When Belcy Astudillo first began working in the lab at Coocentral cooperative in Huila, Colombia, her colleagues would hide the sugar so she couldn’t add it to her coffee. Now she is an integral member of the lab, one of the “Final Spoons” deciding which coffees meet the cooperatives standards on quality. She analyses the Yield Factor, moisture, and the flavours, where her palate may determine how much over the base price the farmer will earn for the higher quality of their coffee.
Her path to becoming a coffee professional was tough, but it is a common story in Colombia. For several months she worked as an intern from 7 am to 12 pm, then she went to her part-time job in a bakery from 1pm to 6pm, then she studied in the evening from 6:30 pm until 11:00 pm to complete her high school diploma.
Her first role in Coocentral was as an assistant in the coffee buying department, then she moved onto the warehouses, then finally summoned the courage to apply for a position in the lab. In addition to her day job at the cooperative, Belcy has been growing coffee on her farm, Finca Pan de Azucar, for 22 years. Being a coffee farmer she easily identifies defects in the cup and the reason for this defect. This is a crucial skill when giving objective feedback to the producers.
Belcy wants the farmers to understand that the future of coffee farming resides in the quality of the coffee. She aims to empower the farmer members of the cooperative through education, and by helping them embrace change. She says there’s no more harmful phrase for the learning process than “we’ve always done it like this.”
Our first container of coffees from Coocentral in Huila is expected to land by the end of April.
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