On October 15th I flew to Colombia to meet my friend and Co-op Coffees green buyer Felipe Guardian to visit our partners at ANEI in Northern Colombia. I visited ANEI a couple of years ago and was interested to see how they have grown– both in terms of their coffee production and within the social programs and development of the co-op. I was very excited to see the pieces that they have put into place to ensure the further advancement of the organization as a whole.
ANEI is made up of over 700 farmers from four different distinct ethnic groups in The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of northern Colombia. Composed of Arhuacos, Koguis, Kankuamos and Wiwas, the group has a very unique take on the coffee business that complements our own– this makes them ideal partners. When talking in their office in the lowland city of Valledupar and in their communities nestled high up in the mountains, all farmers we met with spoke of the connection that selling their coffee gave them with those outside their lands. They see this as an extension of the unseen impact that we all have on each other and as an opportunity to speak with people they would not normally know. Their dedication to preserving and furthering their culture is clear in everything that they do ranging from their approach to growing coffee to the way that they dress to the houses that they live in. It was great to get to know them better.
About the Facilities in Pueblo Bello
When we visited their facilities in the highland town of Pueblo Bello I was impressed by the growth of the co-op– both in the sheer size of their operation and their systems for improving and maintaining quality. Last time I visited– in 2014– they had a warehouse with some office space. Now they have increased the size of their space to be able to collect three times as much coffee. They also have improved their collection processes and installed a very nice cupping lab. Their cuppers were trained up well, but very open to hearing our opinion about their beans. They even have a warehouse outfitted with tools and things needed on the farm and in their homes. They buy everything in bulk and then sell to their members as a service of the cooperative.
ANEI is a co-op on the verge of making a leap from solid quality coffee to one with consistently high-scoring coffees. They have all of the ingredients– good soil, heirloom varietals, good organization, and a hunger to improve and to get better. They see their coffee business as an opportunity to engage all of us who drink it in a conversation about turning around the destructive path we have set out on human beings. I cannot wait to get back there and learn more about them as well as more from them.
Matthew C. Earley
Just Coffee Cooperative