Yaqueline Hernandez: Colombia


Yaqueline Hernandez: Colombia


This is our first purchase from Finca los Pinos and Yaqueline Hernandez. Yaqueline is one of the leaders of Crecert, a group of smallholders in Huila committed to biological methods of farming.

Colombia, Caturra, and Castillo cultivars grown using biological farming methods between 1720-1810 MASL in La Argentina; selectively harvested and sorted for ripeness; floated; pulped; wild-fermented dry for 28 hours; washed; and shade dried on raised beds for 30 days.

What we taste: Tamarind, melon, orange

Net weight 12 ounces

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In August, we flew down to Colombia with two goals in mind: first, we hoped to replicate and scale a pilot project we trialed last year with Lino Rodriguez (this coffee, from La Palma, will be featured in February or March of 2019); and second, we sought a new direct relationship with a producer or group of producers who would be able to provide Phoenix with all of the coffee we’d need from Colombia as a component in two of our blends, as well as provide single origin offerings.

This year, we started working with a new exporter in Colombia called Osito. Osito’s mission is very aligned with Phoenix’s coffee program: they seek out producers doing excellent work who currently lack access to specialty buyers; pay them above-market prices; and contract their coffee for export each year. We told Kyle and José at Osito what we were looking for. “You need to meet Crecert,” was their reply.

Crecert is a new group of 17 producers in La Plata and La Argentina in the department of Huila, Colombia. Previously, most of the producers in the group sold their coffee through typical channels of export—the Federacion—but with coffee prices as low as they are in 2018, that meant that most producers would lose money in the sale. By self-organizing, Crecert would be able to consolidate their coffees in quantities large enough to sell to a boutique exporter, such as Osito, and roasters like Phoenix.

When we were in Colombia, the FNC price for coffee was 708,000 COP per carga — or roughly $1.11 per pound. The cost of production in Colombia is around $1.20, average — which means that producers lost $0.09 per pound for coffee they sold to the FNC or other associations. Through Phoenix’s agreement with Osito, Crecert was paid 1.1 million pesos per carga for 84-85 point coffee and 1.375 million for 86+ — a profit of $0.53 and $0.96 per pound, respectively. That’s how buying the way we do — direct from producers, year-over-year, with fixed-price contracts — can have an immediate, tangible, lasting impact on producers’ lives.

In many ways, Crecert is unusual. They’re a group committed to sustainable methods of agriculture, in particular a movement in Colombia known as “biological farming.” And, in just their first year of existence, they set up a warehouse for storing parchment coffee in La Plata. There, they separated lots by contributing producer and evaluated each lot at the cupping lab they built there. We found them to be enthusiastic and knowledgable cuppers who were in calibration with the visiting buyers—a rarity, anywhere in the world. This meant that when we give feedback on coffees or specify a profile of coffee we’re looking for, the team at Crecert would understand what we’re seeking and deliver it.

While we were cupping, we met Yaqueline Hernandez, one of the group’s two leaders. Yaqueline helped to organize the group and connect them with José and Osito. She was a vocal supporters of a direct relationship model, and a skilled cupper as well. We cupped blind about 30 lots from Crecert’s producers — the top 3 scores we had were all lots from Yaqueline.

Since then, we’ve been in contact with her, talking about how to support the group as they gain more knowledge about processing and drying. It’s not uncommon for us to be chatting with her until 2 a.m., answering questions back and forth and strategizing about how to improve consistency, or shelf life, or efficiency in the coming harvest.

In 2018, Phoenix was Crecert’s largest customer; we’re proud to feature a small lot from Yaqueline as a single origin as we begin to roast a larger lot from Crecert as part of our Blackbird and cold brew blends. We look forward to working with Crecert for many harvests to come.