Written by Cody Gallagher
This past June, I had my first opportunity to embark on the dream trip of many coffee professionals, a visit to a coffee-growing region. The trip took me throughout the Cauca region of Colombia, organized by Coffee for Peace, an alliance of coffee producers and market allies along the coffee supply chain. The Sparrows was connected with Coffee For Peace earlier this year through our coffee purchasing advisor David, to source our “Best of Cauca” competition lot blend. They invited us down to tour the Cauca region, meet a variety of the producers, co-ops, and other allies they work with, and taste (many many many) different coffees to potentially purchase and offer to our customers.
For more context on Coffee For Peace, their work is targeted towards 6 historical conflict zones of the country. Much of the conflict in these regions has involved illicit drug production and trade, as well as civil war between rebel forces and the Colombian government. Coffee For Peace works towards stabilization in these regions by providing technical training to producers to improve the quality of their crops, and linking them to global coffee markets to receive premium payments for their coffees. This helps yield both financial and social stability to farmers, enabling them to work towards more sustainable incomes, and to leave behind their country’s violent past.
Throughout my week in Cauca, I had the opportunity to meet and hear from a variety of stakeholders from across the organization. From farm visits, to tours of coffee co-ops, to having the chance to visit the famed, Juan Valdez-branded FNC headquarters, at which any coffee leaving the country must pass through for quality approval, our perspectives were drastically widened to the coffee industry and supply chain in Colombia.
A highlight from each day of the trip was our daily cupping, or coffee tasting, primarily hosted by co-ops who purchase a wide range of coffees from different producers in their area. At any given cupping, myself and the coffee buyers I was travelling with had the opportunity to select any of the coffees tasted for purchase. While being selective between the breadth of amazing coffees was incredibly difficult, we narrowed it down to two distinct coffees for the Sparrows to purchase.
The first coffee we’re purchasing is supplied by the FCC, or Federacion Campesina Del Cauca. FCC is a campesino, or land peasant, rights based coffee cooperative. They work to train agricultural leaders, reclaim campesino land, and benefit general social and economic improvement for rural families. We purchased a microlot from them produced by Ever Castillo. The other coffee is supplied by the CENCOIC cooperative, who work with indigenous communities in Colombia. Their work is directed towards leading economic policy in indigenous communities, as well as strengthening coffee production and commercialization, all in harmony with their land and culture. From them we purchased a reserve of multiple lots from the Chimborazo microregion.
Members of CAFIOCCIDENTE, Coffee for Peace, and coffee buyers at CAFIOCCIDENTE's office and cupping lab in Ristrepo.
Returning from Cauca, not only am I eager to begin roasting and offering these new coffees to you all, I’m reminded of the great importance of coffee in people’s lives from around the world. While it’s easy to get caught up in hipster cafe culture, or scoring exotic microlots with the coolest new processing method, coffee production ultimately comes down to the livelihood of oftentimes disenfranchised communities who receive a small percentage of the final profit made from their work. For the Sparrows, this drives home the importance of maintaining as much transparency in our buying networks as possible, and paying premium prices for a premium product, touched by countless hands along the way. Look for both of these new Colombian coffees we’re bringing on in the next couple months, and in the meantime enjoy some of our Best of Cauca coffee we currently have available at our cafe and webstore.
The crew of coffee buyers and members of Coffee for Peace, outside of FCC. Sparrows purchased a micro lot from producer Ever Castillo through this co-op.