Cup of Excellence Finalist: Finca Alcatraz
Region: Oporapa, Huila, Colombia
Variety: Bourbon & Caturra
Growing Altitude: 1780 masl
Processing Method: Washed
Length of Relationship: 8 years
Cupping Score: 88.17
Wilfredo Ule Vargas
You learn quickly when you’re sourcing coffee that your job is really all about the relationships you build: who you meet in the field, who you trust. When you meet someone who loves coffee as much as you do, it shows in everything that they do. These are the moments that we search for on our trips to origin.
We’ve been sourcing coffee from Wilfredo since our very first trip to Colombia eight years ago. In Wilfredo, we saw passion, a spark, stewardship, and commitment. We saw these attributes in the coffee, too. Over the years, Wilfredo has become a friend, and we look forward to seeing what he creates.
A Colombian Cup of Excellence Finalist
We’ll be the only coffee company in the U.S. to carry Finca Alcatraz this year, and maybe ever. We’ve bought many lots from Wilfredo in the past, but this year, his Finca Alcatraz was a finalist in Colombia’s Cup of Excellence (COE).
The COE is a prestigious set of competitions and auctions for the finest coffees in the world. Coffees entered into a national COE are cupped blind by a round of national jurors and later cupped by an additional international jury. That means that the specific region and producer are not known to the jurors when they are tasting it. They have to evaluate each coffee on taste alone.
The winning coffees are sold through a global auction system and fetch premium prices. This is not a marketing stunt. By giving these coffees this level of attention on a global stage, COE gets prices that reflect the coffee’s true worth and the farmers’ efforts. The competition ensures coffee and people aren’t devalued, and it helps farmers earn resources to enhance their operations and keep growing their businesses.
From the COE:
“Since 1999, the Cup of Excellence (COE) program has set the standard for the increased premiums that farmers have been able to receive for their exemplary coffees. It continues to build a much more transparent infrastructure and gives farmers the tools needed to improve the economic model of their farms.”
Transparency in Coffee
All COE coffees come with great transparency into variety, farm, processing, quality, and price. Anyone can search for the price paid for each green coffee sold at COE. In this case, Wilfredo's coffee sold at auction for $13.90 per pound, and after importing costs we paid $15.40 per pound. For us, the transparency of the auction process is a huge benefit, because it empowers the farmers as well as the consumer.
Markups on whole bean coffee and coffee drinks are generally high, and our pricing models follow industry standards. This coffee will sell online and in our shops for $32 per 12oz bag, which is a significantly lower markup than other coffees we carry, especially when you factor in roast shrinkage and waste, packaging, and business overhead.
So why carry this coffee if we will make less money on it? Well, without sounding cheesy, it’s because we care about it, and Wilfredo, a lot.
The price tag may seem high if you’ve never purchased a very limited coffee before, but with this kind of transparency into the process—and the COE’s stamp of approval—everyone involved can rest assured that they are getting something of value and that the people who made the coffee were fairly compensated.
Named in honor of the movie The Rock (seriously!), Finca Alcatraz is not floating in the Pacific like our own Alcatraz but rather is situated in Huila, Colombia — one of the world’s greatest coffee-growing regions. Pitalito is the largest town and acts as a hub for most coffees grown in Southern Huila. It’s not uncommon for us to bump into other coffee buyers from around the world at one of the few hotels in town.
About a 30-minute drive from the nearby town of Oporapa, Finca Alcatraz is located high up on the mountain with an impressive south-facing view. Wilfredo’s home sits at the base of the farm with the highest and furthest extremities leaving us out of breath when we agree to make the hike up.
Finca Alcatraz is split into various plots of land, some dedicated to growing varieties like Gesha, Typica, or the newest craze in Colombia, Pink Bourbon. A few years ago, he turned over the management of a sizeable lot on his farm to his eldest son, Juan Camilo. His son chose to name the lot “The Rock” and we have been purchasing coffee from father and son for two years now.
Wilfredo keeps meticulous records of each harvest, and even takes the time to mill, roast, and cup each of these individual lots. He measures factors like weight, what lot the cherries come from, what variety is planted on the lot, the length of fermentation and ambient temperature, length of drying time, etc. This makes Wilfredo’s deliveries incredibly consistent. When something stands out on the cupping table we share our details with him to pinpoint what change in his processing increased the cup quality.
Wilfredo knew when he tasted this coffee that it was something special, so he set it aside and entered into the competition. In many ways, this is a distillation of the best flavor qualities we have found in Wilfredo’s coffee for the past decade. This coffee is lively with distinct tropical fruit flavors of lychee, deep blackberry juiciness, and the soft sweetness of panna cotta. We can’t wait for you to try it.