Santa Barbara Estate is composed of 5 sister farms that lie across three neighbouring, geographical regions – Santa Barbara, Fredonia and Amagá. Established in the 1980s, from the beginning Sr. Pedro Echavarria knew that location was crucial. Attracted by diverse microclimates, singular volcanic soils, perfect altitude and a tradition of excellence in coffee production, he established a small farm in the high Andes of Antioquia – Finca San Pascual. By marrying these perfect natural conditions with hard work and efficiency, he quickly grew both the area under cultivation and the farm’s reputation.
In the last five years, Pedro’s son – also Pedro – has become more deeply involved in the workings of the Estate’s farms, taking the already high quality of the coffee to new heights through experimentation in processing and increased monitoring and control of every stage of production. Pedro Jr. and Santa Barbara’s Coffee Director, Leonardo Henao Triana, approach the processing of their coffees with blend of art, industrial rigor and scientific curiosity. Today, in addition to providing a prime location for experimental new plantings of Castillo, Colombia, Bourbon, Typica and Tabi, San Pascual functions as the research lab where all their new processing methods are trialled.
The family always keeps a donkey named ‘Pascual’ on the premises as a sort of ‘mascot’ for the farm.
The wet mill in San Pascual was the location where Santa Barbara’s innovative Cold Fermentation process was developed, and about a year ago Santa Barbara’s Coffee Team began experimenting with processing small lots – specifically from the San Pascual farm, which is the hottest of the Estate’s lots – using the natural method. After being hand harvested and sorted, Santa Barbara dries these coffees for 4-5 days under shade and then finishes the coffee in experimental electric silos at 40 degrees for an additional 2 days, which provide much lower, even temperatures than normal silos and, thus, guarantee a much more homogenous drying process.
The farm’s smaller size and gentle geography lends itself to the space and time demands of such an intensive process, and although the farm currently only has enough beds to produce about 10 bags of green coffee per week, things look promising for the success of the experiment. Santa Barbara hopes to have the facilities in full production by next year and will potentially expand their facilities in the future.
Santa Barbara Estate employs 60 people all year round, who on average earn 30% above the minimum wage. Half of these also receive free housing within the farm for themselves and their families. A further 1,200 pickers are hired during the main harvest, comprised mainly of farmers from around the Santa Barbara Estate who pick coffee to supplement their income. Workers are generally long-term employees and have been with the company for more than 10 years.
The Santa Barbara Estate also runs an extensive scholarship and financial aid program for worker’s children as well as helping long-standing employees to acquire their own piece of land upon retirement.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Colombia Finca San Pascual, from Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, Kentucky. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Fredonia, Antioquia, Colombia
farm: Finca San Pascual, Santa Barbara Estate
producer: Echavarria Family
elevation: 1500 – 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Colombia, Typica, Castillo, Bourbon, Tabi
The aroma of the Colombia Finca San Pascual is exactly what you’d expect from a natural Colombia. Opening the bag is like detonating a big berry bomb. Massive scents of mixed berries (blueberry and strawberry, in particular), lemon zest, maple syrup, vanilla, and pancake batter.
Not surprisingly, again, the test follows the nose. My first few sips from the cup present my palate with a coffee that’s on the lighter side of a medium body and has a mouthfeel that is lightly creamy. This is very much a fruit-forward coffee, with those big, winy berry flavors front and center on the tongue. A creamy river of vanilla and crème fraîche follows closely behind, and I’m also tasting some nuances of graham cracker and brown sugar. As the cup cools off, the coffee has a surprising development—it’s become a bit more woodsy tasting, with notes of wood, rhubarb, and earth. It doesn’t last long—just the duration of the cup’s mid-range; by the time the coffee gets to room temperature it’s back to being fruit-forward with some black grape, blueberry, and lemon zest subtleties before rounding out with a clean, juicy finish.
2016’s hot streak of great Colombian coffees continues with Sunergos Coffee’s Colombia Finca San Pascual.
This naturally-processed Colombia was a pretty unique one, too. It had all the characteristics of the classic naturally processed coffee flavor profile, with a couple surprising twists along the way. It had a big berry bomb, it was very much a fruit-forward coffee with some nice winy tannins and sweet sugar browning flavors, and it had a little bit of fermentation that naturals are infamous for; but it also featured a unique earthiness that you typically don’t find in these types of coffees.
This was a pretty good offering from Sunergos. It featured plenty of flavor, was perfectly approachable, and had plenty of depth (it didn’t collapse at room temperature, like some naturals are prone to do)… Its profile is a bit muddled, though. There were an awful lot of things happening in the cup, and when it went from fruity to sugary to earthy to winy to tart to sweet, some of the flavors got lost and were difficult to discern. Still, though, it was a very drinkable and approachable coffee.
*content courtesy of Rave Coffee
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.