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We first discovered La Esperanza when it won first place in the 2007 Colombia Cup of Excellence. Terroir proudly sold that coffee throughout that year. We have continued to purchase this coffee ever since.
The owner of La Esperanza, Isaias Cantillo Osa, is very modest in speech and presence yet displays a striking determination and independence of mind supported by intuition and real ingenuity when it comes to farm management and quality development. He started as a coffee picker and worked his way over many years toward being able to buy a tiny farm with his savings. He then bought coffee seeds over time from nearby farms accumulating quite a collection of varieties along the way. He resisted "the establishment's" urgings to replant his farm with more productive cultivars and his farm is now a museum of Arabicas, some rarely seen these days, most of which are low producing but prized for quality and for their creamy body.
During the harvest Mr. Cantillo takes the spent coffee fruit and turns it into mulch, as do many farmers. But he has added a twist: The aging coffee cherries are placed in a succession of specially designed bins going down a slope; his chickens peck and scratch through each pile sending older fruit down to the next bin creating a sort of conveyor system. At the bottom of many rungs lie cherries already becoming earth.
Mr. Cantillo's farm is dramatically different in appearance from those of his neighbors. In the midst of neighbors' high-production oriented, denuded, erosion-prone coffee fields La Esperanza's narrow 6 acre farm, laden with tall shade trees, looks like a thick eyebrow. It can be seen in the adjoining photo, from bottom left to the upper right corner. He uses no herbicides or pesticides. Isiais Cantillo has completely understood how to properly dry his coffee even during the rainiest of harvests. The drying stage is where many problems occur, resulting in poor quality. He has built a two-story structure where the processed wet beans are pre-dried on racks on the bottom floor and then placed above on the breathing second level for finish-drying. This upper level has a plastic covering which can be fully opened from two opposite sides to take advantage of sunny periods but which also allows air to pass through at all times without water damage, thus bringing the beans down to the proper moisture level in the necessary time regardless of adverse weather.
The farmer tells his story:
"Before having my own farm, I was a hand picker and I traveled to different provinces according to the harvest seasons. I picked coffee in Huila, Tolima and also Caldas state. After several years working as a picker, I had the chance to buy my own farm from my uncle. That was 18 years ago. The price of the farm was 240.000 Colombian pesos at that time, I paid 200.000 pesos to my uncle directly and with the first crop I had, which was red beans, I paid the balance. In 1987 I planted the first 3000 coffee seeds. At that time, I met Nydia, who is my wife. We got married in 1988 and we have now 5 children (4 boys and 1 girl). Thanks to the coffee all my children have had the chance to get primary and middle school education.
I am conscious of the environment preservation. For that reason all the coffee is shade grown in the farm. The farm also has two natural sources of fresh water, which I really take good care of, because I know the importance of the water for our lives. I don't burn; instead I prefer to hand pick all the weeds.
I am a member of the Second Cooperative of Huila, called COOCENTRAL. So I have had the chance to see the cupper in the co-op, and I follow his suggestions. I always bring to the co-op excellent quality coffee, and to get this quality I only pick the ripe beans, not the green or the overripe ones, because I know how important this is for the quality of the cup. Washing is done only with clean and fresh water from the natural sources I have in the farm and drying process is done in patios."
See George's tour of Colombia.
Orders must be placed by 6:00am (Eastern Time) on their roasting date.
We open the cart availability for each limited edition roast on the Thursday afternoon before the date of roasting
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