Last month I traveled through Colombia with a new friend: Stuart Hargie, the green buyer for New Zealand’s Gravity Coffee. Stuart is one of the only Certified Q Graders in all of New Zealand, a World Barista Championship head judge, and an all-around great guy.
He came to Colombia to explore new coffees for Gravity, which is owned by Bell Tea & Coffee—an entity that also has tea companies and other coffee ventures, including Jed’s Coffee Co. and Burton’s Pure Espresso. Bell Tea is one of the oldest companies in the country—dating back to 1890—and its coffee arm is the largest roasting company in New Zealand.
Stuart and I met up in Bogota before heading to Neiva, Huila, to see the Cafetrilla dry mill, which processes coffees from Huila’s two cooperatives: Coocentral and CADEFAHUILA. From there we made the three-hour drive south to Garzón, where Coocentral has its offices, parchment buying stations, drying plant and new micro-lot mill.
We spent the next couple of days in Garzón to understand more about Coocentral and the work that the organization does with its almost 4,000 members. Coocentral is a well-organized business with many social programs, a team of 11 agronomists, the ability to receive wet parchment from its producers and dry that coffee in its drying plant, and a structured environment that allows the co-op to harvest and ship coffee year-round.
While visiting Coocentral, we had the chance to cup more than 20 samples of coffee that represented several municipalities and communities in the area, giving Stuart a good idea of the taste profiles of the coffees there.
Next we journeyed to Popayán, Cauca, to visit Federación Campesina del Cauca, an umbrella association for six coffee-growing organizations. We spent most of one day at the FCC office, where we learned about the organization’s commitment to organic production and also saw an in-depth chart about the most common coffee defects in Colombia, particularly in Cauca.
The next day we spent time on three different farms in Cajibio, Cauca. Gravity’s motto is “walk with the grower,” and so Stuart was very excited to meet and connect with producers. After the farm visits we headed over to the organic composting plant in Piendamo. Stuart was very impressed with how the organization was run and that it was taking the idea of organic not only to coffee but also providing its members with organic compost for their personal gardens. These efforts are helping to change how Colombian farmers are thinking about what they are consuming and how they can protect their environment.
On our final day together we took part in a a cupping of 12 samples from all the coffee-growing communities in Cauca, as well as various blends from the different communities. Stuart was delighted with the quality of the coffees, particularly their complexity and fruit layers.
Stuart and I covered a lot of ground in just a handful of days, and it was a pleasure to introduce him to some of Colombia’s amazing coffee (and the people who grow it). We’re excited to work with Gravity—and go on further farm visits—going forward.