Our Obraje Washed is one of the staple coffees that we carry year-round due to the twice-a-year harvest in Narino. This is our first time carrying one of Pablo Guerrero's natural coffee, and we couldn't be more excited. It is one of the cleanest naturals of the year with notes of Peach, Lime, and just straight sugar.
We have a long-standing, personal relationship with Pablo ever since Micah worked (at his previous job with Ally Coffee) to sell his coffee to the best roasters in the US. After a year or two of seeing Obraje's quality improve, Micah used their gesha varietal to great effect in the US Barista Championship (coming 7th). The next year, our friend Andrea Allen of Onyx Coffee Lab used a natural process of the same gesha to reach the finals of the competition. Needless to say, Pablo's coffees have exploded in popularity since then and the price they command has greatly increased. We were thrilled to get our hands on this lovely example of a natural this year, and continue the relationship moving forward.
Mr. Pablo Guerrero was the first to introduce coffee to the Tangua area outside of the city of Pasto in the year 2000. Hacienda El Obraje has been in Pablo’s family for many years and originally produced wheat and other grains. In the 1990s, the Colombian government began importing grains, since cultivating wheat was no longer viable. Looking for an alternative, Pablo and his team experimented with fruit trees, including apples and peaches, for ten years, but challenges like bringing fresh fruit to market made fruit cultivation unsuccessful. When Pablo first began planting coffee in 2000, he grew traditional, conventional coffee and did not have a mill. By 2009, he had built a facility to process his own coffee and entered into the specialty coffee market. His experiments continued; he planted new varieties and processed Natural as well as Washed coffees. Planting coffee was initially risky because he was unsure how productive coffee would be at such a high elevation, but the coffee trees flourished and now others are following in his footsteps.
The climate and terrain of Obraje are major contributing factors to this coffee’s unique cup profile. Temperatures vary greatly in a day, from 32 degrees Celsius at noon to 8 degrees or less at night. In the rainy season, the humidity is high and it is nearly impossible to dry coffee on raised beds. Initially, planting shade trees would have been disadvantageous given the humidity, as they would have trapped too much moisture and caused diseases, but the coffee has adapted to its conditions and Obraje now has low-density shade trees planted along with coffee trees. The drastic daily change in temperature impacts the density of the coffee beans and also causes trees to be smaller and more compact than trees of the same varieties in other regions of Colombia. Obraje often does not receive adequate rainfall and must irrigate select lots using water from the farm’s retention pond. Obraje is located near many volcanic mountains and the rocky soil is filled with minerals. Obraje maintains its own nursery to take care of coffee trees in their early stages. The team plants seeds directly into 2kg soil bags to let the seedlings grow before replanting them in the field. The farm applies mixed fertilizations of 1kg to 2kg of natural fertilizer and 300g of chemical fertilizer per tree.