Day 1 - Santuario project

Today was the first day of the Santuario Coffee Project in Arménia, Colombia.

Proceedings were opened by project founder Camilo Merizalde who gave us an overview of the whole Santuario project.

Currently working in four countries of origin - Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica - Santuario Project is the only specialty coffee company who owns and operates their own farms in multiple countries, directly reaching clients around the world.

Driven by uncompromised quality and innovation Santuario works closely with their clients to produce coffees that meet the requirements of the end consumer. So-called “anthropomarketing”: getting into the shoes of their clients.


Some of this innovation was highlighted as Camilo talked about Santuario Mexico - the newest thoroughbred in the Santuario stable.

Based in Ixhuatlan and in operation for less than a year, they have implemented measures such as African drying beds in temperature and humidity-controlled rooms, UV lights to control bacteria during drying, and experimented with fermenting coffee in whiskey barrels. In addition to the main three processing methods of natural, honey processed and washed, they have added barrel fermentation, anaerobic fermentation, honey capsule roll and a myriad of combinations to their repertoire in the quest for new sensory experiences for their consumers.


After the first presentation we had the opportunity to cup 15 lots from the team at Santuario Brazil.

Among my favourites were a natural process Arara varietal from Pedralva and natural anaerobic fermentation yellow bourbon from the same origin.

The first was very sweet with a strong blueberry aroma, super-ripe tropical fruit notes and intense, yet balanced acidity. The second, my absolute favourite, had a nutty, blueberry fragrance when dry, a papaya and pineapple aroma when brewed, and delicious, boozy banana, passion fruit and lime in the cup. The anaerobic fermentation really heightens the aromatic qualities of the coffee to unbelievable (yet pleasurable) levels.

Look out for both of these coffees on our online store in January!


After lunch we heard from the Korean specialty importers M.I Coffee, who gave us an overview of the specialty scene in Korea. I was fascinated to hear that most specialty cafes in South Korea roast their own coffee. There are about 5000 roasters in Korea, mostly with shop roasters with a capacity of 1-5kg. As such, there is great demand for small quantities of specialty coffee. To meet this demand, M.I coffee imports specialty lots, opens the bags and reprocesses the coffee through colour, size and density sorting machinery before repackaging the coffee in their own vacuum sealed packaging in 5, 10 and 15kg bags. This takes some of the risk away for small consumers who don’t have large volume and allows M.I Coffee to reach a wider audience with their coffees.




Next we heard from Pavel from Russian Importer SFT Trading.

Both commercial and specialty coffee importers are experiencing increases in volume as the population continues to turn away from soluble (instant) products. The specialty market in Russia, according to Pavel, is defined by the search for “unique” coffees. The rarer, more innovative, more experimental, the better.


After lunch I got to observe sample roasting of a local Quindio farmer Sebastian’s latest lot of Red Honey processed Geisha. It was roasted on an Ikawa sample roaster in the bar and we got to taste it before we went back in for the afternoon session. It was delicious, and I was impressed with the Ikawa’s output.


In the afternoon session, Erwin Noreña from Santuario Colombia and Ivan Solis from Santuario Costa Rica gave a presentation on the exporting process.

I was really impressed with how systematic, controlled and traceable Santuario’s preparation and export process is. Between the time the coffee enters their warehouse as parchment, the customer placing an order and the order being shipped, a particular coffee may get cupped 5 or 6 times for quality assurance.

They are also developing a “Virtual Bin”, a kind of catalogue of origins and processes, so that clients can specify certain flavour, aroma and other attributes and be matched with coffees that meet their requirements. (insert virtual bin image)


After the final presentation the invited delegates gave feedback to Santuario about what we needed from them.

Things that came up multiple times were:

The desire for smaller bags. 30-35kg for most specialty lots (85-90pts) and smaller packages, 10/15kg or 4x6kg boxes of 90+pts. This has a great spin off for OH&S, but also puts many of the more expensive lots within reach. There was also the need for as much info (esp background, life story of producers) to be able to sell the coffee.


By the end of the day I felt my head would explode with all the new information. It was pretty humbling during the day to recognise how much I have to learn about the industry and how accomplished and skilled some people are.

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