INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY SPECIAL RELEASE
Diana Luleidy Hurtado Jimenez and Isabel Ulcue Menza are two of the many incredible women we have the pleasure of working with at origin.
They both continually work to improve the lives of the women in their community through speciality coffee.
This Castillo coffee comes from producer Diana Luleidy Hurtado Jimenez. She owns a 20-hectare farm in Uribe, a village in the El Tambo municipality of Cauca, Colombia. Colombia invests far more than many coffee producing countries in scientific coffee research, as coffee is incredibly important to the country's economy. Colombia's National Center for Coffee Investigation (Cenicafe) is one of the world's leading researchers in developing coffee cultivars aimed at improving farmers' well-being while also producing high-quality coffee. This research centre is responsible for many of the cultivars developed within the country over the last 60 years, with Colombia (the cultivar) developed in advance of Colombia's first coffee leaf rust outbreak, hitting the country in 1983. Developed further to defend against additional threats such as Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), cultivation of Colombia eventually led to Castillo, officially given to coffee growers in May 2005.
Reserving seven hectares of the farm for coffee, Diana devotes the majority to the Castillo variety. Diana is a young producer who began with a 600-tree plot her parents gave her, now also a member of the women's association AMUSCAFE. Standing for Asociación de Mujeres Agropecuarias de Uribe, AMUSCAFE is an organization of women farmers and landowners in El Tambo, a municipality within Cauca. Their mission is to improve their families' quality of life through coffee farming, contributing positively to their community by working together and sharing resources, knowledge, and support. This is a group of highly entrepreneurial and progressive women. The central theme running through their work is a desire to override the prevalent machismo culture placing their future directly in their own hands. With some funds provided by the government, and working closely with Banexport—a coffee development company—AMUSCAFE have made incredible progress in improving quality. 65% of their total coffee volume this year was graded as specialty coffee, an increase from 40% in the previous year, and 20% before that—an amazing achievement!
This coffee is a brilliant example of the quality the efforts of Diana Hurtado and her fellow members of ASMUCAFE have achieved, bursting with guava sweetness and black tea complexity.
This coffee is produced by Isabel Ulcue Menza, from the El Aguila region of Santander de Quilichao, in Cauca, Colombia. Growing coffee here has historically been challenging, with the land itself taken over to grow illegal coca plants for FARC forces who occupied the area during years of infighting. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (named FARC after the initials in Spanish) are Colombia's largest rebel group, founded in 1964 as the armed wing of the Communist Party. Their principal founders were small farmers and land workers who banded together to fight against the staggering levels of inequality in Colombia at the time. Following the June 27 ceasefire in 2017, the government attempted to incentivise local farmers to grow crops other than coca plants, such as citrus or coffee.
With international prices for coca plummeting, farmers wanting a crop allowing them to thrive, and the desire to live a life free of threats, violence, and intimidation, coffee is now known as a 'peace crop'. Against this backdrop, Isabel grows coffee from a tiny 1-hectare farm, with just over half the crop planted as Castillo trees. She learned coffee farming from an early age, taught by her grandparents, who also owned coffee farms. While at first she sold her coffee as a commodity crop, today she focuses entirely on creating specialty lots.
Isabel is not a member of any smallholder association. Instead, she is part of an unregistered association called 'Las Inmensas del Cauca'. All the women members are family and share the surname 'Menza', with the association name translating to 'The Immense of Cauca' (or 'The Immense Women of Cauca', since "inmensas" is gendered). It's a multigenerational group located in and around the village of Aguila, Cauca, a region with an influential indigenous culture. They work together to improve their processes and to raise the quality of their lives through specialty coffee. Because of the success and dedication of groups such as Las Inmensas del Cauca, new generations in Colombia are seeing the value in coffee farming, and a potential, conflict-free future. This coffee is full of apricot sweetness balanced with orange blossom, showing the fantastic quality coffee from this area of Colombia.