On Colombia: The Challenges & the Glory of Coffee

On Colombia: The Challenges & the Glory of Coffee

 "The way to glory is full of trials..."  💫 Recently, Michael got to go to Colombia for two weeks and experience the challenges and glory of coffee there. Here's a little more about his trip. 


Why were you in Colombia?
I was working with Karl Weinhold and Azahar Coffee Company to reconnect with several farmers that Karl (via Cedro Alto Farmers Collective) was working with during his time in Colombia. We also were exploring which farmers we could begin a more intentional relationship with as we are looking at building something new in the coming years. 
Tell us more about the people you were with there....
Karl Weinhold was an integral part of Cedro Alto Coffee Collective during the years that he lived in Colombia. He was charge of getting the members' coffees sold and delivered to roasters worldwide, including managing the Colombian export entity, the US import comapny, and international alliances. He holds an MBA in international business and before dedicating his career to coffee farmers, was an international trade consultant and rural development economist. He is also the author of the book Cheap Coffee: Behind the Curtain of the Global Coffee Trade on sustainability in the coffee supply chain.
I was also with some folks from Azahar Coffee Company.  Azahar, the coffee flower, is the beginning of each bean and their search for the best coffees in Colombia. They believe in the transparency of relationships and in honoring the work and knowledge of each coffee farmer. They like to explore (as I got to see!) the steep slopes of the Andes to listen to the stories of those who plow the soil, those who collect the fruit, those who transport the parchment and they know that the coffees we find represent the most beautiful thing about Colombia: the work of its people and the quality of its beans. 


They literally travel year-round to some of Colombia's smallest farms, even if it means going to areas that often don't appear on the map. Azahar is also dedicated to helping Colombians experience their own coffee! 

Traditionally, Colombia has always exported its best coffee. Contributing to that tradition, we source ours from farmers all across the country and ship it around the world. But with a roastery in Quindío and a couple cafés in Bogotá, we do our best to serve as much of it here as we can. Because Colombia deserves to drink its best coffee, too.


Where did you go? 
I flew into Bogota then flew to Neiva and then drove literally over the place (in the back of a truck) visiting farms! Down into the southern part of Tolima, we were based in a small town called Planadas. We also visited the tiny town of Gaitania (famous for the first shot of the revolution). Then drove all the way AROUND the mountains into HUILA basing out of La Plata. 
Who were the farmers? What challenges do they face?
We visited many farmers in each area...Sometimes driving up into the mountains from the town to see their farms, sometimes meeting in towns. We visited several associations who work directly with the farmers in that area, usually they are the ones who receive the coffee and negotiate on behalf of the farmer, as their advocates. All the farms were less than 5-6 hectares (12 acres), generational and family run. It was a really special experience...I even have a new adopted grandma who ran one of the farms. 
The Current challenges specifically were the last two years the rains (La Nina) have not stopped and have been a huge burden. 

"The expected drop in the harvest to around 12 million 60-kilogram bags, potentially the lowest since 2014, is due to strong rains caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon as well as climate change," Roberto Velez said, boss of Colombia’s national coffee federation. "In Colombia we’ve now gone 26 months where the monthly rainfall has exceeded the historical average ... that is accompanied by cloudiness and a lack of sun which decreases production." 


Do you have anything else planned with Karl? 
We definitely have more content coming! (And probably some other cool stuff.) Our series is called "No Filter" on the Mad Priest Youtube and is just quick talks with Karl and me exploring the supply chain at a deeper unfiltered level. Stay tuned! (EDIT! THE SERIES IS LIVE!) In the meantime, you can check out the GETMAD interview that I did with him on YouTube last year. 
And try some of our new coffee from Colombia and taste this glory for yourself...

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