By Forrest Wright, PT's Retail Manager
La Palma y El Tucan is a new operation working on a large area outside of Bogota. They currently produce their own crops as well as process harvests from a few surrounding farms, making them the hub of a small network. They are experimenting with everything from Scott Laboratory varietals to Gesha, and they are definitely ahead of the curve. If there is an example of coffee’s future, it’s right here.
Picked coffee cherries being evaluated for quality and ripeness.
In a country where coffee practices are generations old, it is a challenge to go against the current and innovate. Speaking with their Wet Mill Coordinator, Onolfo, he explained most of the pickers they hire struggle with adapting from the old ways. Instead of simply stripping the branches clean of cherries and getting a paycheck at the end of the day, they are expected to take the extra time to pick the best quality coffee cherries, otherwise they don’t get paid. The attitude he runs into a lot, as he explained, is if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Workers get frustrated when they bring back full sacks of coffee cherry, but are not getting paid by weight as they normally would. Instead, they are being paid for quality. I found this to be really interesting. Specialty coffee is still such a young industry that even though it seems like it’s all we’ve ever known at coffee origin, so little is still known. Brew methods, extraction principles, things that make up our every day as roasters and baristas, are all worlds away from most in the industry. Often, the painstaking care behind this product we use on a daily basis gets lost on us since we only see the end product.
Coffee being tested before processing.
Still, this gap between the two sides is rapidly bridged by the world of La Palma y El Tucan. I was very impressed by the applied chemistry and agricultural science being implemented into their work. Practices used in wine fermentation and modern farming are being applied to better measure and experiment with their product. They strive for perfection, but do so with total humility. They are full of curiosity about where the industry is heading and how to put themselves out there. These guys are a farm to keep your eyes open for in the future and are definitely going places.
Coffee ripening on the tree.
In our time there, we were shown everything from their impressive washing station to their young crops recently in harvest on their large, gorgeous farm, as well as their state-of-the-art cupping lab, where we sampled a few tables of their latest innovations. Overall, it was a very educational experience, proving not only is coffee alive and well, but that the coffee industry is growing up.