Our latest coffee is La Lomita, a sweet and fruit washed Colombian coffee with hints of chocolate. Our head roaster Edgaras has been to the farm several times, lived there for 2 months and picked coffee, did experiments, so we’re delighted to have a special relationship with this interesting farm.
The farm is located in the Valle del Cauca, Farallones and is made up of just 11 hectares, 40% of which has been forest reserve for more than 50 years. Castillo is the main variety grown at La Lomita, an arabica plant, developed by Colombian research centre for coffee — it’s resistant to leaf rust, something that affects a lot of coffee harvests.
La Lomita’s path to specialty began in the 2012-2013 coffee price crisis. Coffee is a commodity and traded on the commodity market. During this time the cost on the commodity market went below the cost of production in Colombia, making it untenable for farmers to continue with the same crop. La Lomita was producing coffee that wasn’t necessarily concerned with quality at the time. They thought about replacing coffee for another crop, planting trees for timber production, or closing the farm, but then had an idea of a way to keep coffee.
Ricardo was in London and saw some of the prices of specialty coffee being sold in shops and bags for customers to make at home. He started to explore the world of specialty coffee, how the taste of the cup was everything and began acting on expert cupping feedback at his own farm. They took time and money to invest in infrastructure improvements. Ricardo had a background in infrastructure so had a good understanding of how to best make these changes.
La Lomita then started to create a program of quality assurance, picking cherries at the correct ripeness, field storing to minimise exposure and stop any fermentation before the coffee arrived at the washing station. The processing became much more rigorous as well: a first selection in a tank to remove any floaters, then a second selection based on colour (and therefore ripeness), then pulp removal, followed by controlled fermentation, then washing with controlled water quality and hygiene and then a third and final selection of floaters (this is because the density, and therefore the flavour, is not right). The final stage is drying on raised beds, achieving a controlled humidity of 11%, then storing in a dry, clean place in grain pro and fibre sacks, followed by uncontaminated transportation.
These changes saw La Lomita’s quality increase dramatically. But Ricardo also wanted to run the farm in as sustainable a way as possible. He still wanted a high yield, and high quality, and he still needed to control pests and maintain a fair and respectful relationship with his employees and community — so went about finding the best way to get all of these things in the most sustainable way.
They chose to use zero insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides. For global warming mitigation they have shading from trees to reduce the average ground temperatures, and emergency irrigation for prolonged droughts. Their soil uses a fertiliser that they have tested in the soil, plus compost produced in house. They have planted more than 60 shading trees in the last 5 years and everything that grows naturally throughout the plantation is left to its own devices.
Their organic compost is Biochar Terras Pretas, an ancient man made soil that holds nutrients and carbon in the soil. It helps to retain and release water and nutrients when needed and promotes soil biodiversity and soil reproduction. They create the Biochar with horse manure from the farm, pulp from the coffee and any other organic waste matter they have.
La Lomita takes social responsibility seriously, they have 3 permanent employees whose salaries are 38% above the Colombian minimum wage. They have permanent contracts, receive full legal benefits, have social security cover, and performance bonuses. In addition every member of the housing team has access to free housing and utilities for them and their families.
We’re proud to have La Lomita on our menu. The coffee is delicious and ethical and we love the story of overcoming the perils of the commodity market to produce great specialty coffee and ensure sustainable practices and a good wage for everyone involved.