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—they consistently produce one of the best organic coffees in Colombia. The resulting coffee has layered flavors of milk chocolate, cherry, and nut.
Coffee exporter Caravela introduced us to the Orgánica Cooperative that produces La Golondrina more than a decade ago. At that time, the coffee-growing association was still establishing itself as a viable organization and was only producing small amounts of coffee. Nelson Melo and his wife, Liliana Pabón—both of whom have backgrounds in organizing—galvanized a handful of growers to sell coffee to Caravela for the first time in 2005. The new members 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, resulting in the cooperative that exists today.
In the past, Colombia's tiny, family-run farms have sold their produce to exporters for mass-market blending and homogenization, causing many of the country's most exquisite coffees to get lost in the mix. Our partnership with the growers of La Golondrina creates stable pricing and helps us work with our exporting partners as well, to identify, isolate, and pay premiums for the best lots.
By producing high-quality coffee according to the rules of organic certification, the growers of La Golondrina achieve what many have been 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, who helped the organization grow to more than 100 members—despite the loss of a third of their members during the 2009 outbreak of leaf rust that cut Colombia's total coffee production in half.
With perseverance and patience by all parties, production has rebounded. Much of Counter Culture's La Golondrina lot comes from a group of growers in the tiny village of Guayabal—home to single-farmer lot producers Arismendes Vargas, Gloria Tejada, and partners Manuel Melenje and Inés Borrero, among others—which because of their strong cooperative spirit, has hung together through tough times.
The association of organic coffee producers responsible for La Golondrina calls itself Orgánica, which translates as "organic" and which we thought would be a confusing name for a coffee. Instead, we named Orgánica's coffee La Golondrina—the Spanish word for swallow—an icon that symbolizes the ability to cross frontiers and make connections between people.
The colonial, white-washed city of Popayán is located in the southwestern Colombian region of Cauca, 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.