Coffee exporter Virmax introduced us to Orgánica about eight years ago, at which point the coffee-growing association was still establishing itself as a viable organization and only able to produce small amounts of coffee. Most of Colombia’s certified organic coffee from small producers comes out of Cauca and the growers of Orgánica had all belonged to larger, regional cooperatives before joining Orgánica in hopes of finding recognition for their high-quality product and more accountability from the organization. Nelson and Liliana, both of whom have backgrounds in organizing, galvanized a handful of growers to sell coffee to Virmax for the first time in 2005, and over the next few years membership and overall production grew steadily.
Colombia’s tiny, family-run farms have traditionally 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 unique La Golondrina project, however, partners directly with Cauca’s most talented, dedicated farmers to source only the best lots of each harvest, creating the most sublime Colombian coffee experience there is.
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. 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, which is home to microlot producers Arismendes Vargas, Gloria Tejada, 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, an icon that symbolizes the ability to cross frontiers and make connections between people at great distance from one another.
Varieties: Caturra, Castillo
Elevation: 1,500–2,000 meters
Post-Harvest Process: Washed
Harvest Time: October 2014–January 2015