Known in the specialty coffee industry as a "biodiversity paradise," the Tolima Department of Colombia is a treasured coffee growing region. For many years, however, Tolima had remained hidden in plain sight among other well-known regions because armed conflict and cocoa leaf production had isolated the region's coffee producers. During this time, the idyllic town of Planadas in the southernmost corner of Tolima remained an untapped source of specialty coffee where thousands of producers were cultivating coffee on a few acres of land intercropped with shade trees and diverse fruits and vegetables.
Only in the past decade or so has coffee from Planadas caught the attention of specialty coffee buyers. In the 2008 "Coffee of the Year" program, for example, a small lot of Tolima coffee from Planadas earned a 1st place victory over a field of not only Central and South American coffees but East African coffees as well.
This Planadas is a macerated natural produced by smallholder farmers organized under the guidance of Miguel Jimenez. The flavor profile is juicy and fruit-forward with generous notes of cherry and ripe berries. Its plump, citrusy acidity is highlighted by a silky-smooth, delicate mouthfeel while the rich-toned finish merges into a creamy, dark chocolate body.
The town of Planadas is just 50 years old. The first groups to settle there were from Antioquia and Huila, so it's not at all surprising that coffee production found a home there. The region offers coffee growers an ideal microclimate. High elevation, warm days and cool nights, and young, healthy trees all contribute to the superb coffee quality produced by growers in and around Planadas.
As conflict has subsided in recent years, locally organized producer groups have created market access for their coffee. A select group of producers volunteered to take on processing techniques uncommon for the region, which leads us to this rare, naturally-processed lot from small farms in the communities of Caicedonia and El Rubi.
Each producer floated their harvested cherry to remove damaged and less dense beans. Then the cherries were sealed in airtight plastic drums, fermented for 46 hours, and placed on raised beds to dry for several days. The cherries were then rested for five days in a cool indoor space and returned to the raised beds to dry to 20 percent moisture. After the coffee was rested in grainpro bags for 4 days, the coffee was dried in a mechanical dryer to reduce moisture content to 11 percent.
A strict post-harvest protocol ensured that each individual coffee batch was sufficiently consistent so that it could be combined into a larger lot, resulting in a stunning example of innovation.
Grower: 20 small-scale producers organized under the guidance of Miguel Jimenez
Variety: Caturra, Colombia
Region: Caicedonia and El Rubi, Planadas, Tolima, Colombia