June brought our green coffee buyer to Nariño, Colombia, home to two of our longstanding Direct Trade partners: Finca Villa Loyola, a sustainable agricultural innovation center, and Finca Santa Maria, a family farm.
Much has changed since our last visit a few years ago, from the global—Covid, broad economic shifts—to the local—new leadership at Villa Loyola, a new processing site for Finca Santa Maria. Read on for the latest updates at each farm!
Finca Villa Loyola
Since Padre Joe’s reassignment and departure from Villa Loyola in late 2019, leadership has been taken on by General Manager Alejandra Giraldo, with coffee production overseen by Agriculture Manager Diego Chicaiza. Born and raised on a coffee farm, Diego has worked various roles in the coffee industry in Colombia since beginning his career in 2008. A certified Q Grader and experienced quality control technician, Diego’s skill sets are fully utilized at Villa Loyola, where he manages coffee production, processing, cuppings for quality assurance, and the roasting program for locally sold coffee.
Alejandra and Diego have refined Villa Loyola’s processing techniques, having settled on baseline washed and natural processes after years of trial and error. For their standard washed process, coffee cherries are collected in 55-gallon drums, sealed, and allowed to further ripen for 72 hours. Afterward, the cherries are depulped and the coffee seeds are allowed to ferment aerobically in stainless steel tanks. After 36 hours, the seeds are floated and washed before being moved to shaded raised beds.
For naturals, coffee cherries are placed in 15-gallon containers. A CO2 tank is used to purge the containers, which are then sealed and placed in a temperature stable room. The cherries ferment for 5 days, with the containers flipped once a day to ensure a homogenous fermentation. Afterward, the cherries are moved to a mechanical dryer for 5 days before being moved to shaded drying beds to finish.
While these processes are becoming more common in the specialty coffee industry, they’re still far from the norm, with most consumers being unfamiliar with them. Incredibly, these are the standard processes used by Villa Loyola for all of their coffees roasted and sold locally in Nariño. If you ever find yourself in the Antonio Nariño Airport, you can pick up a bag of locally-grown and roasted carbonic maceration natural from Villa Loyola!
Finca Santa Maria
Since 2020, Armando has shifted processing of Finca Santa Maria’s coffee to his friend Huber Castillo’s wet mill at Finca El Paseo. Since taking over operations at Finca El Paseo in 2015, Huber has spent an enormous amount of time and energy educating himself about coffee processing, diving head first into processing experiments. Over the years, Armando has provided guidance to Huber with respect to improving cup quality. Having observed Huber’s dedication and consistency, Armando felt confident moving Santa Maria’s cherries to the new site.
Cherries are picked and collected at Finca Santa Maria, then moved to El Paseo the following day. There, the cherries are cleaned through recirculation in a salt water solution composed of 4 kilograms of salt to 50 liters of water. This solution is intended to inhibit any mold or bacteria that might produce off flavors in the coffee, while preserving bacteria that might contribute positively. The cleaned cherries are left to continue ripening for an additional 72 hours before being depulped. The depulped coffee seeds are placed in stainless steel tanks and are fermented until all of the mucilage has broken down. After being washed, the seeds are then transported to Armando’s home nearby in Buesaco. There, Armando has dedicated half of the home to raised drying beds.
While it’s unusual to see coffee dried away from the farm or wet mill, drying the parchment coffee at Armando’s primary residence means he can keep a watchful eye on the coffee's progress, and make adjustments at a moment's notice. If humidity rises dramatically, or an unexpected storm occurs, the drying rooms can be closed to prevent unwanted fluctuations in the drying process.