Colombia, Fidencio Castillo
Colombia, Fidencio Castillo
Farmer: Fidencio Castillo, Finca La Pedregal
Region: Berruecos, Nariño
Varietals: Caturra, Colombia
Flavour Notes: Nectarine, plum, vanilla wafer, juicy acidity.
Nariño is a special place to love coffee – it is geographically, climatically and culturally
very distinct from neighbouring states, and the cup profiles are no less unique. Rich
volcanic soils and an Andean climate (meaning a truly distinct harvest season where the rest of the Southern states are picking coffee all year round) make this a one of our
favourite places to buy coffee. Producers are largely smallholders, biodiversity is higher,
soils are nutrient rich and well-drained, and we consistently purchase sweet and complex coffees here.
This lot comes from Fidencio Castillo. Fidencio has produced coffee for many, many
years, but he’s recently begun to focus on specialty coffee- largely encouraged by his
oldest daughter Francy. Francy is a distinguished young coffee producer in her own right- her coffee also shines on the cupping table.
Fidencio and his wife Esmeralda Guerrero have five daughters, and life hasn’t been easy for the family. The family farm is located in a relatively isolated part of Nariño, and there’s no electricity on the farm. Without funds for a generator, that means that Fidencio must remove the pulp from the coffee cherries by cranking his de-pulper by hand- a physically strenuous task. The family is contemplating options to bring power down to their farm- they’re negotiating with a neighbour to see whether they’ll allow them to use a shared border walkway to bring electrical infrastructure down to the farm. If not, they’re dreaming of a plan B where they install a cable car hooked to the nearest electrical infrastructure (on a road nearly 1km away from the farm) to move the coffee more easily up to the road to take it to their home.
Fidencio and his daughters work hard to manage their farm in a way that protects soils
and keeps their trees healthy without requiring the use of too many synthetic chemical
inputs- they have planted trees in a way that protects the soil from erosion, have
implemented a compost system for coffee pulp, and they don’t use chemical herbicides
or fungicides, preferring to manage pest outbreaks with organic methods and healthy
farm practices as preventative measures.
The family bought a de-pulper with a loan, and the de-pulper is pretty old-school- it
doesn’t have a motor, nor a screen (which can be helpful to keep pulp from entering the
fermentation tank). The process starts with picking ripe cherries, using a brix meter to
measure ripeness, aiming to pick cherries when they’re at 24- the color is usually close to a red wine. After picking, the cherries are left for an initial cherry ferment (where the
fermentation process begins with native bacteria entering through the point where the
cherry was picked), before de-pulping the coffee. Where de-pulping can be a relatively
easy processing step for some farmers whose de-pulpers have a motor, Fidencio and his family have to hand-crank the de-pulper to remove the cherry and mucilage from the seeds- it can take up to eight hours to fully complete this step. Their de-pulper is up on the farm, and they de-pulp the coffee into Grain Pro bags. From there, they take the bags of pulped coffee down to their house (several hours hike down the hill)- either carrying the coffee on their shoulders or occasionally making several trips with a horse- and from there, they ferment the coffee in sealed pickle barrels in a low-oxygen environment, for around 48 hours. A few quality tools have shown that sugar levels drop down to about 10 on a brix meter, and the pH drops down between 3.4 - 3.6. From there, the coffee is washed with just one wash, and it’s left to dry for about 20 days. The family hopes to eventually build a dryer to improve the processing infrastructure- for now, they’re careful to cover the coffee with some shade for slow drying on a small patio that they built near their house.