Finca El Prado – Microlot Producer ( Gigante, Huila, Colombia)

Date of Visit: 29 Apr 2016
Farmer (Caficultor): Jaimie Casallas

While for some people meeting a great artist, a rock star or actress is a dream, for us who love coffee this is how excited we were to meet Jaimie Casallas. The coffee we had from him was very good. In our coffee world meeting the people that produce coffee of this quality is rare, very rare.

When we got there he greeted us his Caravela shirt and the traditional Jugo and aqua. In this case we were offered coffee straight up.

The Casallas Family
The Casallas Family

Once we were settled in I started asking questions.

So the first question we had to ask was why he was keen to do microlot coffee.

He told us that initially he grew other produce, tomatoes, onion, yuca, plantain and such. When he started to sell at the market people fought over his produce. So he though he has good land and perhaps he should start with coffee.

Initially the coffee was sold to the cooperatives, not Caravela but he believed he had good coffee. The cooperative had a monopoly, and did not reward quality. They did not seem to care that he has taking care in producing good coffee. Then his neighbour told him about Caravela and the premiums they paid. He did not qualify originally but then worked closely with Alejandro from Caravel (he is like THE coffee person at Caravela, we met him later in the week and I can say he is very knowledgeable) then Alahando and Caravela educated him and then he learnt about coffee. Growing, producing and drying coffee. Then slowly his quality improved with a lot of experimenting and had to teach how to pick. Pickers were frustrated with his demands.

So he started concentrating on quality picking and proper processing and drying and within 1 year he was producing microlots standard coffee. And so he produced AA, AAA and microlot coffee And this meant he we rewarded better  Especially for microlots (the farmer gets all the premium we pay Caravela).The extra money he got through Caravela helped provide stability for his family. His son then moved back to the farm.

He is very proud that they produced a microlot after a lot of experimenting and work. Last year they had 9 microlots.

The process they currently use is:

  • They first visually inspect the pickings, educate the pickers if required.
  • Then they use floating tanks if it is required after visual inspection.
  • Then they lay the coffee for 12 hours on cherry.
  • They then de-pulp and fermentation ferment for 24 hours
  • The then pre-dry 3 days (in shade).
  • Then dry.

The next thing will be playing with warehousing and selecting parchment. They are building a warehouse that will be separate from the house. The also need more drying space.

The son works with dad and they want to make the farm bigger, but want to keep the quality and want to enjoy the farm and life.

He told us that labour is hard to find. He has his pickers but they are not always reliable so sometimes he has to use seasonable workers, which means training them. Currently has five or 6 pickers as they pick every day. Picker are paid relatively well $8000 peso (other farmers $5000 peso) per 12.5 kgs. Typically it takes around 1 hr of quality picking to picked 12.5kgs of coffee (the standard coffee picking basket see). This relates to  a little less than 1kg green coffee. When I gave these numbers to Alejandro he calculated that it means about 80c USD per kilogram, I calculated it was closer to U$D 1.2 per kilogram, but I will go with Alejandro numbers.

We saw Geisha on the farm he has he planted to try it, there are 5 hectares Geisha. It is two years old. This year this will be his first crop.

We had some lunch and coffee afterwards, the local Caravela  QC offices, offer a service to the farmers to roast coffee for them. It is normally a blend of coffees of the region. He loves trying coffees as he lives coffee.

Lunch At El Prado
Lunch At El Prado

Quality focus improved his life will not sell his farm.

Caravela told me that only 12 out of 110 farmers that they buy from in the region have done microlot.

Wonderful to visit the farm and meet the mind and family behind the coffee.

Panaview from the Beneficio
Panaview from the Beneficio
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