This micro-lot was produced by Reinaldo Parra and his family on their 5-hectare farm, Las Piñas (meaning “the pineapples” in Spanish), in Tolima, Colombia. Finca Las Piñas sits at a staggering height of 1,900 meters above sea level, in the steep, rugged hills that surround Tolima’s capital city, Ibagué.
Reinaldo is an influential coffee producer in the China Alta region, with many of his neighbours looking to him for advice and guidance. His farmland includes two very steep slopes, with his home, micro-beneficio (mill) and drying beds sitting between them.
Reinaldo has chosen to plant the Caturra variety, which yields well at the high elevations of China Alta and also has a sweet and refined cup quality. This allows him to sell his coffee to specialty buyers like us earning a higher premium for his crop.
ABOUT CHINA ALTA
Historically the area of China Alta has been known for cattle, sugarcane and trout, which are farmed in pools along the river. Coffee is a relatively new crop for the region, having only been planted in the last 30-40 years. Higher elevation areas were considered less prosperous than lower areas because they typically achieve lower yields. However, this region has since gained acclaim for the high cup quality, sweetness and complexity of the coffees produced here.
Coffee in China Alta is farmed with traditional techniques. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used. The coffee is selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families.
Coffee from Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result, it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible to the international market. Coffee is now the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
This lot was selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by Reinaldo and his family. During peak harvest, the family hires local labourers to help harvest the coffee cherry, who are paid on per kilogram or on a daily rate when there isn’t much coffee to harvest. Like many of his neighbours, Reinaldo prefers to work with the same local pickers every year as they know how to select only the ripest cherry for processing.
The cherry was then processed using the washed method at Las Piñas’ ‘micro-benficio’ (wet mill). The coffee was hand pulped, and then placed into a fermentation tank. Because of the cooler climate in China Alta, producers like Reinaldo tend to ferment the coffees for longer than usual and will often blend several days’ worth of pickings over a 2-3 day period. Everyday freshly picked cherry is pulped and added to the mix, which lowers the pH level and – along with the cooler temperatures – allows for an extended fermentation process. This fermentation process contributes to a vibrant, winey acidity in the coffee’s cup profile.
Following fermentation, the coffee was washed using clean water from the Rio La China and then carefully dried (over 10–18 days) on parabolic beds. These are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouses are constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
We are loving the warm, red apple flavour which alongside a sweet and creamy body, reminds us of toffee apple! We also find mild notes of mandarin and milk chocolate giving this coffee a fun little pop of structure and balanced acidity.