For International Women’s Day on March 8, Devoción Coffee will release a limited-edition coffee, La Mandarina, working together with Colombian coffee producer and entrepreneur Martha Obando. This release is part of their ongoing ‘Women in Coffee’ series which spotlights independent female farmers around Colombia to highlight extraordinary coffees produced by women in a typically male-dominated industry.
To understand the coffee and region better, we spoke to Obando about how the limited edition La Mandarina coffee partnership brings a piece of her coffee farm to the United States and why people should discover the natural beauty of the Guavio region.
You’re an entrepreneur, coffee producer and leader of the ASOFINCAS association. Can you tell me about the various things you work on and the role that coffee plays in your life?
For me, coffee has been present in every aspect of my life. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been surrounded by coffee culture. This awakened an interest in me to want to learn more about it, all the way from the seed to the harvest to post-harvest processes and especially recently about the commercial aspect. Learning about the business of coffee post-harvest has helped me in my personal projects, as well as on a community level working with the association (ASOFINCAS) to help others get a fairer price for their product and to learn more about what happens post-harvest with their coffee both in our community and in the rest of the country.
How do you work together with Devoción?
It’s been four to five years since I started working with Devoción. It started from my curiosity about what happens with my coffee post-harvest. I met Devoción when they visited the region I live in and from then on we began not only a business partnership, but a friendship as well, where I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about post-harvest processes and the added value that coffee has. This has helped me learn more about coffee in my region and to see what we can achieve with coffee from this region including mine. We can reach different parts of the world with our product thanks to Devoción. Devoción has been a great ally not only on a personal level but also to the association through the work we’ve done together becoming a benchmark in our region regarding price and differentiation as a result of the coffee quality we can find here.
Can you tell me more about the limited-edition coffee ‘La Mandarina – Women in Coffee’?
To start off, my farm is called Los Mandarinos because we have a lot of mandarin trees on the property, so the name La Mandarina is very apt. My process begins, as we all know in this region, with the harvest when coffee is produced mid-October towards the end of the year through the beginning of the next year. Before, coffee was processed in a more artisanal way based on previous customs from way back. Nowadays, it’s a more conscious process as we focus on producing coffee for consumers that stands out from the rest. That has made a difference because we process a coffee based on what coffee drinkers are looking for, starting out with only picking the ripest cherries and ensuring controlled fermentation, washing, and drying processes to deliver a great product with the right characteristics for consumption
How would you describe the flavor of La Mandarina coffee?
Many of its characteristics come from the region such as the climate and the soil, but I think also the love you put into the product and knowing it will reach many people that we can’t even imagine affects it, so all these characteristics mixed together add up to produce a profile with a unique taste.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, what’s it like being a female coffee producer in Colombia?
I think from a woman’s point of view, the work we do as women is equal to male coffee producers because all you need is to have a taste for coffee, and the desire to do it, as well as putting in the labor, and willing to constantly learn about it and keep up with what goes on beyond simply harvesting coffee. The product itself and the industry are changing and these changes demand that we as coffee producers have to keep up with what coffee drinkers look for in their coffee. But most importantly, it’s about dedicating yourself every day to produce a great bean.
Do you think that progress is being made in women’s rights in Colombia?
Yes, I do think there is change being made. As women coffee producers, we’re at the same level as our male counterparts and it’s up to us to help each other and show others that we are not beneath anyone. I think we have been bringing back the value and importance that female producers have along with male producers in coffee farming. In my experience, and from what I’ve seen, yes, we do run into obstacles, but you also find a lot of support.
For people traveling to Colombia, what’s the best way to experience coffee there?
Coffee is always tied to nature, so the best way [to experience coffee] is to come enjoy the day to day in the countryside. My region (Guavio) is mountainous, with diverse landscapes, part of a lifelong tradition and a farming culture tied to everyday life. Waking up early, taking care of the farm animals, lots of birds, abundant water, fresh air. There’s a varied landscape that can be enjoyed. And within this beautiful landscape is where you will always find coffee.
What do you think are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Colombia?
All of Colombia is beautiful, and all are welcome here to the Guavio region, with all of its mountains and lagoons, all of its gorgeous landscapes.