For such a young producer, Nestor has really made a name for himself over the last few years through his approach to processing and the complex, extraordinary flavour profiles he manages to produce consistently. This thermal shock lot tastes like elderflower lemonade with mint leaves and a sweetness like gummy bears.
LOCATION: El Diviso, Pitalito, Huila, Colombia
ALTITUDE: 1,750 masl
PRICE PAID: £14.44/kg
Five years ago, Nestor Lasso and his brother Adrian took over the family farm and branched out into specialty coffee and experimentation rather than simply growing coffee like their parents. Today, at 22 and 24, the two brothers have teamed up with Jhoan Vergara, also the child of a coffee farmer, to create El Diviso. El Diviso brings together the two-family farms, El Diviso (Nestor and Adrian Lasso) and Las Flores (Jhoan Vergara), close to the town of Pitalito, in the Huila region of Colombia.
These three young men partnered to unite their knowledge and improve quality and three years ago when they met Cat and Pierre, founders of CATA Export, they began a process of trial and error to define fermentation processes and protocols at the farm, with the aim to link these coffees directly to the UK market. This learning process has been time consuming and expensive but has resulted in some amazing lots which have been used in many barista competitions across Europe, recently in the winning routine at Brewers Cup in Ireland and the third place in Austria.
In Nestor’s own words:
I grew up in a vereda (locality, editor’s note.) called Normandia, near the town of Pitalito in the south of the Huila region. I always grew up on the farm and since I can remember the region has always been a coffee zone.
Here I had a very healthy childhood, everyone knows each other and it’s safe. The memories I have of my childhood are of playing in nature, playing hide and seek and I have always been super happy to be here.
In general, being a coffee producer is poorly paid and it is not very attractive. The only thing that allows producers not to starve is to eat the fruits and vegetables produced on the farm. In terms of material goods, we only have access to what is strictly necessary. Many young people therefore prefer to go to town to find an office job or a less physically demanding job because they think that the coffee is not worth it.
Beyond what specialty coffee brings economically, I have always had a passion for production. When I realized that specialty coffee offered a real possibility of economic development, and that in addition I could develop my knowledge of coffee production, and in particular the processes, I really got into it.
I understand more or less how the market works due to the close partnership we have with Cat and Pierre but also social networks allow us to see who is buying our coffees. They also allow us to see how specialty coffee is marketed in Europe.
Cat told me the importance of the sensory side of the business and she encouraged me to learn to cup to control the quality of what is produced and to understand the impact of the processes and whether they improve or not in the cup.
Also, in Colombia there is a program we followed funded by the Colombian state and today this program is recognized as the best coffee growing school in Latin America, called SENA.
We learned a lot at SENA, me and my brother. All the theoretical bases, the science of coffee processing… everything is taught there. But the reality of the job of coffee producer is learned in the field.
We must not forget that the price of coffee is very high at the moment reason why lot of producers want to know how we work, but we quickly identify people who are really motivated to produce specialty coffee, who come to ask us questions to learn with us and those who only see it as a temporary opportunity to earn money.
What really makes the difference is the passion that the producer can have for the coffee. If you’re not naturally passionate, you’ll never get the trick!
Often, some coffee growers here have a lot of money because they have a lot of land and the best machines possible. But specialty coffee does not interest them, they do not see the point of changing because they are not as passionate about coffee as we are.
I have seen that specialty coffee consumption has changed a lot in recent years in the country. Until recently, Colombians only drank coffee by-products, anything that could not be exported. But people here have realized that coffee is a much more noble product than it seems. Many producers today keep part of their harvest to roast it themselves and drink it at home. All the specialty coffee craze has really brought about a different way of looking at coffee.
The following carefully designed process was used for this lot:
- Cherries are hand picked, selecting only the ripest ones
- Cherries are rested for 16 hours at room temperature between 22 and 30°C
- The coffee is fermented anoxically in sealed plastic tanks for 38 hours between 16 and 18°C
- The cherries are transferred to pulping tanks and left to oxidate for 6 hours and the mosto, or must, from the fermentation is collected
- The cherries are pulped to remove the seed and then the seeds and sticky mucilage are left to oxidize for 6 hours
- The coffee is then submerged in water mixed with the must collected previously, and left to ferment for 24 hours at a temperature of 32°C
- The microbial activity is halted using a thermal shock, washing in hot water at 65-70°C and then in cold water at 15-16°C
- Drying is conducted under shade with a controlled temperature of 30°C for 18-24 days until a moisture content of 11% is achieved