Edgar Meneses shares the farm with his wife Marleny Lasso they both have a part each of Finca Los Idolos. 4 hectares each. It's located in Brucelas, a small community in Buesaco, Narino. They grow about 40% Colombia cultivar and 60% of the Caturra cultivar. It is located at 1900 masl. The farm and mill is very tidy and clean, with really good systems in place. And the plants looks really healthy.
They process the coffee together, and as most producers in the region they got their own micro beneficio (processing unit and dryers etc). The coffees are hand picked in several passes through the season. They separate the better qualities during the peak season. They remove the skin and fruit with a small mechanical de-pulper, ferment and wash the coffees in small tanks, normally 12-14 hrs wet fermentation. They then dry the coffees in parabolic dryers at the farm.
Narino is not like any other region in Colombia. Climate is different, and hence the flavor profiles. By some referred to as the the equivalent to african coffees at their best. Altitudes are really high, and most farms are small.
Nariño is located in the far south-west of Colombia bordering Ecuador, and is in general one of the most challenging, but also most interesting places to work. There is extremely high elevation, coffee up to 2200 meters, very steep hillsides, and mainly super tiny farms in very remote areas.
In opposite to other regions in Colombia they can have extremely dry conditions during the harvest time, and humidity in the area can be low. This together with really high altitudes definitely affects the flavour profiles and make them different from any other Colombian coffees.
Coffees are picked in 3-4 passes. Meaning the producers/workers pick the more or less ripe cherries in one block. Then they might wait a few weeks until it’s again a decent amount of ripe cherries to pick in that same place. Generally the first and last pass is of lower quality, and the second and third will be considered as the best, with more ripe cherries and uniform quality. When we can, we try to buy parchment harvested in these two passes.
The coffee from Narino is generally fully washed, meaning pulped and fermented the traditional way. There is a few exceptions where farmers are using eco-pulpers with mechanical removal of mucilage, and/or are doing honeys, but it’s still not to common.
This is the most common and widely used method. The farmer will have a small beneficio, a small manual or electric pulper and a fermentation tank. They pulp the cherries in the afternoon. The coffees are going straight from the pulper in to the fermentation tank. It can sit there from one to two days, depending on the temperature. Higher temperature will speed up the fermentation process, and lower temperature will slow it down. Some producers do intermediate rinsing with water, that can also help them control the process.
Washing and grading
They normally stir the coffees in tanks or small channels before they remove the floaters. For the ones without channels it’s common to wash the coffees in the fermentation tank and skim off the floaters before it goes to the drying.
For the smallholders in regions like Narino the coffees are commonly sun dried in parabolic dryers that almost works as green houses. The better producers have well ventilated facilities. There are many different variations and constructions, but generally they are all systems that is able to protect the coffee from rain. We have generally seen that the producers that have constructions with good ventilation and manage to dry the coffee down to below 11% in 10 – 18 days often have very good and consistent coffees.