ECWx in Pictures

Direct Trade , Events & Collaborations , Sourcing

Intelligentsia partnered with Root Capital last month to adapt our Extraordinary Coffee Workshop for a new context and format we call ECWx.  We convened the first ECWx in Colombia for 40 smallholder coffee leaders as part of our commitment to expand the social impact of our model.  This annotated photo essay provides a glimpse into the event.  For more on the big idea behind ECWx, click here.

11 July | Day One | The Case for Quality

While we were as anxious as any of the participants to get to the field, we needed the better part of a day to explore quality coffee from multiple perspectives: what it tastes like, how we measure it, where it comes from, its economic implications, what we do as buyers and roasters to conserve and optimize it.

Geoff Watts, our Vice President of Coffee and Green Coffee Buyer for Colombia who built Intelligentsia Direct Trade, opened the event with a guided tasting — no better way to begin  developing a shared understanding of quality.

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I shared some perspectives on the promise of quality based on more than a decade of work in the field with smallholders, including the 1,600 participants in the Borderlands project in Nariño, 

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And to close the day, Alexandra Tuinstra, Vice President of Advisory Services at Root Capital, led a team of presenters from Root Capital which explained how Root Capital’s financial services can improve the competitiveness of grassroots coffee enterprises.

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12 July | Day Two | Quality Field Trips #1 and #2: Buesaco and La Florida

On Day Two of ECWx, we split into two groups to see what a quality-first approach looks like in two different production models: a small estate model in Buesaco and a washing station in La Florida operated by a smallholder organization.

In Buesaco, we visited our Direct Trade partner Franco Héctor José López, pictured here, is a five-time winner of Colombia’s Cup of Excellence.  

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His La Mina farm isn’t significantly different from those of his neighbors in terms of elevation, cultivars, shade cover or agronomic management.  But even with inputs that don’t seem to be out of the ordinary for Buesaco, Don Franco turns out extraordinary results.  (So do his daughter Cielo and son-in-law Nilson, who have some CoE hardware of their own.) . So we walked the farms at Don Franco’s La Mina and San Antonio, one of several farms owned and operated by Cielo and Nilson, to see what award-winning operations look like.

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Yes, the landscapes are stunning, but that’s par for the course in Nariño.  What sets the López family apart is the exacting focus on quality through the harvest and post-harvest stages of the process.

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Meanwhile, over in La Florida, the leaders of the audacious smallholder enterprise ASPROCAES led a demonstration of cherry reception and processing in the washing station they operate — a first in Nariño.  

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Given that there are no other washing stations in the region, the organization is designing everything from scratch, including the processes for cherry reception and grading, conversion to parchment calculations and payments.  The day closed with an invaluable session in which participating farmer organizations offered their assessments of the process and recommendations.

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13 July| Day Three | Enterprise Management and Quality Field Trip #3: El Obraje

We spent the morning of Day Three back inside, hearing a series of insightful presentation from a range of organizations on the importance of information management for decision-making and competitiveness including pioneering Fair Trade cooperatives, the supply chain information management platform Cropster and an organization in Nariño that produced the first-ever Blockchain lot for the Dutch market.  In the afternoon, it was back to the field to visit El Obraje, a large estate by Nariño standards that was designed with architectural precision by its architect owner Pablo Andrés Guerrero, pictured below.

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The farm was built from the ground up to produce quality, featuring traditional and exotic cultivars, and employs an experimental approach with short learning and innovation cycles applied to shade cover, renovation, irrigation and other production variables.

14 July | Day Four | Villa Loyola

During the fourth and final day of the event, the entire operation decamped to Villa Loyola, a century-old farm owned and operated by the Jesuits that won the 2008 Colombia Cup of Excellence, to explore the entire coffee process, from soil management to the cupping table.  

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Fr. José Aguilar is the Jesuit priest who oversees the farm.  His first order of business when he took the reins more than five years ago was to convert the farm to organic production, remineralizing the soil and boosting its organic content with pulverized rocks obtained locally and homemade organic fertilizers.  He has since turned the wet mill and drying facilities into centers of experimentation open to smallholders in the community.  The wet mill conveys cherry with harvested rainwater, which it recycles, and uses water-efficient technology.  The ingenious drying facilities are built almost entirely of a local variety of bamboo that is both fast-growing and strong.  He led the group on a tour through the entire process —  a highlight of the week for many of the organic farmers who participated in ECWx.

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The event closed with a cupping of coffees from across Colombia.

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ECWx was co-funded by USAID and Root Capital as part of a larger project called the Feed the Future Partnership for Sustainable Coffee, also funded in part by Keurig Dr Pepper. The U.S. Agency for International Development leads the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian efforts in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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