La Palma y El Tucan, Colombia
Region: Cundinamarca, Colombia
Farm: La Palma y El Tucan
Producer: Hector Arias - Neighbors & Crops
Process: Lactic fermentation
Altitude: 1400 - 1800 masl
Cupping score: 88
CUPPING NOTES: Hibiscus, Strawberry, Blackberry, Clementine, Vanilla, Sweet and Creamy.
Back in 2019 Daniel visited La Palma y El Tucan for the first time, and he was mesmerized by the farm’s approach to the coffee processing and theirs completely sustainable system that produces some of the highest scoring coffees in the world.
La Palma is one of the farms that holds a special place in Daniel’s heart and he’s very much looking forward to going back to visit them.
Read the full story below:
Meet the farmer
La Palma y El Tucán is a stunning farm, mill, and coffee eco-tourism destination tucked in the mountains of Zipacon, Cundinamarca, at 1600 masl, about two hours drive away from Bogota. It’s set in a unique microclimate that is cloudy and damp 50% of the day.
La Palma y El Tucán was founded by Felipe Sardi and Elisa María Madriñan, two pioneers of the coffee producing in Colombia.
The farm’s name comes from two rare species they discovered cohabitating on their land when they purchased the farm: The Emerald Tucan and the endangered Wax Palm and indicates the concept at the core of their operations: symbiosis, where actions are mutually beneficial. The same way that palm trees and toucans exist in a balanced relationship within their habitat, La Palma y El Tucán approaches the coffee ecosystem through sustainable production, innovative processing, and inviting everyone along the supply chain to visit the farm and see for themselves all that a coffee producing environment can be.
Neighbors & Crops program
In 2013 La Palma y El Tucán created a program that allowed them to work with their neighbours to create a sustainable relationship model. The program was created with the hope to revitalize the coffee growing culture of Cundinamarca, by buying and processing exceptional coffee cherries from farmers who would otherwise not have access to the post-harvest infrastructure required to process specialty coffee.
They named the program Neighbors & Crops and since then they have identified more than 200 coffee producers within a 10-kilometer radius to take part.
These producers are cultivating typical Colombian varieties including Caturra, Castillo, Typica and Bourbon.
La Palma buys cherries directly and transport them to their state-of-the-art facility for processing and experiments with different processing methods in search of the perfect cup. By teaching agronomy, offering training for exceptional harvesting, supplying organic fertilizers to the neighbours, and experimenting with different processing methods La Palma y El Tucán have lifted both the quality of life and quality of coffee in their region. With the younger generations, who don’t see a future in coffee farming, seeking new opportunities in cities like Bogota (often unsuccessful), La Palma y El Tucán believe that for the future generations to continue cultivating coffee, it must make economic sense. La Palma y El Tucán hope to encourage the coffee growers’ children to remain in the region and dedicate themselves to coffee, so therefore the neighbouring families are paid 50% more than the national average for their coffee cherries as well as given additional coffee trees grown at La Palma’s nursery.
In addition to sustaining their community, La Palma y El Tucán are advocates of environment sustainability. The farm’s wet mills run completely on solar power and utilizes an amazing greywater system, they also use a special California red worm that makes organic fertilizer out of coffee pulp waste from the mill. Part of the farm is dedicated to an agroforestry project and the team grow a wide range of crops, like beans, corn, and bananas.
Lactic fermentation is a controlled process that creates an environment allowing for the growth of Lactic Acid Bacteria, an innovative process that La Palma y El Tucán have mastered over the years. They discovered that by controlling the bacteria during this process the flavour and its intensity can also be controlled.
Once the cherries arrive at the mill, they are hand sorted and instead of using a normal tiled tub for fermentation, La Palma puts the cherries in airtight fermentation tanks with limited oxygen for around 70 hours, and keeps the water temperature, sugar and pH level constantly monitored. The bacteria feed on the sugar present in the coffee mucilage, resulting in high concentration of lactic acid. Not only does this create wild tropical cup profiles but also an incredible tactile experience.
After the desired pH is achieved the cherries are removed from the tanks, passed through three levels of quality control before having the skin removed into a depulper. Then the coffee is soaked in clean water to stop the growth of the bacteria, washed to remove the fermented mucilage and then dried for at least 15 days on raised beds.