Victrola Coffee Roasters

Perry's trip to Colombia: Monserrate Part 1

Hello there!  This is my first blog post for Victrola and certainly not my last.  Let’s get introductions out of the way…My name is Perry Hook and I’m the head roaster and green coffee buyer for Victrola.

I just got back from Colombia Monday night after spending a week at the coffee growing community of Monserrate in the department (state) of Huila.  We’ve been carrying this very special coffee for a while now, and we’re committed to purchasing it in the future.  The importer, Atlas Coffee Importers in Ballard, invited me and a few others in the industry to join them as judges in a coffee quality competition among the individual farmers who make up the Monserrate community.  The top farmers’ lots of coffee (called microlots) will be sold individually to roasters like us, and the top five farmers all won a cash prize.  This trip also allowed Victrola to connect directly to the farmers, meet the people this coffee supports, and find out what makes their coffee and community so unique.

Monserrate, looking toward the church.
The coffee from Monserrate is so special because it is a top-notch Huila and Atlas has established a long-term relationship with the community.  Atlas and the exporter, R.A.Cafe, are working closely with the farmers there to improve their coffee.  The producers are paid a significant premium for their beans and incentives are provided to improve quality.   The community is dependent on their coffee income and this model of sustainable quality helps to guarantee their success in the long-term.  These kinds of relationships also allow us, the roasters and consumers, access to a consistently beautiful coffee with the knowledge that we are supporting the people of Monserrate in a lasting way.  My trip strengthened my feeling of appreciation for the work the farmers are doing and solidified Victrola’s dedication to the community.

Alright, onto the travelogue...  On Tuesday the 15th I flew to Bogota via Houston.  It was a long trip, but went by quickly.  Bogota is a huge sprawling city.  Over 7 million people are held between the steep surrounding mountains.  The elevation is also high: over 8,500 ft!  This makes for cool and often rainy weather.  Kind of like Seattle with less oxygen.

On Wednesday Craig (Atlas), Chris (Atlas), Sarah (Intelligentsia), A.J. (Tully's) and I headed over to R.A. Cafe's cupping lab to get ourselves calibrated for scoring coffees.  After Craig sent me straight about one of the scoring categories we felt pretty well calibrated.  It looked like I was going to be the "killer" tough scorer as my scores consistently averaged lower than the others by a couple points.  What's important though is our relative scores from coffee to coffee, and those were all in line.

After R.A. Cafe we headed over to one of the best roasters in Bogota, and probably Colombia, Amor Perfecto.  You can read about the cool things they're doing there in the blog report I sent from Bogota last week.  From Amor Perfecto we hopped in cabs to R.A. Cafe's dry mill, also reported on in a previous blog.

Later that afternoon we five Americans, not including the driver, squeezed into one of the hotel's small sedans and rode in a gondola up the mountain of Monserrate (completely different from the coffee community) which overlooks the city of Bogota.  The views from 10,000+ feet were incredible, but clouds quickly blew in and partially obscured our view.  The gardens around the church on top of the mountain are equally pretty, with many colorful flowers and birds.  You can also see across to another mountain where a large statue of Jesus stands.

Bogota from above
flowers at Monserrate above Bogota
view across from Monserrate near Bogota
Stay tuned for the next blog entry where we begin our journey from Bogota and meet the people of Monserrate.  You can see all of my pictures at our Picasa web album here.

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