In Nariño, Colombia, we have been working for more than three years to build relationships between the 1,600 smallholder growers who participate in our Borderlands Coffee Project and six allies in the marketplace who are part of the project’s Advisory Council.
This year, four of those companies purchased 41 separate lots from 324 different growers, including 16 community lots and 25 single-farm lots.
No one bought more lots than Counter Culture, which came away from the 2014 havest with more than 20 lots: six community lots and 17 single-farm lots. This week it brings the first of those to market: this single-variety Caturra lot from La Florida, where the project will break ground in 2015 on Nariño’s first washing station.
Counter Culture first set its sights on the community back after the 2012 harvest, when we sent more than 60 samples as part of the project’s coffee quality baseline.
Then Counter Culture’s Quality Manager & Coffee Buyer Tim Hill visited for the first time during the 2013 harvest. He cupped lots from 24 different farms during that visit (buying a few from La Florida that he liked) and then cupped samples from more than 100 other farms after he returned to the lab in Durham. A few months later, he cupped those samples again.
Poring over the data from those many rounds of cupping, Tim saw a pattern of preference emerge for coffees from La Florida. In advance of the 2014 harvest, we worked with Tim to apply the company’s new approach to quality incentives with two small villages in La Florida. During the harvest, Tim visited again, explaining the company’s approach, encouraging growers to commit to the kinds of practices Counter Culture believes lead to improvements in cup quality, and promising to pay them premiums for doing so. If the hard work we saw in the field and the number of lots Counter Culture purchased are any indication, the approach seems to have worked.
Counter Culture introduced the first of its many La Florida lots earlier this week, a single-variety Caturra lot with “notes of brown sugar and dark fruit emphasized by a creamy mouthfeel.” It represents the hard work of 33 farmers and some important milestones in their relationship with the marketplace: the first time they have ever brought coffee to market together and the first time they have earned price premiums based on cup quality.
This year we will work with these growers and their neighbors to help increase the quality of their coffee, the volumes they bring to market and the income their coffee generates for their families. Meantime, you can become part of their story.
Buy the Counter Culture single-variety La Florida community lot HERE.