I recently interviewed our director Alice about her recent trip to Colombia where she visited the farmers and producers of Colombian coffee to get an even better understanding of the coffee process. This blog post summarises our chat, so I hope you find it as interesting as I did!
COLOMBIA – LAND OF HEAVENLY COFFEE
When the director of Edgcumbes, Alice Rendle, was offered the chance to join a field trip to Colombia to visit producers, farmers and exporters of coffee she jumped at it, and we can’t blame her! Alice said: ‘This gave me a genuine opportunity to meet the people who are at the start of the Colombian coffee journey and to fully understand what it takes to bring the bean to our shores.’
Colombia is one of the world’s key producers of Arabica coffees, and most of the coffees are grown on small-holder farms which are often family-run. It’s back breaking work and demands a high level of expertise.
Alice noted that ‘our family business Edgcumbes has been supplying coffee and tea for over 30 years to businesses and caterers in the southern counties, and during that time we have built up strong links with our own supply chain throughout the world. There is an increasing demand from our customers for traceability and freshly roasted coffees.’
On her trip Alice took several internal flights to various parts of Colombia and met the small holders, pickers and family members. ‘Some of the regions we visited were very remote and our van driver took pains to ensure we remained vigilant. Nonetheless we were given an unreserved welcome by all the people we met.’ Apart from the coffee, Colombia grows mangos and avocados the size of coconuts. She added ‘there was something surreal about being on a steep slope in the middle of a rainforest, picking coffee cherries and being rewarded with a slice of ripe mango!’
Edgcumbes have roasted coffee for many years in a small, but sturdy Roaster mainly for individual customers and friends. The company roasts Colombian coffee from the southern Huila district of the country, which are highly popular. ‘Our customers are increasingly appreciative and aware of the subtle differences in coffee and the Huila region supplies wonderfully fragrant and flavourful coffees’ commented Alice.
‘We were struggling to meet the growing demand for hand-roasted speciality coffees and so we have embarked on an expansion of our business by importing a state of the art new coffee roaster which will increase capacity by over 4 times, and relocating to a refurbished Dutch barn in Ford Lane, near Arundel. As well as supplying our trade customers, our freshly roasted coffees will be available to the public from our small retail shop which will be on site to welcome all coffee-lovers – and of course a range of premium loose teas for the connoisseur!’
Furthermore, visitors will be able to see the coffee roaster in action. ‘It is a beautifully made machine and will fascinate anyone who admires craftsmanship’ says Alice. ‘Roasting coffee has hitherto been the ‘hidden’ part of the process – we aim to demystify it by inviting people to see it for themselves.’
So what did Alice take away from her visit to Colombia?
Apart from realising that Colombia is probably under appreciated as a country for its breath taking beauty and stunning scenery, it is also important to understand that we in the UK are extremely fortunate to be able to enjoy premium coffees that have been grown with genuine care by the farmers.
Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and Organically certified producers proliferate among the small-holders and their respect for the land on which they depend is evident. They ensure that waste is re used and that land is not wasted.
Many crops grow on precarious slopes and are handpicked by workers, sometimes attached by ropes to keep them upright!
‘The truth that struck me most is this statistic. It will take one man approximately 8 hours to pick 100 kilos of coffee, after which the crop will go through several processes to end up as only 12 kilos of the roasted Colombian coffee beans we see in our cafes and homes. A precious commodity indeed!
Now that Alice has seen this for herself, her vision is to communicate this fact to as many people as she is able, and to explain the ‘coffee journey’ to make it more real for them.
Overall, it sounds as if Alice had a very exciting and educational trip to Colombia. Edgcumbes will be able to grow and benefit from what she has seen and learnt.
Make sure you come and visit the Edge shop and take-away café! Here you can purchase Colombian coffee as well as many other types of speciality single origin coffee – all of which is hand roasted at the Edgcumbes roastery! We look forward to seeing you there soon!