Colombia Sugarcane Decaf

In May 2017, Raw Material met with two coffee producer groups in Pitalito, Huila, to understand what is preventing farmers from accessing the specialty market.

These groups represent almost 300 families, around 660Ha of coffee farmland, and around 1 million kg of coffee (parchment) production each year. Despite good production levels, income from coffee for these families dropped to unsustainable levels in the past few years. They face a crossroad; either and alternative means of income outside coffee, or a more stable and sustainable market. During these discussions they heard farmers describe their core challenges: a lack of key infrastructure; and lack of stable prices to provide certainty for investment in improved quality.  Two core constraints faced those that choose option two: a lack of key infra- structure to produce quality coffee, and access to stable prices in return.  Together, they also uncovered a wide gap between how coffee quality is discussed and measured at the farm level compared with the roasting end of the value chain.

To address these challenges, they launched Red Associations. With the new infrastructure in place, they are able to pay individual farmers a minimum fixed price of 1M COP/carga of dry parchment coffee they produce through a community lot. This price results in double the household income of a typical coffee producing family, compared with the average income in the regular market over the past 5 years. Once the new infrastructure is built, fixed price payments can get directly to producers through a transparent system. The goal is to achieve stable and sustainable prices for community coffee lots through improved quality control, shared knowledge, and a connection to the specialty coffee market. Red in Spanish means network, representing the producers and roasters working together to create a sustainable value chain.

Together, they overcame both of these challenges. Physically, they built drying bed facilities and QC infrastructure at the community central hub. Through a new payment system they can provide stable prices that result in 2.5x the average household income, compared to previous seasons. El Carmen provides stable and sustainable prices for a producer through a connection to the specialty market, improved quality control, and shared knowledge across the value chain.

Sugar cane decaffeination is often termed as a natural process decaf. Ethyl Acetate is an organically existing compound (C4H8O2) and by-product found most commonly in the fermentation of fruits, and is present in both ripe bananas and beer for example. The plant Red Associations work with in Colombia uses water from the Navado el Ruis (a volcano between Caldas and Tolima) and natural ethyl acetate from fermented sugarcane sourced in the southern region of Palmira, Colombia.

This process begins with steaming of the co ee, increasing its porosity, beginning the hydrolysis of ca eine, which is usually bonded to salts and chlorogenic acid in the bean. The beans are then submerged in an ethyl acetate solvent, until 97% of the ca eine is removed. A nal steam is then used to lift residual traces of the com- pound. The ultimate residue which remains is ? 30 ppm, which is a level dramatically less than that of a banana!

Region: Pitalito, Huila
Country: Colombia
Altitude: 1400 – 2100 MASL
Variety: Caturra, Castillo
Processing: Washed, sugarcane decaffeination
Milling: Screen size 18+
Preparation: Euro Prep 0,20
Sorting:Colour sorted with laser sorters
Packing: GrainPro