Dolores Maria Guetio, 74, a community member from the cooperative Fondo Paez. 

Cauca, Colombia

Cooperative: Fondo Paez
Elevation: 1300-1900 meters
Varietals Grown: Tipica, Castillo
Harvest: June-August

Apricot, brown sugar, honey blossom
Best brewing:
 filter cone
Recommended ratio: 16:1
Acidity:  mellow
Body: round, balanced

Located in the remote, highland regions of Cauca, the Paez (who also call themselves Nasa, or “the people”) is the largest indigenous group in Colombia. Fondo Paez was founded in 1992, with the primary goal of recuperating traditional agricultural knowledge and indigenous culture which had been buried by centuries of conflict and oppression.

The main cash crop of this region is still coffee. To ensure a stable income for their members, Fondo Paez proposed a cooperative of community-based coffee farmer associations. By 2000, they were sufficiently self-organized to be selling coffee through the Coffee Federation’s Specialty Coffee program. Today they are active members of the fair trade community and process, market, and export their coffee via the regional plant at ExpoCosurca, but maintain full independence in their internal decision-making process.

Quality control is an art unto itself within Fondo Paez. Prior to their harvest, running from early June through late August in the majority of their growing regions, Fondo Paez promoters visit each member to review production results and to encourage best picking, handling and wet processing practices. Their efforts to date have definitely paid off: Fondo Paez coffee continues to win recognition and awards as a 90+ coffee in both local and international cupping competitions.

We began importing from Fondo Paez via Cooperative Coffees in 2004, and since then CC has followed their development closely with site visits and regular communication, as well as offering roaster and staff support. We are inspired to see the extent to which Fondo Paez has created a sustainable vision for their indigenous communities. This is remarkable in and of itself, but the work and successes of this organization are truly extraordinary when viewed within the context of Colombian politics and globalization. From Spanish conquest centuries ago to the armed conflict raging in their territory for the past 40 years, the Paez people continue to struggle for their lives and livelihoods, their land, and their rights to self-determination.