THE PRODUCER In the lush mountains of Southwest Huila, Colombia you will find Chalo’s Coffee Plantation. Chalo Fernandez is a 5th generation quality-focused coffee farmer whose family has been growing coffee in the region of Paicol for over 110 years. Since taking over the farm from his grandfather in 2010, Chalo and his brothers have followed in tradition’s footsteps whilst forging their own path as third wave specialty coffee producers. In addition to cultivating exceptional coffee, Chalo and his family are leaders in their community. They leads by example in the way that they take care of the environment and pride themselves on being able to provide jobs and education to their coffee-growing community. Chalo is dedicated to producing the perfect cup, building excellent direct trade relationships with passionate artisan roasters and helping his region and its people thrive through projects made possible by the sale of his coffee.
THE COFFEE Chalo’s coffees always standout on the cupping table. His farm grows the Arabica Castillo variety through fully sustainable and progressively organic farming practices.
Castillo is an environmentally friendly, high yielding cross between Caturra and Timor hybrid varieties. Castillo provides distinctive quality features such as higher bean density and size. It is also resistant to pests and diseases like rust (roya) and the Coffee Bean Disease (CBD).
The coffee plants grow between 1450m and 1600m above sea level amongst orange, mandarin, lime and banana trees, plantain, sugar cane and tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple and guama (yes we mean guama, not guava). This altitude and its natural vegetation create the perfect environment for coffee to grow with unique flavor, sweetness and brightness.
TOOLS, INFRASTRUCTURE & TECHNOLOGY Since 2013, with the support of his direct trade partners, Chalo and his family have been able to invest in tools, infrastructure and technology that have seen significant improvements in environmental sustainability. Their efforts have also improved the quality of their coffee with each passing year. In the past few years they have implemented such things as: Refractometers – Measuring the sugar content of coffee cherries to ensure only the very best; sweetest and fully ripe cherries are picked at the right time.
Floatation Tank – Ensures that the perfect cherries are selected by density. The lightest ones are separated out as they float to the top of the tank. The EcoMill – A system that includes a depulper and a stainless steel fermentation and wash tank. The coffee is washed using only 500ml of water per kilo of coffee (traditional methods used 5L per KG), and ensures the highest level of sanitation and control in the fermentation process. Compost Processor – A system that separates the mucilage from the water. The mucilage is then dried on special drying tables. When completely dry the mucilage becomes a powder that is put back into the plantation as organic fertilizer. Water Filtration System - All the water that is used in the wet mill process goes through a large water filter to prevent the contamination of the river.
PROCESSING Chalo and his family are always experimenting with various processing to see what flavours can be derived as a result of changes in the fermentation process. Chalo’s team is trained to pick only the very best, defect-free, fully–ripe cherries. Once collected these cherries go into the flotation tank to further separate the light cherries from the quality cherries. After the floaters are removed, the coffee cherries enter the EcoMill where the fruit is pulped and left to ferment for up to 48 hours. Following fermentation the coffee beans are washed and moved into the soak tank where the coffee sits for approximately 5 hours. After washing, the coffee is moved to covered, tiered, raised drying beds until it reaches an internal moisture level of 16%. The coffee reaches its optimum dryness level in a low temperature mechanical drum dryer and is packed into Grain Pro bags and stored until it is time to go to the dry mill. At the dry mill the coffee undergoes a specialty coffee dry milling process that includes both machine and hand sorting to ensure that only the very best, most consistent beans are ready for export to their direct trade partners. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE & SOCIAL PROJECTS Chalo, his family and his team make decisions and take actions in the interest of bettering the community and protecting and preserving their land, water sources and natural vegetation. Chalo explains, “Respecting producers, team members and the environment brings the promise of hope and prosperity for the farmers and families in our region” The team reuses plant products as fertilizer, uses coffee parchment as fuel for their mechanical dyer, filters all of the water used in their wet mill process to avoid river contamination, plants shade trees that also reduce soil temperature and soil moisture loss, promotes soil microorganism growth to provide nutrients for their coffee trees and prohibits hunting and mining on their land. In addition to protecting the environment, Chalo and his family are also dedicated to improving the lives of their team and fellow farmers and developing their community. Paying above-average wages, provide education sessions on agronomy and sustainability, and offering flexible work schedules promotes strong work ethic, positive attitudes and a drive to succeed from his team. Providing housing complete with showers, electricity and direct TV allows the team to live comfortably and relax during the busy harvest season. Through the sale of his coffee Chalo also hopes to fund a number of other projects that are close to his heart. These include a home where elderly people can receive regular meals, medical attention, kindness and helping hands, a playground facility where children can play safely and spend meaningful spare time, a soccer field where the youth of the rural area can delight in one of the country’s favourite pastimes and finally an animal sanctuary, where stray dogs and cats from the city can live and receive food and good care. Chalo believes that these types of projects create a ripple effect on the whole community and everyone becomes motivated to create better living conditions for their own family and neighbours.
CHALO’S COFFEE IN A NUTSHELL When asked how Chalo would describe the taste of his own coffee he said “Simple. Take the best day of your life and put into your mouth!” But jokes aside, he says “Nothing tastes sweeter than lovingly growing something from a seed with your own hands and being able to bring it to the world for everyone to enjoy”.