Lead by our main man Didier Javier Pajoy La Banda Rebelde (The Rebel Gang as they’ve been dubbed) is a completely independent group of neighbours that formed after meeting Shared Source and being assured of a committed final buyer. Didier was on the verge of giving up coffee production all together, low coffee prices and an unstable buyers market just weren’t enough to keep Didier. Shared Source found him just in time and told him to bring a parchment sample the following day. They cupped, called him up, offered him the highest price he’d ever seen, and the rest is history. We now buy from the whole gang.
Didier, his younger brothers Harold and Christian, father Elias, and neighbours Daniel Sanchez and Albert Caldon all grow Caturra and Colombia varietals between 1650 and 1950 masl in a traditionally overlooked zone of Huila for specialty coffee, La Plata.
They all collaborate to improve coffee quality and farm regeneratively. The rebel gang share brix and humidity meters, experimenting with different ferment regimes and vessels; constantly cupping all their experiments and making recommendations, and they’re constantly coming up with ingenious things to try. They measure exact sugar levels at picking; depulping; during ferment and at washing.
Colombia cherries are: selectively picked for full ripeness using a Brix meter, floated to remove over and under-ripes that would otherwise negatively effect a healthy fermentation, left overnight for a 12-hour cherry ferment, depulped early the following morning and anaerobically fermented in sealed tubs or Grainpro bags. Washing occurs at the optimal time depending on the farm. Through cupping we’ve found different results on a far-by-farm basis in terms of when to wash (or more accurately, how low the sugar levels can get).
Aside from down-payments to provide financial security before the lots are ready to deliver, La Banda uses a rotating fund established by Shared Source to pay pickers good prices to select only the reddest cherries. This cash before harvest is crucial, pickers are the most expensive element in specialty coffee production, more often than not farmers are not able to pay pickers enough to select only ripe cherries, meaning there’s no chance of processing specialty grade, meaning lower prices. This is a vicious circle we have so easily been able to disrupt because we all trust each other. Unfortunately this is incredibly rare in Colombia.
Most importantly La Banda practices their own form of ecological agriculture, roving from farm to farm as a team and applying their homemade preps. Starting with a base micro- organism population using a few kilos of virgin soil from native oak forest, they add micro nutrients, molasses and animal products (manure, bone ash) and let this ferment for up to several months and use it as the base for other fermented and enriched products: foliar sprays to protect against leaf rust, foliar fertilizer, used on coffee pulp to decompose faster to have actual live compost to work with. They are all deep in the process of transitioning to zero-chemical inputs. This type of farming to be superior to simply ‘organic’ as soil microbial populations are being increased. Didier is contracted visit and teach these preparations to other small producers Shared Source work with across Huila. Empowering him to diversify his income and flex his professional muscles in the teaching arena is a great example of the power of farmer-to-farmer teaching.