Land: Kólumbía / Hérað; Nariño / Kaffibóndi: Pablo Andres Guerrero
/ Kaffibúgarður: El Obraje / Yrki: Caturra / vinnsluaðferð: Þvegið / Uppskera: Júní / Ræktunarhæð: 2200 m yfir sjávarmáli / þyngd hrákaffi: 70kg og í grainpro
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Mr. Pablo Guerrero was the first to introduce coffee to the Tangua area outside of the city of Pasto in the year 2000. Hacienda El Obraje has been in Pablo’s family for many years and originally produced wheat and other grains. In the 1990’s, the Colombian government began importing grains, and cultivating wheat was no longer viable. Looking for an alternative, Pablo and his team experimented with fruit trees, including apples and peaches, for ten years, but challenges like bringing fresh fruit to market made fruit cultivation unsuccessful.
When Pablo first began planting coffee in 2000, he grew traditional, conventional coffee and did not have a mill. By 2009, he had built a facility to process his own coffee and entered into the specialty coffee market. His experiments continued; he planted new varieties and processed Natural as well as Washed coffees. Planting coffee was initially risky because he was unsure how productive coffee would be at such a high elevation, but the coffee trees flourished and now others are following in his footsteps.
The climate and terrain of Obraje are major contributing factors to its coffee’s unique cup profile. Temperatures vary greatly in a day, from 32 degrees Celsius at noon to 8 degrees or less at night. In the rainy season, the humidity is high and it is nearly impossible to dry coffee on raised beds. Initially, planting shade trees would have been disadvantageous given the humidity, as they would have trapped too much moisture and caused diseases, but the coffee has adapted to its conditions and Obraje now has low-density shade trees planted along with coffee trees. The drastic daily change in temperature impacts the density of the coffee beans and also causes trees to be smaller and more compact than trees of the same varieties in other regions of Colombia. Obraje often does not receive adequate rainfall and must irrigate select lots using water from the farm’s retention pond.
Obraje is located near many volcanic mountains and the rocky soil is filled with minerals. Obraje maintains its own nursery to take care of coffee trees in their early stages. The team plants seeds directly into 2kg soil bags to let the seedlings grow before replanting them in the field. The farm applies mixed fertilizations: of 1kg-2kg of natural fertilizer and 300g of chemical fertilizer per tree.
The hundred-hectare Hacienda El Obraje is a truly stunning property in the mountains of the Nariño department, with coffee planted on the slopes descending to a river valley. The transition from apple orchard to coffee estate began as a challenge, but has proven to be a rewarding venture. Pablo’s background in architecture leads him to approach coffee from both passionate and pragmatic angles, applying planting and processing strategies designed for long term farm health.
El Obraje’s wet mill on the property is extremely tidy and includes tile fermentation tanks, depulping equipment, mechanical oven dryers, and raised drying beds under a solar dryer. Coffee processing begins as soon as the cherries are harvested.
According to Pablo, “Experimenting with fermentation has been quite interesting. We have tried different times and temperatures, first with the cherries and after with the beans. I have learned many things. It’s important to have always the same quantity of coffee during the fermentation process, or at least give the coffee similar conditions of space and temperature.”
All processing times vary according to the variables of climate at the time of harvest. Normally, cherries are fermented for 20 hours in cherry in the same bags pickers use. Cherries are selectively harvested for ripeness and also sorted by floatation. After depulping, coffee is dry fermented for another 24 hours and then fully washed, concluding with a second floatation sort.
Washed coffee typically dries for an average of 16 days on raised beds or four days in the mechanical parchment combustion dryer, where it receives a hot air flow of 30 degrees Celsius.
Read more about Hacienda El Obraje’s history and current practices. The History
Hacienda El Obraje is located in Tangua, outside of Nariño’s main city of Pasto. Owner Pablo Guerrero, a Pasto native, began growing coffee in 2000. Obraje is situated in a fertile valley but the area surrounding Pasto is generally considered too high for coffee but perfect for potatoes. Pablo, who also works as an architect, originally planted the farm with wheat, but imports ruined domestic the market. He then tried growing apples and tree fruit, but post harvest preservation and transport proved too difficult.
