Argote

The story about how one dedicated farmer can take his own coffee and the community around him into the world of specialty coffee.

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Argote

Sometimes, coffee farmers are not even aware of the quality they produce. The Argote family was introduced to the world of specialty coffee just three years ago. Now, Juan Pablo is fully engaged in the specialty scene, doing experiments and finding every opportunity to improve his coffee. This is also how he inspires the community around him, bringing the entire Nariño region up the quality ladder.

This way of working inspired us to work together with Juan Pablo and his father Efrain, who owns the central piece of land and processing equipment. Working closely together has already resulted in beautiful experiments and quality improvements. These led to such a demand, that now Shokunin is the exclusive roaster to work with Efrain and Juan Pablo’s coffee. This leads to even more direct feedback, more control and more room for innovation and premiums.

The microlots

During our visit to the Argote farm in June 2018, we had the opportunity to plan sustainable projects together. This allowed us to make experimental microlot selection, and different quality selections on one single farm. Therefore, we now have the opportunity to offer four different microlots, each with their own flavours and price.

Shokunin selection

Part of the farm called La Vega that felt very natural and had a lot of potential, especially since the coffee trees were still very young and there was a lot of natural shade. We decided to adopt this part of the farm and focus on quality improvements here, without risking the entire crop by keeping La Casa (see below) consistent).
Flavour: regular Argote crop, but with more selective picking and the natural circumstances should make it sweeter and more refined.
Price: regular price + $0.5 premium by This Side Up + $1 premium by Shokunin for selective picking.

Natural

Colombian naturals became so popular, that we decided to try them out on this farm as well.
Flavour: much more intense body and sweetness, but lacking some clarity.
Price: regular price + $0.5 premium by This Side Up + $1 premium by Shokunin for experimental efforts.

Cherry fermented honey

An experiment to see if we could combine natural fermentation with the washed process for more clarity.
Flavour: ???
Price: regular price + $0.5 premium by This Side Up + $1 premium by Shokunin for experimental efforts.

La Casa

Part of the farm that we didn’t adopt like we did with La Vega. This is the crop of Efrain Argote that we’ve been working with until now, and that we still use to measure the effectiveness of our projects on La Vega.
Flavour: classic Colombian sweetness like red fruits, with a chocolate and Darjeeling tea body.
Price: regular price + $0.5 premium by This Side Up + $1 premium by Shokunin to pay for new raised beds (to be built in November 2019).

The story

The Argote family (in fact, the grandfather (Raimundo) of Juan Pablo’s grandfather (Lucho)) brought the first coffee seeds to Nariño. Over the years, this family got deeply embedded in the local culture, along with its cousins, the Muñoz family. Lucho Lasso Argote started the finca they still operate today. Nowadays, it is run by Efrain, Juan Pablo’s father, but also connects with other local families to collectively produce better coffee every year. Since the income of over 90% of the local population depends on coffee production, this family’s history is still of great importance.

Through a mutual friend, Lennart Clerkx from This Side Up got in contact with the Argote family in 2014. Upon his first visit, he found their coffee to taste wonderful and immediately got to work. First things on the list were to obtain hulling equipment so that the Argote family could fully process and export their coffee on their own, safeguarding the extreme quality protocols they follow. After that, they started working on refining the taste of the coffee with the use of new drying beds, fermentation tanks and sustainable feedback loops. Juan Pablo and his father Efrain were very open to feedback from exporters and roasters and combined it with their own experience to take huge steps towards sustainable quality.

Nowadays, the Argote family is quite famous in the region for inspiring other farmers to work on their quality. More and more people want to join the Argote collective and collaborate with them, so that by now there is actually already a queue. By using this coffee, we increase the demand for the coffee, and therefore allow more farmers to join the collective, work on quality and get paid more fairly.

The microclimate

The Argote farm is located in the village of Génova in the Nariño region in Colombia. The shape of the mountains allow the warm, moist winds from the valley to blow up at night, which makes coffee cultivation viable at extremely high altitudes. On the other hand, cold trade winds from the south also find this region. This combination makes the coffee plants produce more sugars, resulting in more refined acidity in the end product.

