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A Trip Back to Monserrate & The Release of Omaira Quintero

Kaldi’s Coffee is proud to celebrate this year’s lot of Colombia Omaira Quintero with a look back at our last visit to the region and farm that produces it in 2016. This year’s lot has the classic balance, sweetness, and light fruitiness we have come to know and love with notes of anjou pear, bread pudding, and marzipan. Our roasting team found that its nuttiness has a lovely coating quality, and the malic pear acidity also has a light citrus sparkle. It makes for an excellent cup, and we are as excited to share it with you as ever. 

Kaldi’s has been buying from the Monserrate, Colombia community since 2007. Not only are the area’s farms some of our deepest relationships, but they produce some of our personal favorites, year after year. Back in 2016, several Kaldi’s team members were fortunate enough to visit the Monserrate region, including Omaira Quintero’s farm, that of her son, Oscar Medina, and that of another longtime Kaldi’s friend and supplier, Elcy Causaya. The experience deepened our appreciation for and relationship with these producers, and we hope you enjoy their story and their coffee.

After landing in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, our team members drove to Neiva, the provincial capital of Huila, to tour a brand new RACAFE milling plant. Then it was on to Timana, still in the Huila province, where they visited the ASPROTimana co-op, which works with the UN to incentivize Colombian farmers and pickers to grow and harvest legal cash crops like coffee, cocoa, or fruit instead of the more lucrative cocaine and marijuana. The Kaldi’s crew got a chance to cup coffees from single-lot, specialty producers in the area, all of it excellent!

Then & now: At the time of Kaldi’s visit, negotiations between the Colombian government and a widespread rebel group were ongoing, with arable land being promised to rebel-aligned farmers as part of the talks. While the agreement was ratified by the Colombian congress in the fall of 2016, implementation of many of its key tenets have since failed. As of 2019, there was still active conflict in many parts of Colombia, with both rebels and the government being held to blame for broken promises.

Traveling further into the mountains near Timana, the Kaldi’s crew enjoyed local cuisine and music, and viewed the numerous coffee trees and drying patios in the area. Coffee was then, and still is, one of the crucial, legal industries of the region. Further on in La Plata, a central town where regional coffee farmers bring their coffees for processing, the crew would continue to explore Kaldi’s relationship partners in Colombia for the next few days. Here, RACAFE’s Buying & Sorting Center in La Plata is a hub for all Monserrate coffees, among others, which are routed through here before heading on to Bogota. At the facility, our team spotted bags of several other Kaldi’s-sourced coffees like Oscar Medina and Elcy Causaya. 98% of the coffee that passes through here meets the exacting quality standards for specialty coffee, guaranteeing that growers are paid a premium; anything below that threshold will be sold as regular Colombian Excelso, at a much lower price.

From La Plata, the team struck out into the region’s mountainous communities where the coffee--Kaldi’s coffees included--is actually grown. Traveling with friends from RACAFE to nearby Monserrate, they met Elcy Causaya and her husband Manuel at their farm, which blends coffee agriculture with orange and mandarin trees, corn, beans, and free-range chickens. Here, our team was impressed by Elcy’s and Manuel’s crop rotation and replanting processes that guarantee quality product and soil replenishment.

Another farm they visited, on the outskirts of Monserrate, was that of Omaira Quintero, mother to Oscar Medina; both of these incredible farmers have provided excellent coffees to Kaldi’s for years. Steve and Louis toured Omaira’s farm, where she exclusively grew the Castillo variety of coffee; as of August 2016, she had approximately 1500 coffee trees on 3.5 hectares of land. Our team was amazed not only by the excellence of her coffee, but by her generous hospitality and her personal story: she raised ten children mostly on her own, two of whom have followed her into the business of cultivating specialty coffee in the mountains. This would be a tremendous feat anywhere, but in a country beset by ongoing rebel actions, government corruption, and regional closures, it’s nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The Kaldi’s trip to Colombia closed with a RACAFE & Atlas Coffee cupping competition awards ceremony, followed by an exciting match of futbol against some of the farmer’s kids (Steve and Louis lost, but valiantly). Finally, before flying out of Bogota, they toured another RACAFE facility, this time a dry mill capable of sorting and processing 120 bags of green coffee--that’s over 18,000 lbs!--every hour, utilizing rapid color identification technology. 

Back to now 

Chances are that if you’ve had a cup of Kaldi’s coffee, any blend, then you’ve tasted the work of the Monserrate community. This is because relationships play a central role in the culture and success of Kaldi’s. The guests we serve at our cafes, the wholesale partners that we roast for, and the farmers that we work with provide the motivation and backbone of what we do. Nurturing and growing these relationships is both our primary goal and main source of joy. Our relationship with the Monserrate community is a perfect example of this and a testament to the value of long term commitments to partnership. And in the short term, you get to enjoy a very excellent cup of their coffee.

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