Colombia is one of the most diverse and complex coffee-producing nations in the world. The culture of coffee-producing has spread to all corners of the nation, and the result is countless communities tucked into mountainsides and valleys that produce excellent specialty coffee. The relative remoteness of these communities hinders producers from accessing markets where specialty coffee is traded. Instead of being paid for the quality of their work, producers are instead forced to sell their crop to local buyers and paid based on commodity prices that fluctuate and do not reflect the costs of production. The continuous low prices paid to producers just do not cover the costs of living and have driven many in Colombia to look toward other means of financial security.
Some producers move to the cities, while others remain in their villages and cultivate a potentially more lucrative crop: coca. This coca is then used to produce cocaine which is smuggled and trafficked through Latin America and into the United States and abroad. The cultivation of coca may satisfy the immediate need for cash, but it often leads to dealing with less-than-reliable sources. More often than not, armed rebel groups facilitate the transaction of illicit goods. Without any law enforcement, producers are often taken advantage of in this system as well.
At Utopian, we’ve committed ourselves to the work of helping provide true premium prices to producers in order to dissuade them from transitioning to illicit crops. Carlos Burbano and Angela Patina Findlay began Toldopamba coffee in Narino with the goal of working with local coffee producers to improve the quality of their coffee, institute sustainable agricultural practices, and seek markets for producers to receive premium payments from the specialty market. This particular lot comes from the Aponte area of Tablon de Gomez and it was sourced from three producers: Pedro Janamejoy, Hideon Munoz, and Alier Agreda. All of these men cultivate the Caturra variety, which was once the “benchmark” coffee variety in South and Latin America, known for its quality in the cup. Today, it is much harder to find Caturra, but for those who still grow it, the cups produced are wonderfully sweet and chocolatey with soft flavors of berries and citrus in the finish. We are happy to partner with Toldopamba and source coffees from producers who genuinely want to create amazing coffees. Without partnerships like this, coffee producers may be driven to produce coca or other illicit crops. We believe coffee cultivation can and should be sustainable for those truly invested in producing excellent crops.