Santuario is a town and municipality in Colombia’s Risaralda Department. The town is situated along the Eastern side of the Cordillera Occidental mountain range, which starts to the North in Antioquia and runs all the way down to the border with Ecuador. The town was founded in 1886, with agriculture providing the economic drive for the region. Its high green hills provide an ideal location for coffee production.
The producers contributing to this lot are members of Asocafe Tatama, an association that has operated in the region since 2003. The association was formed when small holder farmers in the region began talking about working together to improve their incomes and quality of life in the countryside. They founded the association as a means of standardising cultivation and production methods through increased technical assistance, in order to receive higher premiums for quality or through certification. Beginning with approximately 70 producers, as of 2016 the group has grown to represent 206 active members.
Through an increased social network and ever-improving communication, Asocafe Tatama helps to keep its members motivated and mutually supportive despite the challenges of living in a rural setting. They have done a great deal, as well, to promote coffee production as a sustainable way of life to the younger generation.
The word Tatama is taken from the ‘Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá’, a national park that borders with the municipality of Santuario. The park is heavily protected and considered one of the best natural reserves in Colombia.
Coffee is carefully prepared from the cultivation right down the drying stage before being cupped and assessed for quality. For the future the association is looking to invest in their laboratory and train their cuppers to be able to select the best lots being produced to be sold as microlots.
Every family does their own harvesting - usually with the help of neighbours. After the red and ripe cherries are picked, they are pulped by passing them through a manual pulper at the family farm (usually located close to the main house). The waste from this process will be used later as a natural fertilizer for the coffee trees. Coffee is then fermented anywhere from 14 to 48 hours, depending on the weather and the farm’s location, and then washed using cold, clean water.
Once this process is complete, many of the farmers sun dry their parchment on patios or on the roofs of their houses (elbas). Farmers in this part of Huila have designed a mechanism by which they can slide the roof with pulleys to cover the coffee in case of rain. Some farmers dry their coffee on parabolic beds under the sun. These parabolic beds, known locally as marquesinas – which are constructed a bit like ‘hoop house’ greenhouses, with airflow ensured through openings in both ends – both protect the parchment from rain and mist as it is dried and prevent condensation from dripping back on the drying beans. Still others have their coffee dried in guardiolas.