Cooperativa Asopep, in Tolima
We are Colombian coffee artisans committed to supporting coffee-growing communities in Colombia beyond Fairtrade coffee in a sustainable and ethical way. We do this primarily by sourcing the best single-origin coffee varieties, which are high quality and combat the poverty generated by lower-quality blends.
Our mission is to fundamentally change the way coffee beans are traded to support farmers and their communities, solving the problems of lack of education, health services, and life opportunities. It’s a big aim, but we’re passionately driven to take small steps in the right direction to reach our goal.
The way we do this is by paying above market price to our farmers to ensure they receive enough to cover all production costs and improve their livelihoods by being able to support their families and grow their business.
But we go further, by building close long-term relationships with our small farms in Colombia in order to educate farmers about accessing the specialty coffee market overseas and support their development. By doing this, we hope to bring social benefits to their communities as a whole. We also invest in art and creative projects that aim to tell the stories of the communities behind our specialty coffee beans.
Our philosophy leads us to believe that if our coffee drinkers know more about the communities that make their coffee and that their purchase has made a positive difference to someone’s life, their coffee will taste even better.
In small villages on coffee-growing mountains, Colombian farmers grow Arabica coffee trees that need shade - so they also grow bananas, guanabanas, oranges, mandarins, avocados, and so on. On Sundays, farmers go down to the nearest village to sell their produce. As they bring a variety of products, they are less exposed to the volatility of coffee market prices, thus they can participate more broadly in the economy. They make small profits so they can then buy other products.
They also try not to use pesticides as they don't want to damage any of the other plants and trees, so the overall production becomes organic and the environment doesn't degrade. The lush green environment helps to protect their coffee trees, which they care for almost one by one. The coffee cherries are hand-picked by all the family and they only choose the cherries that are red, almost purple – this confers our beans their unique aromas.
This is a beautiful process – but it only becomes sustainable when it can be repeated. The entire process takes care of the environment, reduces poverty, and improves the social fabric at once. This is a perfect sustainable circle. However, the external economic forces driving market prices down can disrupt it completely.