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Image of Paraíso
Image of Paraíso
Image of Paraíso

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An evil cafetero was so jealous of heaven that he stole it. Running away he dumped the loot and those holy seeds gave life to Paraíso, a delicate and round touch of bliss with vanilla and cherry flavour.


The ParaÍso lot was the latest addition to the Hacienda San Alberto lands. Before, a befriended neighbour owned it, but it wasn’t used for coffee farming. He ran a mechanics atelier there until he quit the business and sold the land to the Villota family. They reconverted it to coffee land and planted it with one of the seven regional Castillo varieties. Close to Hacienda San Alberto lies the Paraguaicito testing station, one of the seven stations where Cenicafé closely monitored the performance of their regional Castillo varieties. These different versions of Castillo were created in a desire to improve Castillo as part of the Genetic Breeding Program, and to better suit local requirements in Colombia’s varied climates across the country. As Juan Pablo’s father was a close partner to Cenicafé, they also received some seeds of this new variety. After running tests for a few years, they created enough new seeds from those initial seeds to incorporate the variety into the farm. ParaÍso corresponds to Hacienda San Alberto’s lowest growing lot, at 1500m.A.S.L. The lot BIRCHBACH offers was picked on a single day (29/04) and selected following the Quíntuple quality standards. Hacienda San Alberto is a coffee farm you can easily write entire pages about. First, location facts: the farm lies in Buenavista in Quindío, the smallest city in Colombia’s smallest department. The soil is predominantly volcanic and the area has a stable temperature between 18°C and 23°C year-round. The farm’s main crop (about 70-80% of the total harvest) is produced in April, mitaca falls around September – October.

Juan Pablo’s grandparents, Gustavo and Melba acquired the first part of the farm in 1972 to process a family tragedy. When they acquired the farm it was called La Alsacia, but they renamed it San Alberto in honour of their son. In 1996, Juan Pablo’s parents Eduardo and Olga took over the business. Eduardo Villota used to run a rice producing company and worked a lot with plant genetics and crop optimization. With his knowledge, he started the first transformation phase of the farm towards high-quality coffee production.

Ten years later, Juan Pablo and his brother Gustavo came into play. They decided to take part in the Villota’s coffee legacy and steer Hacienda San Alberto to the model specialty producing farm it is now. They implemented practices they learned from the time they spent in France in the wine production sector to reach an even higher “standard”. The team deliberately chose a path of quality, technology and strong control over production. Along the way, two lots were added to San Alberto: the higher altitude La Ponderosa (1700-1800m) and the lower altitude El Paraíso (1500-1600m).

Nowadays, the farm itself is a picture perfect example of what specialty coffee in Colombia could look like, with the right knowledge and dedication of the producer. The team consists of two units: on one side, the agronomist José Jaír and his team of field managers and pickers; and the quality control team headed by Juan Pablo himself on the other. José Jaír oversees the entire production and selection steps until the dried parchment coffee rests in the farm’s small bodega in grainpro bags. Next, a sample of each bag goes to the farm’s lab for evaluation where they decide over the final destination of each lot.

Hacienda San Alberto typically produces two quality lines: the famed Quíntuple Selection and the Fine Selection. The Quíntuple selections are San Alberto’s flagship coffees. Lots with this label undergo a five-step selection process along the production chain. After a day’s harvest, the cherries are brought to the farm’s wet mill where the qualities are separated by flotation. Floaters are separated into the hopper with lower grades, not destined for export. The cherries that sink move on to the cherry selection tables. Here, a typically all-female team separates 100% ripe cherries from 80-100% ripe cherries. This is where the first separation between Quíntuple (100% ripeness) and Fine selection (+80%) starts. The cherries are manually selected on picking tables before moving to the pulping step. The batches are depulped separately. The Quintuple selection parchment rests in the tanks a couple of hours before washing. With pumps and high pressure, they transfer the parchment in between two tanks. The sticky mucilage comes off the parchment through friction. Mechanical drying – it’s all about commitment Quíntuple selection coffees or special selections like the Geisha lot are dried first in the parabolic drier for a couple of hours. They cannot be dried naturally entirely because the relative humidity in the region is too high. The beans would just never dry fast enough, which would render the coffee useless. The mechanical drier that San Alberto uses runs on milled parchment instead of carbon. The hot air is blown into a five meter high drying tower with three levels, in which the temperature never surpasses 40°C. Each level has a hatch. The drying manager pushed the parchment through this hatch to a lower level after seven to nine hours. By moving around the parchment like this, the coffee dries in a soft and homogenous way. Extremely important in this process is the dedication of the night staff. They could just as well get a couple of hours sleep extra by speeding up the process. After eighteen to twenty hours, the coffee reaches the desired moisture of 11%. The drying team transfers the parchment to grainpro bags with their corresponding traceability tag. Storing the parchment in grainpro is an additional measure to protect the coffee against the relatively high humidity in the area. The bags go to the storage room for a resting period of eight days to stabilize before cupping. In the next step, the second team comes into action. A sample goes both to Almacafe and the farm’s own lab for evaluation and the final step in the Quíntuple selection. Based on the cupping results, the final decision is made whether or not a lot belongs in the Quíntuple selection. Feedback goes back and forth between José Jaír’s team and Juan Pablo’s to understand the results. Following the outcome, each lot in its respective category goes to the FNC warehouses, where the storage conditions are less humid.


1500 M.A.S.L.



APRIL 2017





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