The Finca El Ocaso Story

Oct 09, 2018Stephen Robertson

Finca El Ocaso is located just outside the historic town of Salento, in the Quindío department of Colombia. The estate, owned and operated by Gustavo Patino, rests on a lush Andes mountainside at 1900 meters above sea level - perfect conditions for high quality coffee production. Gustavo and his wife Gloria are avid naturalists, taking pride in the biodiversity of El Ocaso. Gloria loves flowers and keeps the 19th century farmhouse and surrounding grounds awash in blooms. This benefits Gustavo, who is an avid birder and photographer, and can often be found pointing out toucans and humming birds to the travelers who stop by the farm on their way in and out of Salento.

We began our relationship with Finca El Ocaso in early 2015. A young Colombian-American entrepreneur named Daniel Velasquez had recently started an import/export company called Campesino Specialty Coffee, and he was approaching roasters throughout the mid-Atlantic to pitch the single coffee in his portfolio: the Finca El Ocaso Classico — a blended harvest from the Salento, Colombia farm.

Daniel came to us at a time when we were searching for partners in building more direct relationships with specific coffee farms and we immediately built a great rapport, but more importantly, we fell in love with the coffee from El Ocaso. The El Ocaso Classico had the brown sugar sweetness typical of quality Colombian coffees, but above that foundational flavor was an intense malic acidity that made your mouth water like biting into a super-sweet Fuji apple. We couldn’t get enough, so we immediately agreed to purchase as much as we could to bring to our customers.

In September of 2015, Richmond, Virginia hosted the UCI World Road Cycling Championships. For nearly a year ahead of that event, the UCI advance team had become loyal Blanchard’s Coffee fans, which led to us become the official coffee roaster of the event, developing a UCI branded retail package with designers at The Martin Agency. Because of our love of our new coffee, and the popularity of cycling in Colombia, Finca El Ocaso Classico was a natural fit for this release.

Throughout the next few harvest cycles, Finca El Ocaso remained a seasonal favorite at Blanchard’s, while Daniel diligently worked to expand Campesino Specialty Coffee to include representation of farms throughout Colombia and neighboring countries. During this time, in an effort to deepen the relationship between Blanchard’s, Finca El Ocaso, and Campesino Specialty Coffees, members of the Blanchard’s team visited the farm to learn more about its operation, potential, and the people who own and operate it. During this first visit, the Blanchard’s team worked with farm owner, Gustavo Patino, to isolate the Red Tabi varietal from the Finca El Ocaso Classico blend, and import a small amount into the United States specifically for Blanchard’s.

The Finca El Ocaso Red Tabi Single Varietal release was a huge success which opened the door for further experimentation. However, the challenge at the farm level was executing experimental processing without disrupting the standard production necessary to keep the farm running and financially sound. In order to facilitate the experimentation Blanchard’s hoped to run, we agreed to fund the construction of two new drying bed houses on the farm, and hired Santiago Patino, the farm owner’s son, to run the experimental processing program. In June of 2017, the Blanchard’s team returned to El Ocaso to inspect the newly built drying bed houses, and to evaluate the first run of Santiago’s experimental processing. The results were overwhelmingly positive. We cupped a wide variety of experiments, from the original Classico blend, to isolated varietals, honey process, to full naturals.

The stand out coffees were a full natural process of the Classico blend, executed with the aid of mechanical driers, and an unexpected experimental fermentation of the isolated Red Tabi varietal where traditional washed process and raised bed drying were preceded by 18 hours of dry fermentation in cherries, and 18 hours of wet fermentation. We agreed to contract these two coffees, in addition to the Classico blend, and put Santiago’s processing techniques into practice immediately.

The results of our continuing partnership with Finca El Ocaso and Campesino Specialty Coffee are highlighted by bringing these unique coffee experiences, all from the same farm, to our customers. Tasting each of these coffees, all harvested from the same hills outside of Salento, Colombia, side by side, illustrates the diversity of aroma, flavor, acidity, and body that can be achieved by manipulating the post-harvest processing techniques. Each step in coffee processing represents a lever that can be pulled to make changes in the coffee we roast for you. With close partnerships like these, we can shorten the distance between the coffee farm and your cup, working together to pull the right levers to bring you exciting coffees, sustainably, year after year. We're looking forward to each season's new and interesting coffee experiences.

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