The Story of La Golondrina

The Orgánica cooperative in the region of Cauca, Colombia, has been producing coffee for our La Golondrina offering since 2007. Over the years, they have shown that they are one of the strongest organizations we work with—and it’s no wonder they have one of the best organic coffees in the country. Look for layered flavors of milk chocolate, cherry, and nut.

The beginning:
We were first introduced to the Orgánica cooperative in 2007 by our exporter Caravela. Caravela knew we valued organic coffee production, which back then—and still now—is rare in Colombia. At the time, Orgánica was still establishing itself as a viable organization and was only able to produce small amounts of coffee. The members of Orgánica had all belonged to larger, regional cooperatives before forming Orgánica in hopes of finding recognition for their high-quality product and more accountability from the organization. Over the next few years, membership and overall production grew steadily. The co-op’s organic certification became a way for them to access a different market that would be willing to pay higher prices not only for quality, but also sustainably-produced coffee. The co-op’s Caturra-variety coffees grown on contributing farms at the time had a lot of sweetness that was unique in flavor.

Ups and downs:
A coffee disease called leaf rust impacted farmers contributing coffee to Orgánica in 2008, and contributing coffee farms have pretty much been in a constant recovery process ever since. Both 2009 and 2010 were very hard years on both volume and quality. The aforementioned commitment to organic can be a risky process that is thought to have negative effects on quality and yields. Because the organic management of crops is totally different from conventional management and the resources that are available to most farmers in Colombia are aimed at conventional practices, focusing for organic production can lead to less-than-stellar results.

Farms in Colombia are generally very small—2 to 5 hectares—and, yet, they are the largest exporter of washed Arabica coffee in the world. The Colombian Coffee Federation has helped the country achieve robust coffee exports by putting systems and pressure in place for farmers to strive for productivity over quality. For example, the federation has developed coffee varieties like the Catimor-hybrid Castillo specifically to resist rust and increase productivity. This resulted in coffee that tasted dry and vegetal.

To keep their quality consistent, Caravela used their own training program and also purchased land from Nelson Melo, the president of Orgánica, in order to test organic crop management—the results of which are shared with Orgánica. Even after certification, Orgánica farmers have been incentivized by buyers like Counter Culture that specifically reward quality with higher prices. This has helped farmers to strive to rebuild their farms with botanical varieties and crop-management practices that produce high-quality coffee and foster resilient farms. Orgánica also received a Seeds grant from Counter Culture that has helped farmers cultivate different coffee varieties and make plans to implement adaptation strategies to the climate change impacts they are noticing in the region.

La Golondrina today:
After 10 years as partners, La Golondrina is better than it’s ever been and has grown to more than 100 members. In 2013, we helped Orgánica start a plant nursery with different coffee varieties. The following year, they planted some of these trees that are now coming to fruition and we are tasting that in the cup.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about one of our longest partnerships and most-endearing coffees—and that you can taste the history and the difference in the cup.