In August 2016, Iconik participated in an origin trip and coffee auction sponsored by Royal Coffee and Inconexus in Southwestern Colombia. The following is the journal of Dylan Miller of Iconik Coffee Roasters
Our plane was forced to circle twice before landing at the Antonio Narino airport, 45 minutes outside of Pasto, the capital of the Narino department in SW Colombia. Later in the day, Henry Wilson from the coffee blog Perfect Daily Grind, will be forced to turn around and go back to Bogota for the night because of the winds.
Coming out of the terminal, I’m greeted by Pedro, the agronomist for InConexus, the Colombian consolidator and exporter hosting the event in tandem with Royal Coffee out of Oakland, California. Riding with me, Bob Fulmer and Alex Mason, both from Royal Coffee. Bob founded the company in 1978 and Alex is a green coffee buyer who has been with the company since the mid 1990s. I’ve never met a person as willing and eager to share his experience and extensive coffee knowledge with me as Alex. During the car ride from the airport to our lodge in Buesaco, named after the native Inga word for “cow’s back” because it’s perched on a small plateau in the midst of the rolling Andes, I realize that talking about the country of origin is not enough for these two. Coffee people speak in regions and varietals. It’s not just a “Colombian coffee,” it’s “a Caturra varietal from Finca el Guabo in the Narino Region.” More than traveling here to origin and learning about coffee at the producer level, one of the most valuable things I’ll take away from the trip is the opportunity to be surrounded by so many experienced and generous personalities. Every moment I seem to be immersed in three separate conversations concerning all aspects of the coffee supply chain, an invaluable experience for someone just entering this world.
Before making our way to the compound we’ll be occupying for the next week, we take a brief detour to what Alex aptly describes as the “Golden Gate” of Buesaco, a joke that consistently draws laughs from the native Colombians. The winds are strong enough that we have to brace ourselves against them. The land is drier than I had imagined, though we have come at the very end of the three month dry ‘summer’ season.
Along the way we stop at a small restaurant and sample a plate of “los quimbolitos” a cake made of cornmeal, butter, egg, cheese and raisins and wrapped in achira leaves that resembles a tamale in both taste and texture. We also have our first cup of Colombian coffee and it’s not the best. In most coffee producing nations, the good stuff goes out and the locals, if they drink coffee at all, drink the dregs. Increasing internal consumption of specialty grade coffee within the country of origin is an idea broached by Mayra Orellana-Powell, Royal’s Information Officer in Honduras who will also be arriving soon.
Arriving at our camp, we are greeted with fruit cups and tomatillo juice and the sounds of Colombian rock music playing as a group of Colombian students lounge by the pool. Only Bob, Alex, Mayra, her husband Lowell and myself have made it to the complex for tonight. Beginning tomorrow, the rest of the roasters will arrive. After a nearly 24 hour trip from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to Houston to Bogota to Pasto to Buesaco, I can use the time to catch up on sleep.