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A Coffee Worth the Risk

Colombian coffee is one of the most ubiquitous and widely-recognized coffees in the entire world. You can find it everywhere from gas stations to grocery stores and most coffee shops. 

And while finding good Colombian coffees isn’t a stretch for many roasters -- they can be plucked from an importer's offering list most of the year -- establishing a long-lasting connection directly with Colombian producers is a different story. 
Our relationship with the Fondo Paez community shows the delicious consequence of two stalwart partners digging in, against the odds, to create something wonderful. If this were a textbook -- which, thankfully it's not -- this coffee and the community that produces it would be the exemplary sidebar of what we do here at Wonderstate. 

Our co-owner, TJ Semanchin, first visited Fondo Paez in 2003, years before Wonderstate was a company. Travel to the Cauca region was extremely dangerous due to the long-standing civil war between FARC guerillas and the government. But TJ was drawn in by a standout coffee sample and chose to take the risk. And it was worth it. 

TJ was the first international visitor to the cooperative, and this first meeting was intense and emotionally charged. After a generation of instability, a direct connection to an international buyer meant the producers of Fondo Paez had an opportunity to control the destiny of the coffee they work so hard to produce. The bond formed during that first meeting was strong, and two decades later, as the harvest once again shifts from Central to South America, this outstanding coffee has landed here in Viroqua.

The Place and the People Make it Possible

What makes Fondo Paez and the Cauca region so special? As with most exceptional coffees, it's myriad factors. Cauca is arguably the very breadbasket of Colombian coffee and by that measure, one of the best coffee-growing regions in the entire world. 

A combination of elevation and heirloom varieties make the coffee from Fondo Paez a consistent standout. Elevation and the corresponding day and night temperature variations cause coffee cherries to mature more slowly. This creates a more stable, dense bean and also allows the natural sugars to fully develop, leading to a sweet complexity in the final cup.

This coffee also stands out thanks to the care given in hand picking ripe cherries. We have an array of ways to measure and grade green coffee: UV lights, moisture analyzers, visual inspection, small-batch sample roasting, and cupping. All of the information can tell us a lot about what happened on the ground during harvest and how a coffee was handled en route to our roastery. The smallholder farmers of Fondo Paez consistently deliver coffees that are free of defects, resulting in a pure expression of the terroir of the region.

Varietal also plays an important role in making this coffee so special. In the 1970s, the arrival and steady spread of La Roya (or "coffee rust", a destructive leaf fungus) led many producers to plant rust-resistant coffee varietals. While these new varietals helped increase yields and slow the spread of coffee rust, they also lacked the distinct character and flavors of heirloom varieties. In stark contrast, the 550 farmers of Fondo Paez have embraced heirloom varieties like Typica and Caturra as part of their cultural heritage. The seed stock that has moved from generation to generation has preserved a way of life as well as this stunning cup character. 

The Result: Enhanced Flavor and Nuance

The best coffees from Colombia are known for their bright and lively citrus acidity. That acidity rests alongside a rich and sweet mouthfeel, rounding out the flavor experience. Coffees from Fondo Paez display all these flavors and push them to the next level. 

In the cup, we taste lots of citrusy brightness like orange or kumquat, alongside intense sweet-tart bing cherry flavors, finished off with a smooth and syrupy sweetness that reminds us of fresh maple.

It's our absolute pleasure to once again have this coffee in the deft hands of our roasting crew. We're thankful for the opportunity to work with such a dedicated farmer cooperative in Fondo Paez. We hope you enjoy the very fruits of this resilient partnership.
Taste Colombia Fondo Paez Here