This month, we are excited to offer our Adventure Subscription customers this exclusive lot of washed pink bourbon grown by Mauricio Urquina, a member of the El Carmen group of producers whose community lot frequently forms part of our offering.
During our last visit to Colombia, Tom, alongside a group of fellow roasters, visited El Carmen, and was part of a judging panel for the inaugural ‘Best of El Carmen’ competition. Members of the association presented their best microlots for assessment, and Mauricio’s pink bourbon was one of the winning lots.
Our importing partner Raw Material first met with the El Carmen cooperative members in 2017 to understand what was preventing them from accessing the speciality coffee market.
Despite good production levels, income from coffee had dropped to unsustainable levels over the previous few years, and the smallholder families were faced with the prospect of having to find alternative income outside of coffee. The volatility of the commodity coffee market prohibited farmers from investing in the infrastructure improvements required to improve the quality of their coffee. Raw Material also noticed a huge gap between the way coffee quality is evaluated at farm level compared with at the roasting end of the value chain.
On the back of these meetings Raw Material launched the Red Associations with the goal of achieving stable and sustainable prices for the cooperative’s lots through an improved payment structure, quality-control, knowledge-sharing, and connection to the specialty coffee market.
The payment structure involves an initial up-front payment that is guaranteed on the day the coffee is delivered, and that is considerably higher than the market rate, plus a quality-based premium once the coffee has been sold for export. Raw Material has honoured its commitment each year since, fostering a relationship of trust with the producers that has given them the confidence to invest in their farms with a view to improving quality. Raw Material has also helped establish extra drying tables and a cupping lab in the centre of the village where the producers can get real time feedback on the quality of their coffee.
The ‘Best of El Carmen’ competition represents a big step in El Carmen’s journey as an association, and we feel privileged to have secured one of the winning lots and to be able to share it with you.