Astrid Medina Pereirra wins Colombia’s Cup of Excellence 2015

Until this past March, Astrid Medina Pereirra wasn’t especially remarkable as a Colombian coffee farmer. The 38-year-old mother of a seven-year-old boy and university aged daughter inherited the Buenavista farm she shares with the other women in her family from her father-in-law. The property is located in the municipality of Planadas, in Colombia’s Tolima Department, and of the land’s 15 hectares, 10 grow coffee. Her family lives in the small town of Gaitania, a short motorbike ride from the Buenavista farm. The farm sits at 1800 and 200 metres in altitude, and in her experience she’s developed a taste for not only improving productivity, but looking to improve the quality of her crop to bring her into the specialty realm. “We selected the best lots to make the blend with beans from different altitudes. We think that most of the coffee’s success is in the blend itself,” says Pereirra. As of March, Pereirra’s efforts have helped distinguish her as a rather remarkable coffee farmer, having won first place in Colombia’s 2015 Cup of Excellence (COE) competition with an impressive score of 90.2 points. The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) worked in partnership with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), a United States-based non-profit organisation, to identify the highest quality coffee amongst thousands of entries from Colombia. Pereirra’s win, as with any COE win, was no easy feat. After a strict domestic pre-selection and selection process, Sherri Johns from ACE oversaw blind sampling evaluations from 25 judges from 9 – 13 March. Flying from countries including Australia, Canada, China, and Japan, the International Jury, alongside the National Jury, used a set quality criteria to evaluate the coffee. The coffee was judged on its aroma, acidity, sweetness, cleanness of the cup, flavour, mouth-feel, aftertaste, and balance. Each coffee was cupped a minimum of five times during the process. The International Jury, as well as the National Jury, scored 31 coffees 85 points or more on the Specialty Coffee Association of America scale in each session. The coffees with scores of 85 points or more are now considered Winning Lots. Of the 31 Winning Lots, 19 come from the Huila region of Colombia, seven come from the Tolima region, four come from the Norte de Santander region, and one comes from Antoquia. The second highest score was 89.63, which was awarded to a coffee grown on the La Florida farm in the Acevedo, Huila region of Colombia. Following closely with a score of 88.85 was a coffee on the El Porvenir farm, from the same municipality as Pereirra’s first-place winning coffee. Pereirra says there are also many people to thank for the quality coffee produced on her farm.“It’s an understanding between employees, pickers, the farm’s manager, and owners,” she says. “If one of them was [out of sync], that would affect us all, but we speak the same language, we look for and achieve the same objective.” For the past five years a farm manager has assisted the Pereirra family to almost completely renew all of the farm’s crops. Pereirra acknowledges that environmental conditions had been favourable for her too. “The climate and soils are very healthy, the region is very new, we never do burns, we let organic material do its work, and fertilise the soil when it decomposes. The water for the post-harvest processing is also very pure,” she says. As more farmers like Pereirra are rewarded for their efforts in improving the quality of their coffee, Colombia’s specialties are proving a force to be reckoned with. GCR

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