Temperatures can vary between 9 and 30 degrees Celsius in the mountains, but usually stay between 16 and 24 degrees in the city. The coffee is cultivated without the use of pesticides and with an eye on the organic composition of the land. By not messing with the biodiversity, the soil is reinforced and will produce more stable coffee of higher quality. It is further strengthened by the use of natural shade trees like avocado, orange, lemon, bamboo and banana.

Key achievements

2015
March: Installation of an own hulling machine, allowing independent processing and exporting.

2016
April: Built raised drying beds, installed fermentation tanks and exported first cascara.

June: Dutch coffee specialists visited the Argote farm through the Field Barista Project by This Side Up to get to know each other and exchange knowledge. One of these was Aukje van Rossum, who is part of the Shokunin Coffee Collective. Started working on cascara as a viable export product.

December: Juan Pablo Argote visited the Netherlands to experience his coffee as an end product and to meet roasters and baristas.

2017
June: Second Field Barista Project. First organic fertilizer trials.

June: Fermentation experiment with Shokunin, to analyse the effect of 4 different fermentation times on the flavour of this coffee.

August: Cupped coffees from Argote’s pickers’ own productions; rewarded best (Iveth Muñoz) with $1/kg premium.

2018
June: Third Field Barista Project. I went to Colombia to work on the new harvest. New experiments were discussed with Juan Pablo, of which one was executed during the visit (see right picture below), and one afterwards. Organized meetings and cuppings to extend the specialty network in Nariño and Cauca.

June: reserved the entire La Vega lot for Shokunin with a $1/kg quality premium for the quality of the picked cherries after looking at this with the pickers. This premium was divided: 50cts went to the pickers, resulting in a 40% pay increase. The other 50cts went to Efrain, owner of the farm, who used it to increase his drying beds’ capacity.

Use this link to read more about the 2018 field trip.

July: met Juan Pablo at World of Coffee in Amsterdam and served his coffee at the Colombian Coffee Federation booth. Gave him seeds of two new varieties (Red Bourbon from Rwanda and SL28/34 from Kenya) to plant on a new piece of land.

October: paid the total quality premium of $1.5/kg in advance (shipment ETA december) to fund current projects. Nursery for the new, exotic varieties was built (see left picture above). Reserved rest of Efrain Argote’s harvest, meaning all of Efrain and Juan Pablo’s coffee will be Shokunin’s, allowing for more quality control and future projects.

December: made an inventory of the incoming crop, and decided on how to go about the premium pricing this year. We decided to charge a small premium over the main La Casa crop that will be used directly to fund new, larger drying beds. The coffee dried on beds had a much better shelf life than the patio coffee, so our goal is for all the production to be dried on raised beds in 2 years time.

Brewing recipe | Filter

Brewing method: V60
Coffee dose: 18 grams
Water dose: 300 grams
Water temperature: rolling boil
Brew time: 3:00
Additional comments: use multiple small pours to extend brewing time.

Brewing recipe | espresso

Brew ratio: 2.1
Brew time: 29 seconds
Water temperature: 92.5 degrees Celsius
Pressure: 8.9 bars

Thank you

Juan Pablo and Efrain consciously made the decision to put more time and effort into their product. They did not do this for financial purposes, but to explore the potential of their own coffee and their neighbours’. By purchasing this coffee, you do not only support the Argote family, but you create an opportunity for them to engage more farmers in their practices. They have inspired enough people that there is plenty supply; by creating demand we can meet it, stabilize and guarantee sales and inspire more and more people in Nariño!

Additional information
Weight N/A
Region

Génova, Nariño, Colombia

Altitude

1,950 – 2,000 m.a.s.l.

Variety

90% Castillo, 10% Caturra

Processing

Fully washed, 18hr dry fermentation, dried on patio & raised beds

Flavour

Heavy and dark aromas like chocolate. Mellow, juicy sweetness like red fruit. Soft yet present body like Darjeeling tea and chocolate.

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