Hipolito Mártinez grows coffee in an often under-represented and little-known corner of Colombia’s northeastern mountains along the border of Venezuela in the remote Cesár department. The Serrania del Perijá mountain range eventually feeds into the same Andean cord that passes through Bogotá and on southward; however, this far north there is considerable Caribbean influence in the climate, even at the highest elevations, creating an ecosystem unique to the rest of Colombia, including to nearby Sierra Nevada. The soil here is much drier and siltier, and less retentive of water overall, requiring growers to be more intentional about shade management and erosion prevention.
Hipolito bought his 10-hectare plot 18 years ago after a lifelong desire to be a cultivator (his farm name, “La Recompensa” in English means “the reward”). 4 of the 10 hectares are planted with coffee and the remaining 6 are a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and forest biodiversity. The municipality of Manaure where Hipolito’s community is located sits toward the very top of the Cesár department, and is in the foothills of the Serrania del Perijá range. Hipolito works the farm with his wife over the long and steady harvest period. Fully washed processing at La Recompensa requires 24-36 hours of fermentation after depulping, followed by 24 hours in a continuously turning mechanical dryer.
Hipolito’s exporter of choice, 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 year for the first time Hipolito was invited to submit coffee to Colombia’s Cup of Excellence competition, a big honor in a country with hundreds of thousands of small farms. Doing so, and being exposed to the potential international audience for his coffee, has been extremely motivating and has already inspired him to expand the farm.