Nestled high in the soaring peaks of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta coastal mountain range are the members of Asoanei, a coffee cooperative like no other.
Asoanei’s 400 members hail from the Arhuaco indigenous community, a spiritual group that prizes its land and believes that Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the heart of the world. The Arhuaco people cultivate all of the food consumed in their mountainous community, from raising pigs to growing bananas, tomato, yams, and much more. The group’s dedication to preserving its natural surroundings led Asoanei to seek fair trade and organic certifications, which have helped bring additional premiums to strengthen the community.
Asoanei is a close-knit group, instantly recognizable for the members' traditional dress of white robes, white conical hats, and stitched purses. The area where the Arhuacos live is known as La Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City), and the ornate, terraced landscape is a popular tourist destination in Colombia. But tourists are limited in what they can view of La Ciudad Perdida, and they are prohibited from entering the mountainous confines where Asoanei’s producers dwell. However, Sustainable Harvest® Coffee Quality Manager Claudia Rocio Gomez has been welcomed into that community, where she has worked with Asoanei’s growers to ensure best agricultural practices to yield quality coffee.
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