This coffee is produced by an association of growers who are based around the town of Viotá, high in Colombia’s Eastern Cordillera some 86km south west of Bogotá. The association numbers around 80 small producers, with farms averaging not more than four hectares apiece.
This region, in the south of Cundinamarca state, has been producing coffee for well over a century. According to local history, the first seedlings in the area were planted in 1883 by pioneer Nicolas Saenz in a farm named “Liberia”. The total harvest was forty bags, which were carried on mules to the Magdalena river port of Honda, loaded onto barges headed for the port of Barranquilla, and then onto a steamer to Le Havre, France. The Viotá region was originally divided between only eight large estates, but gradually these have been subdivided between the area’s many small farmers.
Over the years the Viotá area has suffered the effects of various political and civil conflicts. Most recently, between 1994 and 2004 the region was all but controlled by insurgent armed groups. This seriously affected coffee production, with a great number of producers forced to abandon their farms and move to Viotá town in search of safety. Over the past five years, however, the security situation has improved vastly as a result of the government’s hard-line campaign against guerrilla groups, and now peace has returned to the region. Coffee farmers have been able to move back to their plantations, and are now once again producing high quality coffee.
The main harvest runs from April to July, and the fly crop from November through to December. The coffee is grown under the shade of native trees such as Carbonero, Guamo and Guayacan. When it is fully ripe it is handpicked, fully washed and dried in the sun on patios. These small farms are very much family affairs, with all generations involved in the coffee process.
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