The Valle de Cauca is a beautiful diverse region found in the South West of Colombia. You can find both coastal lowlands and high mountain ranges covered in green carpets of tropical forest. The high towering peaks of Cauca belong to the Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Central. Two ‘sub-sections’ of the massive Andes mountain range that cross the entire West of South America.
Cauca is home to the Nasa tribe. The Nasa are an indigenous group of people that live in harmony with nature. They believe that they are stewards of nature and need to protect their environment. The Nasa even organize raids to make sure nature is not harmed. They hack down sugar cane, burn the plots, and replant the area with maize and cassava; more traditional crops. These actions might be considered extreme, but the Nasa take their role seriously. Their motives are deeply embedded in their culture and beliefs.
The people of Colombia, and in particular Cauca, have survived a history of narcotics and violence. This unrest has destabilized the region and left deep scars within communities. The peace accords in Colombia have shifted this balance, however. With the arrival of peace, coffee started to prove to be an alternative for the Nasa. A majority of Nasa have turned their backs on illicit economic opportunities and chose coffee. Coffee has delivered hope and economic growth.
Coffee is considered to be one of the tools for peace in Cauca. The Cencoic Cooperative is one of the groups that has understood the ‘peace-movement’ of coffee. Through coffee, Cencoic strives to improve the lives of their members. The Coop offers advice, education, and assistance during harvest and processing.
Cencoic has 19 groups and a total of 2757 smallholder families; all leaning heavily on the income from coffee. These families are spread out over the Toribio, Santander de Quilichao, Caldono, Morales, El Tambo, Corinto, Miranda, and Almaguer Municipalities. On average, producers own a plot of 0,87 hectares and their farms are situated between heights of 1400 to 2200 m.a.s.l.. The varieties Castillo, Caturra, Typica, and Bourbon are favored and popular among growers.
The Reserva Caldono lots are produced by the Asprole community – one of the larger groups within Cencoic Cooperative. 454 farmer families have contributed to this lot. The majority of these families belong to the Nasa tribe.
The families make their own organic fertilizers from waste. Some members even own plastic tanks for fermentation and use parabolic dryers to dry parchment. Cencoic stimulates and supports these initiatives.
The Reserva Caldono coffees are pulped and then fermented. In warm areas, the parchment is fermented for 12 hours, in colder zones 18 hours. The parchment is washed and then dried for 8 to 15 days, depending on the weather.
Parabolic dryers are used to dry the parchment more efficiently as opposed to sun drying. Parabolic dryers, in fact, African drying beds with a plastic covering, use less air and even protect the parchment. The drying is completed and perfected when the parchment reaches 11,5% moisture content.
The coffees of Cencoic and Reserva Caldono have notes of lime, caramel, and sugar cane. The juicy body is full and the acidity present but gentle.
We met the people of Cencoic during World of Coffee 2018 in Amsterdam. Because Amsterdam is our hometown, we could spontaneously organize a cupping with them in our cupping lab. We were sold on the spot.