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We are beyond chuffed to present this delicious Typica lot from a truly innovative and highly regarded producer. We were totally bowled over by Oscar’s passion and attention to detail when we met him earlier this year and those qualities shine through in this unforgettable coffee. We get loads of tropical fruit like pineapple and watermelon with a candy-like, bubble-gum sweetness.
PRODUCER: Oscar Hernández
LOCATION: Los Nogales, Pitalito, Huila, Colombia
ALTITUDE: 1,870 - 2,000 masl
BAG SIZE: 150g
Approximately 80 years ago, Ricardo Hernández and Concepción Castillo arrived from Nariño to some fertile wastelands in Pitalito, ready to make their mark in the history of coffee. Upon finding this paradise they decided it was the perfect place to raise a family and eight children were born, who each dedicated their lives to the countryside. Among those eight brothers, one stood out, leading the family to be remembered forever in the world of coffee.
Ricaurte Hernández, youngest son of Ricardo Hernández and Concepción Castillo was born in 1952, a farmer who learned from the land the value of generosity, humility, and the ability to undertake. His profession was always coffee farming and he dreamed of being able to see his children grow up on his farm with the values he had learned. Ricaurte met his life partner Suldery Arango in Valle del Cauca, an enterprising woman who had coffee in her blood and with whom he would build a coffee empire hand in hand with their children, Olga Lucia, John Fredy, Liliana, Nancy, Paola, Oscar Fernando, Patricia, and Angie Julieth. His leadership in the region and commitment to the community led him to be the president of the community action board.
In the 1990s, Ricaurte and Suldery decided to emigrate to Caquetá to start cattle farming. Unfortunately, this business was unsuccessful, and they sold their land and returned to Los Nogales to grow coffee.
In 2005, Colombia revolutionised the world of coffee with the realisation of the first "Cup of Excellence" contest where more than 280 lots were submitted, with Los Nogales being awarded first place by a group of international juries. "It was a fortune for Huila, for Colombia, for the family because that split the history of coffee growing, they began to talk about special coffees before and after, and that contest made history split in two", Oscar Hernández, youngest son, and current administrator of the Los Nogales estate.
Ricaurte always wanted to promote the industry from other perspectives, giving added value to specialty coffee, encouraging new ways of treating the soil, seeking new ways to access markets and do business, a passion that he passed on to his children who would inherit this great responsibility.
Violence has always been present in the Colombian countryside and on February 17, 2013, while Ricaurte was on his way to the farm, he was killed by an armed group, making him one more victim of the endless violence that plagues the country. The coffee leader, a pioneer of high-quality coffee, an unforgettable symbol of courage and perseverance, left a legacy and an example for the thousands of farmers who earn a living from coffee plantations.
The blow to the family was also felt by a country that mourned his loss. They decided to sell the farm after that tragic event, to provide a better way of life for their mother. However, the youngest son Oscar Fernando - who at the time was serving in the National Navy - decides to leave his military career build upon the legacy left by his father. “For me, the best way to heal those wounds was to return to the farm, it was to continue with his legacy and feel him close, believe that he is proud of what we are doing as a family.”
Oscar Fernando Hernández, an industrial engineer and former naval non-commissioned officer, is the youngest of Ricaurte's sons and is currently the leader of the family business. His life since childhood has been spent in the fields of the Laboyos Valley. However, the strict upbringing that his father provided made him view the field as a punishment in his youth, diminishing his love for this work. His father supported Fernando in his decision to join the Navy and start his military career. “When I served in the military, I had my first experience away from the farm and I began to value freedom, the countryside, the family, the food that mom prepared... However, dad was afraid that we would have the same needs that he lived in the countryside and that's why he told me to study.”
Before enlisting as a non-commissioned officer, he studied at SENA as a technologist in environmental management, where he realised the importance of sustainable production, the reuse of materials, clean production, and environmental protection. "Every time I came on vacation, I helped my father with his work, I bought some lots, my project was always to return to the farm."
The years he served in the military changed his perception of what the field meant and after the loss of his father, he took up leadership of the project with a clear purpose, to turn the coffee world upside down and implement research, innovation and environmental protection whilst generating employment in the region. “I made the decision to start a company, but I always thought that this had to be profitable, that it provides decent employment, that it had a professional level, that it was well paid and that it would encourage people to continue studying."
The Los Nogales farm became a research and innovation centre where technology and biotechnology are utilised to improve every aspect of coffee production systems: from pulping and drying to transport, a company that strives to not only to generate quality coffee but also use technology that allows them to continue revolutionising the world of coffee as his father once did.
The Hernández family understand that great coffee begins with the plants. They aim to protect them as they would a member of their household, giving each the care and attention it needs to ensure that, through science, hard work, and love, they obtain the result that has given them success today.
The process begins with the selection of excellent seed stock and providing a balanced and natural diet, based on organic matter and microorganisms that will allow the coffee to develop the desired sensory characteristics. “What we want is to transform the organic matter that we have on the farm, making organic fertilisers to achieve good fertilisation of each coffee plant and in the end, it will give a quality grain.”
There are more than 30 pickers who are part of the team, that’s more than 30 families that benefit from these crops, each of them trained before the harvest to select and pick only the ripe fruits. Once picked, the harvested cherries are transported in fruit baskets that minimise the chance of damage before reaching the mill. There is a drinking water treatment plant here which ensures that all processes use clean water, guaranteeing that the hardness and the pH are optimal for fermentation.
An initial process of separation utilises a floatation tank where impurities like leaves, earth, twigs and even the odd under-ripe or damaged cherry floats to the top of a bath of water and can be easily removed, leaving just the highest quality fruits behind for a second, manual sorting process.
After the fruit has been disinfected, they are allowed to begin fermenting, exposed to oxygen, for 96 hours before they are submerged in water where an alcoholic fermentation takes over for 144 hours. For greater control, the coffee is fermented 200 litre bins, which allow the regulation of the temperature and greater homogeneity in the process. The sticky fruit is then mechanically stripped away using an eco-washer which allows them to use the least amount of water possible before being dried under shade for 96 hours at a temperature of 40°C, being moved twice a day to promote even drying.
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