Last 10th June 2023, our community spent a Saturday afternoon together to discover the Inmaculada Coffee Experience here in the comfort of smiling Sharjah. We kept it casual for this one and loved how our retail shop floor was brimming with the uplifting presence of new and old friends — from near and far — who made time to come all the way to our corner of the world on Maleha Road, Industrial Area 18 and cup with us!
Jorge Castro of Inmaculada Coffee Farms from Colombia, who are world-famous for their focus on the rarest coffee varieties, talked to us about what makes their particular coffee varieties so rare, how that rarity translates to flavors we enjoy, and that even go on to win championships, and why they have decided to focus on just the rarest of coffees.
It was a real treat that Sharjah was part of their UAE itinerary and, by hosting them, we had the privilege of bringing exquisite, almost mythical, coffees nearer to our community.
Productivity & Preserving the Immaculate Terroir
The Inmaculada coffee farms are situated in the heart of the Andes, surrounded by the Farallones Natural Park, at a maximum altitude of 2000 masl. Even the most delicate and demanding coffee trees thrive in this protected natural sanctuary because of its unparalleled environmental conditions, which include lower air temperatures, higher soil moisture, the right amount and intensity of sunlight, as well as oceanic winds from the Pacific, said to blow all afternoon, refreshing the plantation.
To remain in harmony with the beauty of the natural environment, Inmaculada implements an agroforestry system, where they intercrop coffee plants with shade trees. The shade trees bear fruits favored by birds and provide organic material that helps keep the land nutrient-rich and fertile. This interaction of agriculture with the surrounding greenery encourages biodiversity, increases carbon storage, and facilitates nutrient cycling — all in all, sustainably supporting productivity while allowing nature to regenerate.
Inmaculada Cofee Farms started with one 5 hectare-farm and have since grown to five farms encompassing 34 hectares, where only rare varieties like Eugenoides, Geisha, Sudan Rume, and Laurina are grown.
Realities & Triumphs of Rare Coffees
Just before we cupped, Jorge easily took us through factors that make a coffee considerably rare. These are limited availability and restricted distribution of the seed stock, more challenging cultivation due to the variety’s intrinsic physiology and nutritional needs, and inherently low yields amid the best conditions.
The financial and operational consequences of these factors inform production decisions at the farm level, such as the allocation of land across the varieties and the cadence of activities from cultivation (e.g. related to growing and renewing the coffee trees) and harvesting to post-harvest processing, along with market demand.
To illustrate, Jorge cited the example of reducing the area allocated to Laurina in favor of the mythical Eugenoides, due to a projected increase in their clientele’s requirements. He emphasized that in spite of a 3 to 4 times increase in the area dedicated to Eugenoides, the final green coffee volume will still be significantly lower than other varieties, hence its rarity and the associated prestige and price point.
Ultimately, the reward of producing rare coffees is twofold. First, because the aim is the highest quality and not the highest volumes, Inmaculada Coffee produces exquisite coffees without exhausting the natural bounties of the terroir. Second, the calibre of quality they produce has translated to some unprecedented and irreplicable flavor profiles coffee champions and the most discerning of coffee connoisseurs have come to love.
Finally, A Rendezvous with Rare Coffees
There were six mystery Inmaculada coffees, seamlessly set up for a blind cupping session on our retail shop floor.
Unlike previous cupping events, this time members of our team — Wilden Pretorius, Patricia Perello, Tirtha Adhikari, Purna Gaudel, Jumar Tugahan, Niroj Thakuri, and Michael Gono — implemented a modified cupping protocol to enhance everyone’s comfort and enjoyment.
As the reveal came at the end, everyone marveled upon learning that Coffee 6, which they had just tasted was the scarce and mystical Eugenioides — natural anaerobically processed. And, everyone's favorite Coffee 4 was a natural Geisha that will be gracing the Archers shelves and webshop in the very near future!
Co-creating the Future of Specialty Coffee Farmers
100 years in the agro-industry, initially in the sugarcane and palm sector, the Holguín-Ramos family ventured into specialty coffee in 2010. They saw specialty coffee as a way to give back more to the community in Pichindé, Cali, as their coffee plantation and processing facility would create more materially rewarding job opportunities and eventually spur increased economic activity in the area.
To contribute to tangibly improving the quality of life of more families and communities beyond their immediate home base, the family established the Fellows’ Farms Program. Fellows’ Farms is a platform for Cauca coffee farmers who cultivate and harvest high-quality coffee cherries to be relieved of what was turning out to be untenable costs of post-harvest processing for them.
The Fellows' Farms Program
The Inmaculada team learned of the Cauca coffee farmers’ struggle at the start of 2022, when they had the chance to meet them. The Cauca farmers disclosed their difficulties around the cost of producing specialty coffees amid the challenges posed by climate change.
Inmaculada’s pitch to play a part in the solution was to begin buying small batches of their cherries at a premium, adding bonus payments according to the quality of their harvests, and then processing the cherries at the Inmaculada facility.
Seeing how well the Fellows had benefitted from their involvement, the Inmaculada team reinforced their engagement through educational drives, promoting the agroforestry concept alongside practical knowledge to improve cultivation and harvesting practices.
Currently, the Fellows comprise Cauca-based farmers in municipalities Tambo, Piendamó and Caldono. Collectively, their farms span 60 hectares grown with Colombian common varieties.
Public Cupping at Archers
Spreading the joy of specialty coffee has always been at the heart of Archers. When there’s a chance to do so in a relaxed, social, and substantial way, we go for it.
It’s usually like this with our public cupping events, where we meet with old and new friends to taste and savor some of the world’s finest specialty coffees together, and having the specialty coffees’ producer present with us just makes the experience more memorable and fruitful.
That’s because, like Jorge, our producing partners generously give us glimpses into the circumstances that make their coffees unique, and everyone comes to appreciate the coffees more because of this. On top of that, a lot of us find our interest piqued enough to invest in learning about specialty coffee more deeply.
At Archers, public cupping is complimentary, open to all comers, and set up so everyone is comfortable and gets the most out of the experience.
If you missed this one, we missed you too! But, there will be more for sure. So stay tuned to our Instagram, subscribe to our newsletter, and catch you here at Archers soon!