Finca Monteblanco, located high along the winding mountain roads of Vereda La Tocora 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 wetmill and drying beds at the top of the farm 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 varieties 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 a leaf rust attack of la roya 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 leaf rust. The cherries ripen to a rosy pink/orange color, giving name to this unique coffee variety.
All cherries harvested are measured for degrees Brix. Based on sugar content indicated, the team at Aromas del Sur, the umbrella group of Monteblanco, Progreso, and La Loma farms, designates which processing method is appropriate. Cherries destined for Double Fermentation Processing are harvested at 22 degrees Brix, a measurement used to indicate sugar content. Cherries ferment for 36 hours in the tank and are then depulped and left to ferment an additional 44 hours before being washed and transferred to shaded beds to dry for 28 days.
The goal of Double Fermentation is to bring out the sweetness and complexity of the coffee. As long as the cherries do not exceed 23 degrees Brix to begin with, the first fermentation phase of the Double Fermentation process can increase Brix readings by as much as 4 degrees Brix, provided that the pH does not drop below 5 and disrupt the equilibrium between body and acidity.
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. Coffees from Monteblanco are milled and prepared for export at the new, state of the art Aromas del Sur drymill in Pitalito.
Read more about Finca Monteblanco on the Ally Coffee blog.