SINGLE ORIGIN ISABEL MENZA
Apricot + Orange Blossom
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.