El Obraje | Yellow Bourbon
Well-integrated acidity. Smooth body.
Sweet, chocolate and fruity.
La Finca (The Farm)
Pablo Guerrero was the first person to introduce coffee to the Tangua area, just outside the city of Pasto. The city was once busy with wheat and bean production, but when business began to fail, Mr. Guerrero saw an opportunity in coffee. It was a risky move because he wasn’t sure how productive the high altitude would prove, but the coffee trees flourished and now others are following in his footsteps.
Pablo Guerrero’s farm, Hacienda El Obraje, is one of the most impressive properties in the mountains of the Nariño department (region). Originally an apple orchard, its transition to coffee was challenging but rewarding. Guerrero’s architectural experience enabled him to approach coffee with different perspectives, from the passionate to the pragmatic. His planting and processing strategies continue to be designed for the long-term health of the farm.
All fertiliser and disease/weed control is applied from the top of the farm down to avoid hauling heavy supplies uphill, an example of how Pablo strategically addresses all aspects of farm management. The coffee harvest, on the other hand, begins at the lower elevations of the farm and works its way up. El Obraje’s small mill includes a mechanical dryer for finishing batches started on the raised beds.
El Obraje employs four styles of pruning to encourage fresh growth on the coffee trees and thus strengthen production, as each node on a branch only produces one cluster of cherries at a time. In the 40 hectares of Hacienda El Obraje, coffee plantations make up the majority of the property. Pablo manages El Obraje with great care, strategically planning which plots to renovate — either by replanting or pruning — in order to produce the largest and finest harvest each year.
El Obraje is equipped with a small but extremely tidy wet mill on the property.
Processing times vary according to climate variables at the time of harvest. Cherries are typically fermented for 20 hours (in cherry) in the same bags pickers use. The cherries are selectively harvested for ripeness and are also sorted by flotation. After pulping, the coffee is dry- fermented for another 24 hours and then fully washed, concluding with a second flotation sort.
Washed coffee typically dries for an average of 16 days on raised beds or four days in the mechanical parchment combustion dryer, where it receives a hot air flow of 30 degrees Celsius.
Nariño, one of the 32 departments of Colombia, is the country’s southernmost province. Sharing a border with Ecuador, it is home to thousands of smallholder coffee-producing families. Colombia’s three Andean mountain ranges converge in Nariño, presenting ideal altitudes and fertile soil for the production of high-grown Arabica. Interestingly, its rugged slopes allow different temperatures to occur during the day over a relatively short distance.
This peculiarity presents different local topo climates and microclimates, creating specific conditions for the cultivation of coffee, particularly in terms of water availability, temperature, solar radiation and wind regime. Its proximity to the equator, more or less 1 degree north, means that the warm and humid winds from the bottom of the valleys rise at night, allowing coffee to be produced at heights that reach extreme altitudes, some at more than 2,300 metres above sea level!
This area of production has an annual average solar radiation of 1,660 hours, rain cycles of 1,860 mm, and soils with a high content of organic matter. This combination makes it possible to grow coffee at high altitudes and with temperatures on average of 19° C. Most of these production areas have shade, sustainability certifications and they display a great respect and love for nature.
Nariño’s particular geography and its proximity to coastal and land borders have historically transformed it into a corridor for illicit trade routes, leading to unwarranted violence against residents of remote mountain farms. Today, thanks to the particularly resilient and fearless spirit of Nariño’s coffee growers, the small region is a respected hub of coffee innovation.
Salvador Sans had the pleasure of participating as a judge in the 8th edition of the Colombian Cup of Excellence, held in San Juan de Pastos, Nariño in 2010.
His preferred coffees were given the “Presidential Awards” distinction, and he was happy to see how his personal assessment coincided with the jury’s verdict.
If you are interested in learning more about this region, Salvador has more details about his trip to Nariño on the Cafés el Magnífico blog.
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