Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is a circular formation at the very top of the country, just inland from the Caribbean coastline. Because the greater cordilleras of Colombia’s Andes cannot be reached without dropping almost to sea level in between, Sierra Nevada is considered a standalone range; and because of its surrounding lowlands, the central summit of Cristóbol Colón, at almost 19,000 feet, is considered the world’s 5th most prominent peak. This dramatically steep rise from the warm and humid coast means tropical flora often blend with snow-capped mountains in the same view. The unique climates of the lower slopes, with warm breezes, large elevation and temperature ranges, strong biodiversity, and history of land stewardship by the farmers in this area, make for a completely unique coffee terroir.
El Limon, the 3-hectare farm of Yanett Celeste Santiago Fernandez, is located in the community of Corea, part of the municipality of Ciénaga. Yanett is a second generation farmer, taking after her father, and depends on the labor of cousins and nephews for harvest and general farm management. El Limon is about 50% shaded with leguminous Guama trees and plantains. Despite the modest altitude El Limon is producing some outstanding coffees. For this particular microlot, picked cherry was depulped and fermented for 16 hours. With fermentation completed, the coffee was washed with fresh water and dried in mechanical dryers for 72 hours. Yanett is a member of Red Ecolsierra, a prominently eco-conscious producer group representing hundreds of small, organic farms in the lower Sierra Nevada mountains.
Azahar Coffee, the sourcing company and exporter of Yanett’s 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 like Red Ecolsierra 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 farmgate price of COP 1,700,000 per carga (125kg of parchment coffee), or $2.49 per pound for milled green coffee.