El Fenix is the community wet mill and rare-variety organic farm developed by Raw Material in the Quindio region of Colombia. The farm has ideal climate conditions with a strong sun reflection off the valley and an average rainfall of 2,275mm a year, in addition to natural spring falls which provide water for the farm’s needs.
As well as being a rare variety producing farm, El Fénix is also home to a developing community wet mill for producers in the area. The project was crowdfunded to help fund the construction of the mill, which when complete will provide the region’s farmers with greater control over their coffee quality, and control over their income through a fixed price payment system.
We've visited El Fenix twice so far and it's a beautiful farm perched on the mountain top overlooking the Cauca Valley. Walking through the small farm under the guidance of the farm manager Miguel Fajardo was mesmerising. Cultivars of all sorts in various stages of development side-by-side quite something. Gesha, Mokka, Pink Bourbon, Tabi etc etc.
This particular Pink Bourbon lot was processed as an 'Anoxic washed' coffee. The ripe cherries are placed into a deep cleaned fermentation tank. A sheet is then placed over the cherries, which is then submerged with cool water. The seal created by the water pressing onto the sheeting creates a vacuum effect on the coffee below, creating an anoxic environment for fermentation to begin, which lasts for 48 hours.
The water and sheet act as not only a sealant, but a heat exchanger, allowing the heat build up to transfer to the water, which evaporates away. A stabilised temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius ensures that the cherry doesn’t over ferment. This temperature is regularly monitored, and if it falls too low for fermentation to continue, hot water is added to the water pillow, to provide warmth to the fermenting coffee underneath.
Once the fermentation is complete, the water is drained, and the sheet is removed. The now fermented coffee is rinsed and drained of all residual liquid. For the washing process to continue, the cherries are pulped, and the exposed beans are washed and graded.
The coffee is then sun dried for between 4 and 8 hours daily, and dried on raised beds for between 2 to 3 weeks.
(Some images courtesy of @Andrea Jimenez and some words courtesy of @Raw Material directly)