The colonial, white-washed city of Popayán is located in the southwestern Colombian region of Cauca, which even now is, unfortunately, probably still better-known for drugs and violence than for its impressive altitudes and extraordinary coffees. The farms of Orgánica's members lie in clusters around the villages of Timbio and Piendamó, to the north of Popayán, and they range in size from one hectare to more than 20 hectares.
By producing high-quality coffee according to the rules of organic certification, the growers of La Golondrina achieve what many have deemed impossible in the volume- and productivity-focused country of Colombia. The Orgánica association behind La Golondrina depends on the charismatic and unflagging leadership of Nelson Melo and Liliana Pabón, and, over the past few years, they have helped the organization grow to include more than 130 members despite the loss of a third of its members during the 2009 outbreak of leaf rust that halved Colombia's total coffee production. Much of Counter Culture's La Golondrina lot comes from a group of growers in the tiny village of Guayabal, which is home to microlot producers Arismendes Vargas, Kenny Idrobo, and the team of Manuel Melenje and Inés Borrero, among others, and which has hung together through tough times due to their strong cooperative spirit.
The association of organic coffee producers responsible for La Golondrina calls itself Orgánica, which translates as "organic" and would be a confusing name for a coffee. We named Orgánica's coffee La Golondrina, which is the Spanish word for swallow, and we use the bird as an icon to symbolize the ability to cross frontiers and make connections between people at great distance from one another.
Notes of cherry and caramel and hint of savoriness supporting La Golondrina's classic citrusy brightness.
After picking, growers de-pulp, wash, then ferment for an average of 18 hours in concrete tanks generally at their farm.
The coffee is dried on patios but more commonly on raised beds inside a protective plastic shelter, again generally on their own farms. Drying times range greatly due to weather, but average 10 days.
After processing the coffee, farmers bring it to Virmax's warehouse and cupping lab in Popayán once it has fully dried. Virmax sets a high bar for cup quality and physical quality, so it's not uncommon for newer members of the farmer association to experience a rejection of, or hear that they need to re-sort, their coffee before it is eligible for grading. These high standards require extra labor at every stage in the supply chain, which results in higher costs, so each year we work to balance to the cost-benefit ratio of these strict standards.