Huila is arguably Colombia’s best-known department for bright and aromatic coffees, light on the palate and articulate in flavor. Huila is a long and narrow valley that follows a winding gap between two large cords of the Andes. Uphill from the valley’s lush and picturesque lower slopes (Colombia’s 950-mile long Magdalena River has its source in southern Huila and has shaped the agriculture here for centuries) are a diverse array of coffee producing communities, often dramatically steep, and each with their own unique climate and history. Algeciras is one such community, located near the middle of the department and tucked away in its Eastern foothills near the border of Caquetá.
Las Mandarinas belongs to Luis Ariel Bermudez Ramirez and this is the first time coffee from this small family farm has been marketed and sold as a micro-lot, rather than part of a regional blend.
Natural processing at Las Mandarinas is a multi-week endeavor, due to the specific profile preferences of the family, as well as the local climate. Coffee cherry is carefully hand-picked in the field and then floated to remove under-ripes, dirt and debris. The sorted cherry is then allowed to ferment as whole fruit for up to one week in tanks, allowing sugars to peak inside the cherry and to allow the seed ample time to absorb flavors and acids from the changing fruit. After this step the cherry is washed, inspected again for imperfections, and then transferred to the family’s parabolic dryers, where it dries for an additional 15 days as a full natural.
Azahar Coffee, the sourcing company and exporter of Luis’ coffee, originally began as a specialty roaster and coffee boutique in Bogotá serving Colombia’s top quality microlots to a developing local consumer base. In time, Azahar began making international connections to their farmer contacts and exporting green coffee, with top traceability and ambitious price transparency, to select buyers in a few northern markets.
The business has evolved to what is now a very sophisticated exporting model. Azahar partners with local grower organizations to identify coffees and producers of the highest potential, pull these aside from the usual export stream, and market them directly to buyers internationally on a quality-based pricing scale. The net effect of the intervention is often significantly more money than a farm could receive without the added exposure and marketing. Through Azahar, countless farms and communities are being uncovered and sold globally with traceability not experienced before. And prices follow: the average farm gate price farmers receive from Azahar sales is 25-50% above Colombia’s federal price. This particular lot was purchased at a farm gate price of COP 1,650,000 per carga (125kg of parchment coffee), or $2.00 per pound for milled green coffee.