We have been working with small Colombian coffee producers for 10 years now.
In 2009, we started working with Virmax Coffee Exporters–now Caravela– in the town of San Sebastian De La Plata, or "La Plata" for short. During those early days, we were testing the waters for finding small coffee producers who had potential. This was really just an idea in my head, and not something I had yet vocalized. I wanted Olympia Coffee to offer really special coffees to our customers, yet, I also really wanted to taste them myself.
I have a soft spot for Colombian coffees.
To me, they are what I think great coffee should taste like.
Of course I love coffees from other regions, and there are many that truly impress me. But year over year for the last decade, the highest quality coffees I have tasted are from Colombia, and this is why we continue to go back. We want to find those hidden gems we haven't discovered. We want to work with coffee producers who love coffee and are willing to work with us and take steps to make each year's offering even better than the last. The farmers who do are paid up to five times more for their coffee versus traditional pricing.
Last year, we announced our Fair For All standards. This program has been a serious endeavor on our part to create some equity for coffee producers –a group that has traditionally been exploited. The last 20 years have seen improvements with Fair Trade and Direct Trade, providing higher pay and better opportunities for producers, yet we believe both fall short of our producer's needs.
We have learned through our long partnerships in Colombia that higher pay is definitely a motivator, but some of our farmers need access to better agronomics, and laborers need better working conditions or simply fresh drinking water. When Olympia Coffee collaborates with coffee farmers to solve economic or systematic issues, we both win. We get a chance to offer really delicious, high quality coffees to our customers while our producing partner’ lives are improved dramatically.
Our San Sebastian Reserva is a great example of our collaborative efforts in Huila, Colombia. San Sebastian Reserva is part of the Las Mingas project: our partnership with independent farmers in the town of Inza and La Plata, and Caravela Coffee Exporters. Las Mingas is an indigenous Colombian word that means ‘a group effort toward success.’ The projects that Olympia Coffee has undertaken in the Hulia are exactly that: Las Mingas. Without the producers, the exporter, the importer and ourselves pulling equal weight, we wouldn’t see such extraordinary coffees.
Over 100 farmers contribute their small lots for approval to our Las Mingas Project in Inza and La Plata. These lots are combined into a blend we call San Sebastian Reserva and the producers are paid premiums for high quality coffee.
This time of year is one of my favorites because I know we will have lots of offerings from Colombia. Currently we have:
- Clinton Ossa Micro Lot
- Amparo Pajoy Micro Lot
- San Sebastian Reserva
- Decaf Asterisk San Sebastian
- Sweetheart San Sebastian