Over the last few years, we noticed that specialty roasters and baristas were looking for more exclusive and exquisite products. The search for a surprising cup profile, something new and unusual, inspired us to conduct experiments in small farms within the Huila region, trusting the capable hands of the local farmers cooperative.
Our main objective was that coffee producers in this area would adapt their production to match the new requirements we started seeing in the special market globally, bringing Huila up to speed to match new trends we observed and adding value to the whole region in terms of quality, knowledge and versatility.
To conduct these experiments we decided to focus in changes in fermentation times and temperatures. After lots of trial and error we discovered which parameters worked best in each farm, and which ideal time and temperature combination could considerably improve a cup - in many cases improving a score by 4 or 5 points.
All experiments were conducted with local varietals, like Colombia and Castillo. Our analysis consisted in identifying how different bacteria reacted according to different fermentation times and temperatures and what cup results each brings.
During the time we conducted our research locally we also organised training sessions to all staff related to our project. Between the most important courses were green analysis, cupping and workshops about different fermentation process, when we had the chance to cup our new lots together with producers and cooperative staff.
It was essential for producers to trust our work and new production guidelines and training was a fundamental step of our collaboration, as we played around with extreme fermentation conditions and limits. After training, producers were not only more open to the proposed changes but had been closely involved in assessing all different types of processes and the achievable results with each plant and farm.
The results we have seen during the past year were extremely positive. In some cases we managed to improve overall scores by 4 whole points when cupping lots from the same farms. The whole process has also opened a whole new window into the local classification system. If previously the focus rested on more traditional processing methods, now there's a new route into different ways of processing and classifying specialty coffees.