Two Colombian farmers explain their pursuit of sustainable quality coffee with Nespresso


Cultivating the best of Colombian coffee

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Colombian coffee farmers Juan Carlos Martínez and Olga Lucía Otero are from two very different parts of the country, yet what they have in common is decisive. They are among some 40,000 coffee smallholders participating in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in Colombia. Recently both of them sold their highest quality coffee to Nespresso for the recent Nespresso Colombian Terroirs Limited Edition Grands Crus.

"We are transforming our coffee farm into a coffee business. And our business is to produce the best coffee in the world."

Juan Carlos Martínez,
coffee farmer from Socorro, Santander, Colombia

Transforming a long tradition of coffee in Santander

For Juan Carlos in Socorro, Santander, coffee farming has been a way of life for generations. Santander was one of the first regions in Colombia to produce coffee commercially in the 19th century.

“Growing up working with coffee, we know we must strive for quality. Because coffee that is sold improves our quality of life. It’s a message that was passed on to us from our parents when we were children, coffee is our culture. Without coffee, there is no other life for us,” he says.

Juan Carlos is proud of himself and his community for producing some of Colombia’s finest hand picked coffee. At some 1,600 metres above sea level, Socorro has a very dry and warm climate, and coffee has been traditionally grown beneath a canopy of shade trees that maintain the biodiversity of the region. “Our coffee landscape is healthy and holds a lot of life. The coffee we grow is organised around other crops such as banana, yucca, tangerines and oranges. They serve to feed our family and the people who help on the farm.”


Developing on farm best practices to create shared values

While producing quality coffee has always been important, it is especially since Juan Carlos began working with Nespresso that improvements became most noticeable. Since he first acquired Rovira farm some 15 years ago, it has doubled in size to 6 hectares, with 30,000 coffee plants.

“We started paying more attention to things on the farm. Keeping things organised, disposing of rubbish properly. Through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program and Rainforest Alliance certification process, we have become more productive. For instance, we have learned how to base the amount and kind of fertiliser on proper soil analysis, which saves us money and also helps the environment. The premium we receive is also motivation for us to continuously improve the quality of our beans.”

Juan Carlos also notes how the focus on producing highest quality coffee has informed his approach to coffee farming in general. “Our parents passed on to us their knowledge about coffee, but as the younger generation we have started to look at it differently. We are transforming our coffee farm into a coffee business. And our business is to produce the best coffee in the world.”


Improving quality of coffee and quality of life in Cauca

Further south near the equator, Olga Lucía Otero in Inzá, Cauca, took a slightly different route to coffee, which is her livelihood today. “Before I started growing coffee, I only knew it in the cup. My family had an ice cream parlour where we sold coffee, juice and red wine. It was only when I met my husband 22 years ago, that the whole world of coffee was opened up to me,” she explains.

"We have invested the additional income we have gained through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in our farm, in our children’s education, and in the livelihood of our family and that of our workers."

Olga Lucía Otero,
coffee farmer from Inzá, Cauca, Colombia

14 years ago, Eibar José, Olga Lucía’s husband and a coffee farmer himself, gave his wife part of his land to manage on her own. Since then she has run La Esperanza, a small coffee farm of around 4,000 coffee plants growing in Cauca’s rich volcanic soil at 1,800 metres above sea level. In addition to running her farm, the mother of two also is the coordinator of the local chapter of the Association of Female Coffee Producers.

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program launched in Cauca in 2005, and Olga Lucía’s husband joined the program a year later, becoming an active participant and leader. Four years later, she was ready to join as well. In addition to the price premiums offered through the AAA Program, it was the social aspect that especially attracted her.

“In the beginning we had a workshop every month, where we would learn about a new coffee process. The AAA Program became like a family, and we are still in close contact with the agronomists. They guide us, they listen to us and if there is anything we don’t understand, they help us.”


Long-term partnership for continuous improvement

Olga Lucía most recently worked with Nespresso agronomists to apply new, late harvesting techniques that the company first developed for the Limited Edition Grand Cru Naora. Coffee beans were hand picked at maximum maturity, meaning one to two weeks later than usual. The harvesters working on Olga Lucía’s farm had to take great care to pick the right cherries at the right moment, and not to drop or damage them. “The coffee we produce is very special, because we use the Nespresso techniques,” she says proudly.

Olga Lucía notes that even for seasoned coffee farmers like her husband, the AAA Program has provided the means to improve the productivity and overall quality of their farm.

“The support we have received through the AAA Program has been essential. Although my husband and his family have long been coffee producers, they did not have the techniques for things like composting, pest control, waste disposal, and farm organization. We now how much we are paying our employees, how to measure the quality of our harvest, and how much of a profit we are making. We have invested the additional income we have gained through the AAA Program in our farm, in our children’s education, and in the livelihood of our family and that of our workers.”


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