It’s hard to summarise all that happened since we first met the Argote family in 2014, but it’s safe to say that this is one of most intimate and trusted relationships. Argote is the very first specialty coffee to come out of the village of Colón Genova in the north of Colombia's world-famous Nariño region.
In 2014 in Colón, we found a unique coffee with astounding complexity and a full, dried fruit-like body. We hit it off with the Argote family immediately and a partnership was born. In the first year, we helped them obtain hulling equipment and an export license so they could sell this coffee straight to us. Less than two years later, they became independent exporters, have created raised beds, helped their friends of the Muñoz family process and export their crop, and salready seven groups of field baristas have helped to experiment with cascara, honey, natural, anaerobic processing and much, much more. Since 2016 the washed crop was fermented, a great tweak that has made the coffee's sweetness more layered.
Since 2017 we have begun experimenting and upgrading with greater pace and in direct cooperation with roasters. 2018 brought about the first structural fermentation timing experiments, while in 2019 many of the farmers have spent their premiums on not just raised beds but raised drying “drawers” for maximum space efficiency. Expect cherries and hazelnuts and florals and a wide variety of taste notes including cane sugar and apple cider.
These are the 2018-2019 season Argote Specialty Coffee farmers.
Since this year, Argote upgraded its full traceability of every single 35 kg bag of coffee by naming the actual farmer on every coffee bag! We’re also excited to welcome two new and very young farmers: Jhoan and Sthefania. Cup profiles vary only slightly, except for the two farmers whose coffee stood out most in our cuppings and earned an extra $1 p/kg - on top of our usual premium. See the offer list for taste notes and whose coffee we currently have in stock.
Castillo, Caturra, some Catuaí
in nursery: SL28
1,950 - 2,000 meters above sea level
Very first specialty coffee to come out of Colón Genova in Nariño. Production, harvest, wet- and dry milling all done by the Argote family. Produced without pesticides, the Argote family inspect all coffee trees visually for signs of leaf rust. Actively creating a village of specialty coffee producers.
2015: installed hulling machine to allow direct export, first ever export of Argote family's coffee, obtained independent exporter license
2016: built covered and raised drying beds, installed fermentation tanks, hosted first ever Field Barista Project, created first honey and natural tests, exported first cascara, helped Muñoz Diaz family process and export their microlot.
2017: created individual farmer lots and rewarded the best ones with a $1 p/kg premium; initiated first organic fertiliser trials; created three experimental fermentation lots (30, 42 and 66 hours) in cooperation with Jelle van Rossum.
2018: 3 more farmers trained and added to the producer base. Nursery created and SL28 planted. First direct export to a roaster. Names of all producers printed on the bags. Cascara quality control protocols developed.
2019: Anaerobic tests from previous season tested, roasting equipment bought at the farm, fermentation times structurally adapted, first large natural lots created, around 40% of the harvest sold directly to and in cooperation with roasters.
fully washed: hand picked, depulped, washed with mountain water, fermented for 18-24 hours, sun dried on concrete patios and on raised “drawers” with high air flow, manually sorted at the farm in four separate rounds, hulled and bagged at the Argote family farm.
PRICE breakdown (EUR/KG)
€ 9,82 =
The average price you pay for Argote coffee p/kg. This Side Up pays US$ 7,26 straight to the Argote family. From this, they pay for the harvest, wet- and dry milling and local transport of the coffee, and retain around 50% more than they received from selling their parchment on the open market.
€ 6,24 + € 0,43 +
The price we pay Juan Pablo Argote for his green (milled) coffee. It is quite rare to pay the export price straight to a smallholder grower. The extra €0,43 is a premium that in 2015 financed 50% of a new hulling machine. In 2016, they spent their premium on raised drying beds and a trip to Holland. In 2017 and 2018, they reserved the premium for another drying bed expansion and a brand new nursery..
€ 0,65 +
Total shipping costs from Buenaventura to Rotterdam + local clearance and warehousing.
This Side Up compensation for spending time and resources importing this coffee. Our work includes building relationships with shipping and warehousing partners, managing export, import and shipping bureaucracy, Q grading, sampling and jointly promoting this coffee with the Argote and Muñoz families.
Average financing cost (5% of the sales price) we have to pay lenders - simply because we don’t have the money in the bank to buy such large amounts of coffee all at once. This ensures immediate payment to Argote Specialty Coffee when the coffee leaves the port.
AVAILABLE FROM ARGOTE SPECIALTY COFFEE :
12 single farmer lots from the Argote and Muñoz families
Recommended Ikawa profile
We keep noting more and different acidities in the Argote. We're actually finding the best results using the "TSU Washed 1" we developed for Rwandan beans. It develops the complex acidities in the cup, while still allowing the chocolate / nutty body and layered sweetness to develop adequately. Cut the roast short if DTR exceeds 23%.
TASTIFY™ CUPPING NOTES
You may use these images freely to promote Argote among your customers. Credits to Nick Levin and Aukje Simone van Rossum.
CONTACT Juan Pablo LAsso Argote
Juan Pablo Lasso Argote is our close friend. He was responsible for making his family's direct export possible, and is active on social media. Next to his native Spanish, he is fluent in English and French.
