Colombia San Pablo Washed
Farm: Finca San Pablo
Varietal: Caturra 9 ha; Castillo 17 ha
Processing: Fully washed and sundried – finished in guardiola if necessary
Altitude: 1650 metres
Owner: Dario Restrepo Gonzales & family
Town / City: Vereda El Empuje, Ciudad Bolívar
Region: Southwest Antioquia
Tasting Notes: Apple, honey, orange, cherry
In 1949, Alfonso González Rojas, the maternal grandfather of Finca San Pablo’s current owner, purchased three plots of land in the very southwest of Colombia’s often overlooked Antioquia department. One of these small farms was called San Pablo. Liking the name, Don Alfonso proceeded to name the newly united farm after it. He farmed with dedication for more than a decade on his own. Then, in 1960 the farm was passed down to Don Alfonso’s two sons and Luis Guillermo Restrepo Vélez, his son-in-law, with the requirement that they would work on the farm and ‘pay’ Don Alfonso back for it.
Initially, the farm of 300 acres was primarily given over as grazing land for the family’s large herd of cattle, which they raised for meat to be sold on the local market. Only a small percentage of the farm was used for the cultivation of Bourbon and Pajarito (Typica) coffee varieties, used mostly to supplement the family’s income. The three young men set about expanding the coffee plantations, adding Caturra coffee trees (known for their higher yields) into the mix. Cattle farming, however, remained the farm’s primary focus. After negotiations with the other partners, Sr. Luis and his wife Ester González de Rojas (Dario’s father & mother) took over the entire farm in 1984. They continued slowly expanding the area under coffee and replaced many of the older plants with Caturra.
Under Sr. Luis’s management, the farm went from strength to strength and improved both quality and productivity. In 2003, the finca was part of the first group of fincas in Antioquia to achieve certification.
After Sr. Luis passed away, in 2005, Dario inherited the farm. Dario’s mother along with her four children initiated a new strategic plan for the farm, with short, medium and long-term goals being established. During this period and continuing through the current day, Dario expanded Finca San Pablo’s coffee fields significantly, and during this time they reached their current 27 hectares. In 2008, in part to combat issues presented by coffee leaf rust, which appeared in 2008, Dario began establishing plots of Castillo alongside the Caturra. Currently, the farm is planted out roughly with 46% Caturra and 54% Castillo trees. In addition to this, the farm has continued raising cattle and has 7 hectares of commercially farmed pine. Furthermore, a full 150 hectares (nearly half the farm) makes up part of the pristine Farallones del Citará nature reserve, one of Antioquia’s most important watersheds. With 14 water sources, many of which crisscross the farm, the region produces around 5,500,000 litres of water a day: the family is committed to conserving this natural resource.
Due to the privileged climate of the region and the steady rainfall, coffee is harvested year-round, though with a concentration in the months of March-April (40%) and November-December (approx 50%).
On average, two applications of fertiliser are made a year, following soil analysis and upon advice from the agricultural technician. Usually fertiliser is applied in April/May and then in August/September.
All coffee on the farm is hand-picked and delivered to the finca’s wet mill on the same day of picking. Coffee that is picked near the mill is delivered directly by the pickers, and for terrain that lies more distant, the coffee is delivered by mule-drawn cart. The coffee is then depulped, and all lots directed towards the specialty market are fermented for between 12 to 18 hours and then washed and sorted in clean water before being sun dried on raised beds. Once fully dried, the coffee is packed into sacks of fique (a natural fibre that grows in the leaves of the fique plant – Colombia’s ‘national fiber’) and are rested in a wooden-floored warehouse until they are ready to be delivered to the dry mill.
Generally, San Pablo provides employment for three people year-round, with an additional 10 people being employed periodically for various works on the farm. During the peak of the harvest, as many as 40 people may work on the finca at any one time.
As part of the long term strategic plan, Dario plans to expand his coffee plantings to reach 50 hectares in the coming years, experimenting with newly developed rust resistant varieties while also maintaining his focus on Caturra as a variety of quality. Furthermore, he plans to continue the work he has already started by renovating approximately 20% of the farm annually. At this rate, it will take 6 years to renovate the entire farm.
Sr. Restrepo González also wishes to focus on developing lots that specifically respond to the needs of his clients – both with regards to developing microlots centred on varietals and improving processing. In the medium-term, he plans to establish a small cupping lab to assist him in better understanding how the coffee is perceived by the buyer, which will help him to improve quality even further.