The Andes of northern Nariño create a rugged and dense landscape for coffee with high altitudes and steep slopes. The department’s coffee producers are overwhelmingly small and remote, which until the past decade kept them largely undiscovered in Colombia’s microlot market. The municipalities of Buesaco and La Unión, were some of the first areas to gain international attention with competition-winning coffees, bringing buyers with strong beliefs in the potential of Nariño’s high altitudes, volcanic soil composition (the department has 6 of Colombia’s 16 volcanoes), and willing producers.
Now more than ever, access to individual farmers, or, as with this coffee, highly select specific communities in Nariño is being facilitated by a mix of different coffee sector supporters. The developer of this coffee, InConexus, is a specialty exporter and relationship management company who works directly with growers in 7 of Colombia’s departments. InConexus manages local purchasing hubs throughout the departments where they work. The hubs buy parchment or dried naturals directly from growers, intaking coffee through a rigorous quality classification and pricing system tied to cup score. Once assessed, deliveries are blended under micro-brands or sold as single-farm lots and marketed around the world. InConexus prides itself on prioritizing direct knowledge between producers, importers, and roasters, hosting multiple auction events or educational summits each year to expose producers to the wider market, and vice versa.
This coffee is a blend of 1–5-hectare family farms located in the Medina Espejo community and who work closely with InConexus on processing and overall quality standards. Natural process coffees at participating farms here are picked by hand and fermented in tanks for 24 hours with minimal oxygen allowed (thus the “anaerobic” qualifier) which allows sugars to peak and the mucilage begin to break down. After fermentation the cherry is then dried for 7-16 days on raised screens.
Medina Espejo is just outside the municipality of Buesaco, itself a long and narrow ridgetop with breathtaking view of the deep canyons on either side. Because of its particular location Medina Espejo was once chosen as the village with the best weather in all of Colombia…which, in the mountains of Colombia is kind of like choosing the “best” spot on a gorgeous beach, but nonetheless is a pretty special recognition. In the context of coffee growing, Nariño’s general proximity to the equator delivers intense exposure to the sun (relatively constant and powerful year-round), which influences the cherry maturation rate. Around Buesaco, warm air rises from the deep canyons at night and acts like a protective blanket for the coffee plants perched at high elevations (up to 2300 masl) on the mountain tops. These combined attributes cause coffee plants to passively absorb the sun’s energy during the day and then come alive at night when the conditions are less harsh. This translates into concentrated flowering and long cherry maturation periods.