It’s the time of year for gift swapping, family communion, and holiday coffee blends. This holiday season, we wanted to highlight a different kind of exchange taking place at origin. While many of us in the United States are dreaming of snow and getting bombarded by holiday pageantry, in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, cooperatives are hard at work bringing in the harvest. It’s not all work, though; farmers are also enjoying December festivities with vallenatos music, aguardiente drinks, and lechona feasts. Nevertheless, in the remote indigenous communities that constitute part of the Asoanei cooperative, two young cuppers are taking their jobs very seriously—and one will be spending the holidays far away from her home.
Lisbeth Maca is from Federación Campesina del Cauca, a coffee-producing organization located 800 miles from Asoanei in the Department of Cauca. This is the first time she has been to Northern Colombia. She joined the team of cuppers at Asoanei in October and will accompany them until the end of harvest in January. Her toddler daughter is waiting for her back home in Cauca.
Bunchanawyn Izquierdo is a 21-year-old who grew up in the Sierra Nevada and is a member of the Asoanei cooperative. He is descended from pure indigenous Arhuaco heritage, and his family has been involved in coffee farming for generations.
These two cuppers bring together unique perspectives. They had never met before October, and now they form part of the inaugural team of cuppers overseeing the harvest at Asoanei. This is the first year that Asoanei has a fully trained staff of cuppers—for years, the cooperative had to hire outside cuppers and was subject to whatever those cuppers told them about their product. With this arrangement, Asoanei’s members weren’t getting feedback about how they might improve coffee practices based on sensory analysis. But now with the valuable input of Lisbeth, Asoanei’s passionate team of energetic young cuppers is taking control of the quality of its product.
Lisbeth was invited to join the group because of the connection through Sustainable Harvest®. Both Lisbeth and the Asoanei staff trained with Q Grader Claudia Rocío Gómez,who heads Sustainable Harvest®’s sourcing in Colombia. When Asoanei needed one more cupper, Claudia suggested the cooperative hire someone from a fellow Relationship Coffee cooperative. Lisbeth stepped up.
“Cupping with Lisbeth and others,” said Bunchanawyn, “you share knowledge, and you learn how to help the producers.”
So here’s looking forward to 2016, the arrival of great coffees from Northern Colombia, and the spirit of collaboration and care embodied by Bunchanawyn and Lisbeth.