Juan Saldarriaga is a producer with two farms in Antioquia, Colombia: La Claudina and El Encanto. Together they cover about 60 hectares each, but only 42 hectares have planted with coffee in total. The rest is still forest and natural reserve.

Juan also works with friends and manages the production for some surrounding producers growing Caturra and other cultivars up to 2000 masl. Many of them are young smallholder farmers who are eager to prove that Antioquia offers more than just chocolaty heavy bodied coffees.

Juan took over his family’s two farms a few years ago, inspired by the specialty coffee scene he experienced while studying in Germany. Currently Juan is experimenting with different cultivars in different altitudes, as well as different processing and drying methods, including naturals. We met Juan several years ago, and what really encouraged us to work with him was his will to change, adapt and improve in order to meet the future demand for quality. Antioquia is known for solid, but maybe slightly boring coffees, but there is a lot going on right now, and we think these coffees are proof of that.

The biggest challenge in these environments is drying due to humidity and temperature. After we met Juan and started to talk about drying under shade, he immediately constructed drying facilities with raised beds under cover. He has also installed a machine that can dry with cold air which has software that allows you to adjust temperature, airflow etc, and save profiles for different varieties.

La Claudina is a farm located at 1400 – 1800 masl in the city of Bolivar in Antioquia. Currently around 18 hectares are dedicated to coffee. The farm mostly grows Castillo, but Juan has been planting a lot of new varieties lately including Tabi, Caturra, Colombia and Geisha. He has two pulpers with capacity of 1600 kg cherries per hour.

Juan does traditional fermentation in tanks, often with intermediate rinsing. For drying he has a covered facility with beds, a traditional parabolic dryer, a very interesting mechanical «cold» dryer and a traditional mechanical «guardiola» for more commercial volumes.

Number of permanent workers: 3
Number of seasonal workers: 45 Pickers

El Encanto is located between 1380 – 1800 masl in the city of Bolivar in Antioquia. Around 26 hectares are dedicated to coffee production. Here Juan grows mostly Colombia, Castillo and Tabi, plus small volumes of SL28, Maragogipe, Geisha, Bourbon, Caturra Chiroso and Castillo Tambo. He uses a traditional disc pulper with separator and fermentation tanks. For drying has has 200 square meters of newly built shelves that can be moved from sun to shade.

Finca La Virgen is owned by Jaime Ariza, but the farm practices and processing is managed by his friend Juan Saldarriaga. Juan works with several friends, and manages the production for some surrounding producers growing Caturra and other cultivars up to 2000 masl. Many of them, like Jaime Ariza, are young smallholder farmers who are eager to prove that Antioquia offers more than chocolaty heavy bodied coffees.

La Claudina and El Encanto have one harvest per year, normally from September to January. Juan controls the harvest times by stripping the trees in the end of each harvest. He loses some quantity but he believes it helps improve quality.

Harvest and cherry selection There is one person in each farm managing the pickers and the quality. They always pick the coffee by block and keep everything separate. That way they can also process by cultivar. The pickers are paid a premium for every bag of high quality coffee sold. They separate the bags of the higher qualities to go in to quality production and special prep. The cherries for naturals are always thoroughly hand sorted before going to the drying beds.
Pulping and fermentation After cherry selection the cherries are soaked in water and the floaters removed before they go into production. The coffees are then pulped in a traditional disc pulper with a separator for unripe and overripe cherries. The quantity and availability of the tanks will sometimes determine what kind of fermentation they are doing. When they have big volumes, like 5000kg of cherries in a day, the team dry ferment everything in tanks, adding fresh cold water and rinsing every 6-8 hours. Normal fermentation time will be about 24 hours. As the altitudes are not too high at the wet mill they want to keep the temperature down and control the fermentation. When the volumes are smaller, and for experiments, they ferment one batch as described above, but they add a new batch of coffee after 24 hours. The total fermentation time can be 48 hours, but still with a rinse of cold water every 6 hours.
Drying Juan has four drying options: traditional silo (mechanical dryer), cold dryer (mechanical), African beds in a parabolic dryer (greenhouse,) and African beds in the shade drying area. The traditional silo is only for the conventional and “commercial” qualities. The team move micro-lots from all three farms to La Claudina for drying experiments. Washed coffees are usually dried in the shade and parabolic dryers while washed and natural micro-lots are dried in the cold dryer, but naturals have priority as they really seem to benefit from the controlled environment. Most naturals are dried between 25 and 30 degrees celsius. It takes 20 to 30 days and the space and quantity they can manage in the cold dryer is limited.