple duty as single origin espresso, single origin offer and/or blend component. This is Royal’s third year working with ASOPCAFA alongside the export team from Lohas Beans, and I spoke with the coop President Jorge Emilio Ramirez last week to thank him for another year of great delivered coffee and to talk a little bit of coop history.

Huila is one of the regions most directly impacted by the prolonged sectarian violence between FARC guerrillas and government forces, and there are few economic opportunities in this deeply rural area that are not directly related to coffee production. ASOPCAFA was founded in 2012 as Jorge Emilio and a group of 24 other farmers clustered at the border of Huila and Tolima looked to find better outlets for their coffee and to leverage their collective power. To this end, the coop acquired Fair Trade and Organic certifications three years ago and instituted an in-depth training program for all farmers as well as an invitation to nearby farmers to join. Currently ASOPCAFA is composed of 84 members, 17 of them women, and each of them mills and dries their own coffee with their own small scale wet mills and African-style raised beds. The coop itself operates of out of its office and lab in Aipe, where farmers and their children can participate in agronomy as well as cupping courses. They have a keen eye to the future of their farms and offer local children between 5 and 12 years of age free courses on planting, pruning and maintaining coffee trees with a special focus on environmental sustainability.

Since I started working with Colombian coffees, ASOPCAFA has become one of my favorite offerings. It’s an early arrival within the time frame of Colombia main crop, giving it a refreshing quality when fly crop lots are starting to wane. The farmers aim for a mix of both productive and complex varietals with the resulting lots showing potential for both higher toned fruit notes and sugary richness. Just as importantly, the support that ASOPCAFA finds in the US specialty roaster market feeds back into the network of farmers and families, helping in measure to stabilize a corner of the coffeelands that is working to mold a new future.