When Obraje first started producing coffee, Pablo treated the crop as though it were wheat, picking and selling everything without any attention to quality. Seven years ago, he began focusing on fermentation time, washing techniques, and transitioned to producing specialty coffees, with all the required attention to detail. Obraje is planted with Caturra, Geisha, and assorted varieties remaining from the first planted coffee seed stock.
Caturra cherries ripen.
Because Pablo transitioned the farm from apples to coffee, some lots are oddly spaced, as the young coffee was first planted under the apple trees. After the apple trees were removed as coffee matured, more coffee was planted, meaning the same plot has interspersed trees of different ages. All fertilizers and disease/weed control is applied from the top of the farm down to avoid hauling heavy inputs uphill, an example of the way Pablo strategically approaches all aspects of farm management. Coffee harvesting, conversely, starts at the lower elevations at the bottom of the farm and works its way up. Obraje’s small mill includes an oven-style dryer for finishing lots started on the raised beds.
Do to its evolution from wheat to apples to coffee, Obraje has trees of varying ages planted in many layouts across the farm. El Obraje employs four styles of pruning to keep trees growing new branches to encourage new production, since each node on a branch only produces a cluster of coffee cherries one time: bottom branches (ramas abjajo), crown (descopo), all side branches (lateral), and stumping (zoca).
The cafetales are the plots on a farm where coffee trees are planted. On the one hundred-acre Haceinda El Obraje, the cafetales make up the majority of the property. Pablo manages El Obraje carefully, planning which lots to renovate — either by replanting or pruning — in order to produce the most and the best harvest each year.
Citrus planted with coffee.
Older plots have fruit trees growing in and around the coffee, whereas more recently planted portions of the farm have solely coffee. Like all coffee in Colombia, El Obraje’s trees are planted on sloping hillsides, but the farm’s location in a valley basin means the gradient is much less steep than on many farms deeper in the mountains, so coffee here can be moved by truck on the farm’s roads.
The Wet Mill
Obraje’s wet mill is located at the top of the farm. Coffee destined to be washed is deupulped after the day’s harvest on equipment that Pablo’s team maintains in top condition. Cherries are dropped into the hopper, separated bean from pulp in a calibrated disk depulper, and dropped into washing and fermentation tanks. Fully washed beans are then transferred to the drying beds or to the ovens.
Depulping coffee in the wet mill at Hacienda El Obraje
Floaters are sorted out and one of the most laudable attributes of coffee from El Obraje is its consistency, in bean size and density, which leads to uniform, clean flavors in the cup. This consistency begins with sorting in the wet mill and continues as coffees are classified and cupped in preparation for export.
The Drying Beds
Hacienda El Obraje has several areas for drying coffee. The metal multi-level drying beds are housed under shade in a building designed for optimal air flow. Single-level African style drying beds in a separate building are used for drying microlot and Geisha coffees. Finally, a covered patio space is used to dry Naturals on clean concrete under the shade.
Natural coffee drying on covered patio .
The temperature in Tangua is cool, but the midday sun hits hard, so drying coffee under shade is the best way to keep temperatures even during the drying process.
El Obraje is managed for the long term, with the health of plants, soil, and people integrated into the farm’s management design. Pablo looks at the big picture and is an expert at delegating, managing his team to accomplish all the maintenance of land and infrastructure that keeps a coffee growing estate fortified and ready to weather changes in climate and epidemic pest and plague threats that result from disruptions in climate patterns.
Coffee from Haceinda El Obraje is exceptionally delicious, and Pablo runs his farm as a professional, with sights set on future innovations while continuing to observe best practices at every step. Most of coffee growing is unglamorous, and the consistent quality of coffee from Obraje is thanks to the equal attention the team on the farm pays to the tedious daily tasks and to exciting experiments.