Finally! After 4 years of yearning to visit our producer partners in Gaitania de Planadas de Tolima, Colombia we finally were able to make it happen. We left our hotel in Neiva de Huila at 5am and embarked on the five hour drive into the region past some of the most spectacularly lush coffee area I’ve ever seen. We had to stop the tank, I mean badass jeep, we hired for the journey to remove boulders from the night’s landslides along the way. We passed 10,000 ft. above sea level as we crossed the border of Huila into Tolima and we forded the El Jordan River as we entered Gaitania and again as we entered our friend Edith Encisco’s farm, La Isla.
In fact, our first stop of the day was a sneak attack of Edith herself at her home in the center of town. She couldn’t remove the smile from her face for the rest of the day. You see people don’t visit Gaitania. Gaitania has been mired in violent conflict between the separatist guerilla group, FARC, and the Colombian military since the 50’s. Sadly, our producers have been caught right smack dab in the middle of it. Just ask Cesar Julio Munoz who lost his leg after stepping on a land mine planted by the FARC on his own farm, or Alberto Rojas who was shot in the hand by a stray bullet after the guerilla shot up town on one of their terrorist missions. She wasn’t expecting us. None of the producers we work with at the Maciszo group were. But they were extraordinarily stoked that we came.
We headed straight out to La Isla from Edith’s home and it was as magnificent a washing station as I’ve seen in my years traveling to Colombia. Everything was immaculate from the depulping machine to the tiled fermentation tanks to the holding tanks to the drying beds. In turn her coffee was immaculate as well. I dipped my hand into one of the bags in her storage bodega and it felt as if someone had poured raw honey into my hand. Lovely. We took a quick stroll through her newest farm, Villasofia which is producing for this first time this year. It was healthy and pristinely beautiful as was her husband Wilson Rodriguez’s farm, La Lusitania. Wilson produced our highest scoring micro lot from Planadas last year. It was a jasmine and blackberry treasure.
We ended the day in Gaitania at the Rojas brother’s farm, El Porvenir, potentially the highlight of my career. You see these two young men have produced multiple micro lots for Stumptown for the past three years. Only Walter Penna in Pedregal, Cauca has matched that feat and that includes all of our producing countries. Only in Colombia I suppose. Their farm is on as steep a slope as I’ve come across in my days traversing coffee farms. Perched up around 1700 masl the farm seems to be painted onto the face of the mountain. It’s as stunning as the coffee is in the cup. I wanted to stay for days and soak up every last drop of the experience. Sadly, Gaitania still isn’t very safe at night so we made the 5 hour trek home that same night. I’d do it again tomorrow.