CONTACT Juan Pablo Lasso Argote
TEL +57 3002199249
Colón Génova - Nariño, Colombia
Many in the coffee world have come across the name “Nariño” at some point, perhaps most famously from the fact that Starbucks sells it as a single origin offer. Nowadays there isn’t a village in the mountains of Nariño that doesn’t have sign of a (supposed) campaign running from some big coffee company like Starbucks and Nespresso. But ever since the rise of the Third Wave and direct trade relationships, other regions such as Huila and Medellín have stolen some of Nariño’s thunder. Apart from a few notable exceptions like the efforts of the Borderlands Coffee Project to promote the region to American direct traders, the old coffee buying model still provides most of the region’s sustainable income.
Take it from us, though: Nariño is still one of the main stars of Third Wave Colombian coffee and an incredible coffee origin. Rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, organic matter in the soil and even wind conditions are all perfectly fit to entice the coffee shrub to making the best cherries possible.
Within Nariño, the altitude at which the village of Colón is situated is perhaps this coffee’s most unique feature: On the one hand, the shape of the mountains here allows the warm, moist winds from the valley to blow upwards at night, which makes coffee cultivation here viable at altitudes that elsewhere would kill the fragile shrubs. On the other hand, cold trade winds from the south find its way to this region. This interchange of cold and warm influence make temperatures here fluctuate between 7 and 30 degrees Celsius, forcing the coffee to hold on to and trigger the production of more sugars, the solubles responsible for the acidity of the coffee. These dreamlike conditions are unlike we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world, and are what gives this coffee its beautiful acidities, smooth mouthfeel and pronounced aromas.
Juan Pablo, our partner and second son of the Argote family, knew there was more to be gained from Nariño’s unique coffee. He grew up in the village of Colón Genova and has been working with coffee since he was a child. He now roasts coffee under his brand “Sol del Venado” to the local market for extra income, but understood that his family’s coffee had the potential to be sold green to foreign buyers - if only he could find them...
As with most of This Side Up’s partners, this one came to us serendipitously through an introduction from a friend of both Lennart and Juan Pablo. On an exploratory trip to Colombia in 2014 with friend and serial entrepreneur Fraser Doherty, we decided to have one last stop in Nariño to meet Juan Pablo and fellow coffee grower Hernando Gutierrez. We cupped several coffees and were blown away by how they compared to everything else we tasted on our trip. Of these coffees, Juan Pablo’s took a slight lead over the others, so we were anxious to see where it was grown.
After a six hour drive, we arrived in the secluded village of Colón Genova, a 100-year old coffee growing settlement on the border of the departments of Nariño and Cauca. The next days we spent in the family house and learned with how much care the entire family treated picking, sorting and processing of the coffee. True to Colombian hospitality standards, we too were treated as family and showed around the farm and village by Juan Pablo and his father Efrain. We met other growers and talked about the needs of the community. We learned that Colón was largely left untouched by development programs, save the standard training programs of the FNC.
The example of Colón Genova shows just how greatly one can impact a community by buying coffee straight from smallholder farms. We calculated that if five containers of the village's specialty coffee could be sold through direct channels, there would be enough money to provide adequate food supplies, health care and education for everyone there. It didn’t take long before we started discussing how we could work together to reach these goals in the years to come. The first step was to upgrade their processing standards and export their 2015 crop to Europe.
When we left Nariño, a partnership was born - and we have been in touch with Juan Pablo at least weekly ever since to talk about quality upgrading, export licensing and a thousand other things. In May 2015, we financed 50% of the hulling machine that has allowed full processing to be in the hands of the Argote family, and in the autumn months we worked out all the bureaucratic details of how to export this coffee with the help of Hernando.
The coffee has now arrived and surpasses all expectations: it is even more floral and bright than what we cupped. It is safe to say that this is the best bet This Side Up has ever made. The coffee is now almost sold out and we are preparing for the new harvest. Juan Pablo has been taking specialty coffee growing / cupping courses and decided that this year's premium will go towards building raised beds instead of the patio they now use, as well as upgrading all washing processes to 1) allow fewer defects to create a cleaner cup, and 2) be able to efficiently process more of the village's coffee - eventually even all of it. In Juan Pablo's own words in a Facebook chat: "my goal is not to make myself rich but to share the profits of our quality with as many growers as we can. It´s my dream that one day we can make all of Genova´s growers participate in the exportation process and have a unique quality standard."
It's our dream to be working with someone who thinks like this!
A few weeks before our second harvest arrived in Rotterdam, Juan Pablo visited Holland to get a better idea of the world he is selling to. For two and a half weeks, both Lennart and some of the 2016 Field Baristas (Aukje, Janneke, Stefan, Skip) took him to see all the places that sell his coffee as well as give him trainings and lectures about aspects of specialty coffee that not so easy to learn back home: such as making a world-class espresso (Vinni Zwaan), agro-entrepreneurship (AgriTerra) and roasting (John Schot). In general, it was amazing to see our close friend become ever more knowledgeable and open-minded about specialty coffee and to discover the implications of knowing the Third Wave well for a coffee farmer. It's hard to state all the ideas that bursted from this beautiful shared experience - in any case we will all never forget this exchange!
The 2018 harvest brought about the first natural and anaerobic trials in close cooperation with Jelle van Rossum. Also, Juan Pablo developed very astute cascara cupping protocols together with the field baristas and created a nursery out of bamboo for new coffee varieties. First tests with organic fertilisation and fermented cascara were started, as well as first plans to increase shade in the region. Four new farmers of the Muñoz family were taken aboard and Argote labeled the coffees according to the actual single farmers who created the coffees!