Ildefonso Cordoba Bahos has been growing coffee at his Finca La Esperanza for the last eight years. Ilde, as he is known to his friends and peers, is a serious, no-nonsense type, with an uncharacteristically high, squeaky voice and kind, soulful eyes. He has lived in the corregimiento or district of Bruselas, in the municipality of Pitalito, in southern Huila, his whole life. Ildefonso’s comes from a long line of traditional coffee growers. He purchased his current property, located in the veranda of Pensil, at 1,750 m.a.s.l, from his uncles, 18 years ago. The uncles had inherited this land from Ildefonso’s grandfather, who was also a coffee producer, and a large landowner in this part of Pitalito.
La Esperanza spans a total surface area of 19 hectares, three of which are currently in production and planted with 22,000 coffee trees, as well as plantains and yucca. Before he could start cultivating coffee, Ildefonso had to clear the land, as it all used to be a dense forest. Once the mostly hilly and steep land was ready to be planted, Ildefonso began by transplanting Caturra seedlings—the same ones that would eventually yield the coffee in this micro lot. Today, he is in the process of renewing his crop, so he has removed the Caturra trees, and has planted the increasingly popular Pink Bourbon. The soil at La Esperanza is varied. Part of it is loam, but most are sandy and/or clay. Ildefonso employs one permanent worker year-round, who helps him carry out any non-harvest chores. They fertilize their planting every three months with a homemade mix made up of potassium, a nitrogen-fixing agent, and single-trace elements.
During the height of the harvest Ildefonso employs up to seven local pickers to help with the careful hand selection of the cherry. He personally carries out the post-collection processing or beneficio. This lot was de-pulped right away, and fermented in bags for 48 hours, after which the beans were washed, and put out to dry on a parabolic dryer for 20 days. The resulting cup has notes of panela—unrefined cane sugar, a staple in every Colombian pantry—and dried uchuvas or Colombian husk cherries.