la Alsacia - COLOMBIACAFE CAPITALE
Hacienda San Alberto
Juan Pablo Villota
Central Andes Mountain Range
1600 - 1650
parabolic & silo drier
MEDIUM FRUITY SWEETNESS - ROUND BODY - BLACK GRAPES
BLACK TEA - DRIED FIG - CACAO
San Alberto - La Alsacia
La Alsacia is Hacienda San Alberto’s link to the farm’s past, to when the farm was still called La Alsacia before Juan Pablo’s grandparents bought the farm. The lot corresponds to the central part of the farm, lying at an altitude between 1600 and 1650m. Here, the temperature always stays stable thanks to the warm winds moving upwards from the valley, which prevents the temperature to drop much during the night.
After harvest, they cherries were selected and processed following the quality standards of the Fine Selection. Characteristical of the hacienda’s production, this San Alberto La Alsacia lot is a bold and straightforward coffee with a balanced profile. A medium fruity sweetness on a round body reminds of black grapes. Roast gently to bring out black tea notes.
Hacienda San Alberto
San Alberto is a coffee farm you can easily write entire pages about. First, location facts: the farm lies in Buenavista in Quindío, the smallest city in Colombia’s smallest department. The soil is predominantly volcanic and the area has a stable temperature between 18 and 23°C year-round. The farm’s main crop (about 70-80% of the total harvest) is produced in April, mitaca falls around September – October.
When you visit the farm, you understand where the small town got its name from. Standing amidst the coffee trees you overlook the departments of Quindío and Valle del Cauca, while seeing the western ridge of the Andes mountain range in the distance. Sunsets on the farm’s coffee bar terrace are really priceless, especially when thunderstorms light up the sky far away.
The background story
Juan Pablo’s grandparents, Gustavo and Melba acquired the first part of the farm in 1972. When they acquired the farm it was called La Alsacia, but they renamed it San Alberto in honour of their deceased son. They managed the farm together until Juan Pablo’s grandfather died in a road accident with the iconic Willy jeep. In 1996, Juan Pablo’s parents Eduardo and Olga took over the business and started changing the course towards quality. Eduardo Villota used to run a rice producing company and worked a lot with plant genetics and crop optimization. With his knowledge, he started the first transformation phase of the farm towards high-quality coffee production.
Ten years later, Juan Pablo and his brother Gustavo came into play. They decided to take part in the Villota’s coffee legacy and steer Hacienda San Alberto to the model specialty producing farm it is now. They implemented practices they learned in France’s wine production sector to reach an even higher “standard”. The team deliberately chose a path of quality, technology and strong control over production. Hacienda San Alberto also obtained UTZ certification as a guideline for good administrative and agricultural practices. Along the way, two lots were added to San Alberto: the higher altitude La Ponderosa (1700-1800m) and the lower altitude El Paraíso (1500-1600m).
Nowadays, the farm itself is a picture perfect example of what specialty coffee in Colombia could look like, with the right knowledge and dedication of the producer. The team consists of two units: on one side, the agronomist José Jaír and his team of field managers and pickers; and the quality control team headed by Juan Pablo himself on the other. José Jaír oversees the entire production and selection steps until the dried parchment coffee rests in the farm’s small bodega in grainpro bags. Next, a sample of each bag goes to the farm’s lab for evaluation where they decide over the final destination of each lot.
Quíntuple selection & Fine selection
San Alberto typically produces two quality lines: the famed Quíntuple Selection and the Fine Selection. The Quíntuple selections are San Alberto’s flagship coffees. Lots with this label undergo a five-step selection process along the production chain. After a day’s harvest, the cherries are brought to the farm’s wet mill where the qualities are separated by flotation. Floaters are separated into the hopper with lower grades, not destined for export. The cherries that sink move on to the cherry selection tables, where 100% ripe cherries are separated from 80-100% ripe cherries. This is where the first separation between Quíntuple (100% ripeness) and Fine selection (+80%) starts.
The cherries are manually selected on picking tables before moving to the pulping step. The batches are pulped separately and the sticky parchment is moved between three tanks with pumps to wash off the mucilage. That same day, the Fine selection is moved on to the driers after washing. The manual sorting team does another selection on the wet parchment before it moves to the parabolic driers to take off the initial moisture.
Gentle mechanical drying
The type of mechanical drier San Alberto uses is heated by burning milled parchment instead of carbon. Hot air is blown into a five-meter high drying tower with three levels, in which the temperature never surpasses 40°C. Each level has a hatch. After seven hours to nine hours, the quality manager pushes the parchment through this hatch so it falls to a lower level. By moving around the parchment like this, the coffee dries in a soft and homogeneous way. Extremely important in this process is the dedication of the night staff, who could just as well get a couple of hours sleep extra by speeding up the process. After eighteen to twenty hours, the coffee reaches the desired moisture of 11%. Next, the parchment is stored in grainpro bags with their corresponding traceability tag. Storing the parchment in grainpro is an additional measure to protect the coffee against the relatively high humidity in the area. The bags go to the bodega for a resting period of eight days to stabilize.
In the next step, the quality team comes into action. José Jaír’s production team sends a sample for evaluation both to Almacafe and to the farm’s own lab. Based on the cupping results, the quality team decides if a lot fits the profile for the Quíntuple selection or the Fine selection. Feedback goes back and forth between José Jaír’s team and Juan Pablo’s to understand the results and the profiles. Lastly, each lot in its respective category goes to the FNC warehouses, where the storage conditions are less humid.