In February, I attended the third annual Antioquia’s Best Cup, a government-sponsored event showcasing the region’s finest coffee. The event is a symbol of Antioquia’s efforts to educate its citizens, reduce violence, and promote economic prosperity.
The event also reflects a major public relations effort since, until recently, Antioquia’s coffee quality reputation has been overshadowed by that in other top regions like Cauca and Nariño. Antioquia has been working hard to change that on many fronts.
At the Best Cup, coffee buyers from around the globe were invited to cup the top 60 Antioquian coffees, and bid for them at an auction. The highest bidders then had the rare opportunity to meet the coffee producers. In attendance were veteran buyers such as Ryan Knapp (Madcap Coffee), Fred Lullfitz (Caravela Coffee), and Roger Rolland (Tierra Cafetera).
The coffee with the highest score and bid came from the farm of Silvia Elena Higuita, of Giraldo. Her lot sold for $31.50 per pound, the highest bid of any Antioquia’s Cup. It would have been the second-highest bid at last year’s Colombian Cup of Excellence, another of the country’s premier coffee competitions. Further examples of success include the farm owned by Conrado Antonio Marin of Jardin, whose lot was purchased by Alice 2046 Coffee of Korea. Conrado’s coffee earned the second-highest cupping score.
Thirty-five years a farmer in Antioquia, Conrado remembers a life constantly threatened by political instability and violence. That, too, has changed for the better. Daughter Leidy feels safe visiting her parents. Another daughter, Maria, participated in the New Coffee Growers camp (covered in the January/February Issue of Roast Magazine), a related, growth-focused event sponsored by the government. During time off from flight-attendant school, Maria helps her father sell the family’s coffee at the delosAndes Coffee Cooperative.
Conrado can now farm without intimidation and danger. His daughters are receiving an education and his family has health care, which is partly subsidized by the cooperative. Life in Antioquia is better for him and, it appears, many of his peers.
Mark Shimahara works in online marketing and is a photographer for Roast Magazine. In 2011, Mark went to coffee growing communities in Guatemala to volunteer with Coffee Kids and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Institute. Later that year he placed second in the World Siphonist Championships in Tokyo, Japan. In his free time he enjoys bike racing, and hitting up the coffee bars en route to his various destinations.