Colombia, El Molino: A Handshake coffee story

El Molino one of Kaffa’s first true Handshake coffee. This is our way of letting you know that we have met these farmers and we have sealed the deal with a handshake and a smile. Also meaning that these coffees are falling into the 100% transparent category. It’s all about respect for the beans and the people that grow them.

1750 meters above the Santa Ines river in the Antioquia region of NW Colombia is a small farm called El Molino. Owned by Mateo Marlunda, and run by Mateo and his two sisters. El Molino is a classic smallholder farm in Colombia, with its own small washing station. All the coffee is picked and processed by Mateo, his two sisters and sometimes their mother.

This is a really small lot of coffee this year. Mateo was only able to produce 15 bags of coffee for the whole season. We split the lot between 2 people, so we got 350 kg. of green coffee this year. Quick tip: the only other place to find this coffee is Method Roastery, in the UK, read their notes from the trip here: ”Field Notes from Colombia

The wonderful upside of El Molino is the incredible potential that their coffee shows. With very limited infrastructure and only 3 people, they are already producing one on the best coffees in Antioquia. I believe that in the coming years El Molino’s coffee will be even better, as drying space improves and with some help from the weather.

It’s a great place to grow, but not easy to stay dry

Currently, El Molino uses a rolling roof-patio system to dry the coffee. (video below) These are old style patios, on the roof, but built with a rolling system the allows Mateo to open and close the roof, keeping the coffee covered when it rains and open to the sun for drying while it is clear. These are good, but they are not big enough to dry everything evenly and if a lot of coffee comes ripe at the same time, it’s very hard to get it all into drying beds at once.

This means that some coffee will stay in the fermentation tanks too long and some coffee might be dried in to thick a layer. This will result in bad drying and inconsistencies in the crop. With a small farm like this, even losing part of the crop is a big problem, so normally they just mix it all together. If some of the coffee didn’t receive proper drying it will lower the quality of some of the best coffee and result in a lower sale price, but with more total output. If your whole years salary is based on the volume of coffee you produce in a few weeks time, you can see why farmers are tempted to process coffee like this. We will this year help with proceeds from the sale of El Molino coffee to build larger, more efficient and consistent drying beds. This should result in a higher quality of coffee next year and an overall increase in total crop.

Great places to grow coffee are not easy to get to

A few hours from the closest town and about 3 hours in total from the small city of Jardin. El Molino is not an easy place to get too, as such it is not an easy place to transport coffee from. A car ride from Jardin, to a jeep station, 1 hour on a “jeep trail”, which is a dirt road, that is barely wide enough for an old school jeep CJ 7, from the 1970s to pass. Complete with 100m drops to the river below and no guard rails.

After that, you are in La Boraja, which is where you can rent mules to pack you up to the top, or you walk, it takes about 2 hrs from there. If you can imagine all this also has to be done in reverse, with 125kg sacks of parchement, for delivery to the dry mill it is a real struggle. Additionally, any new equipment needed at the farm will also need to be packed it in this way. Coffee is not any easy crop to grow and this remoteness makes it even harder for the coffee from El Molino to get all the way here. Wanna learn more about coffee and travel in Antioquia, Colombia – here is a NY Times article about this same area.

El Molino taste notes

El Molino is a wonderful coffee with prominent flavours of sugar cane, tamarind, and light orange fruity-ness. The acidity is soft and round, with a great balance to the intense sweetness. A delightful filter coffee at any time of the day, but also a true friend to espresso machines. ”Taste the rainbow”.