Finca Monteblanco, located high along the winding mountain roads of Vereda La Toroca in the San Adolfo municipality above Pitalito, is a family farm managed by Rodrigo Sanchez Valencia in the tradition of coffee cultivation that began with his grandfather. Monteblanco’s 18 hectares sit on the crest of a hill, with the wet and dry mill at the top and slopes of coffee planted below.
In 2002, Rodrigo participated in a local program teaching local children of coffee producers to cup. Before that, he and his family had never considered coffee in terms of cup profile. By learning to differentiate profiles, he and his father and grandfather were able to able to make the connections between the farming techniques they applied and coffee’s attributes in the cup.
At this time, Rodrigo also began to learn about cupping competitions that evaluate the best lots from farms in a region. He noticed that farms would win one year and then never again, so he decided to investigate how to produce quality coffee consistently. This led him to explore the trees planted on Monteblanco, were he discovered various cultivars his grandfather had planted in the 1980’s.
In addition to the varieties most common in Colombia, Rodrigo found there were trees he had not noticed before, trees with different characteristics, including broad leaves that looked like Geisha. In the cup, the coffee he harvested also tasted like those of Geisha. This was the beginning of Pink Bourbon lot separation. Rodrigo learned that his grandfather had bought those seedlings in San Adolfo during the early 80’s during roya leaf rust attack when he had to replace a portion of the farm’s trees.
In San Adolfo and Palestina, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation ran an experimental farm in the 50’s and 60’s planted with 500 varieties, so Rodrigo and his grandfather think the trees probably originated from that farm. In 2014, Rodrigo planted three hectares of Monteblanco with Pink Bourbon and was delighted with its adaptability, productivity, and resistance to roya leaf rust. The cherries ripen to a rosy pink/orange color, giving name to this unique coffee cultivar.
In 2015, Rodrigo and his team piloted a new processing technique called Cold Fermentation, which consists in depulping freshly harvested ripe cherries and transferring them to a cold room to prolong fermentation. Rodrigo found that the extended fermentation period resulted in more complex flavors. This method presented initial challenges until they determined the ideal temperature. After two years of study, they found the ideal balance between initial degrees Brix and fermentation temperature, achieving the desired baseline consistency and complexity of flavor in the cup.
Coffees designated for Cold Fermentation typically have 28 degrees Brix at the time of harvest. Floaters are removed to eliminate cherries with ripeness problems and then depulped and immediately placed in GrainPro bags and transferred to the cold room, where the temperature is regulated between 10-13 degrees Celsius for 76 hours. After this prolonged fermentation, coffee is fully washed and transferred to the drying stage, where it spends three days in the sun of the solar dryer and is then placed on raised beds in the shade to continue drying for 23-25 days. After drying, it is stored in GrainPro bags for 20 days of rest prior to preshipment cupping and export.
Rodrigo is proud that he, his wife Claudia Samboni, farm manager Don Gerardo, and the team that works in the fields and at the mill have reached the goal of achieving consistent quality. Each harvest, Finca Monteblanco produces microlots that serve as competition coffees around the world, but the farm also consistently produces containers of delicious coffees that appear year-round on café menus and retail shelves. By applying an ethic of rigorous monitoring, planning, and management of each stage of production and processing, all coffees from Monteblanco showcase their full potential.
Harvesting and processing on Monteblanco have had to evolve with the times, adapting to a changing climate that yields harvest dispersed through ten months of the year rather than in a concentrated peak.
Read more about Finca Monteblanco on the Ally Coffee blog.