Oscar Hernández is a third-generation coffee farmer. His grandfather, Ricardo, was one of Colombia’s first ever speciality coffee producers – he bought the Los Nogales farm in 1953.
It was in the same year that Oscar’s father, Ricaurte, was born. And he was a real trailblazer – becoming the first ever winner of the Cup of Excellence in Colombia in 2005.
A few months later, he also demonstrated that a profitable, sustainable future in coffee was possible in the country by selling his speciality coffee to Maruyama Coffee, a well-renowned Japanese roaster.
Tragically, eight years later, Ricaurte Hernández was killed resisting thieves from a guerrilla organisation who were attempting to steal his fantastic crop. At this point in time, Oscar was 25 years old and six years into his army career.
But family duty called and Oscar became the head of the farm overnight. He ditched dreams of becoming a marine and called on the expertise he’d learned from his father on the farm as a child – it was time to follow in Ricaurte’s footsteps in respect for the great man and become one of the most respected coffee farmers in Colombia.
Oscar’s made huge steps on the farm in the eight years since. At just 33 years old, he’s already thinking of the next generation, making farming practices more sustainable and looking for organic answers at every turn.
Interestingly, his sister, Angie, is also playing a significant part on the family farm. She’s a qualified industrial engineer and she works with her husband, Jhohan, a microbiologist, to optimise the fermentation process.
In a nutshell, the yeast ferments the mucilage (the fleshy bit) around the coffee cherry, loosens it and allows it to be washed off easily. It’s common practice for the yeast to be completely uncontrolled in the vineyard. But Angie and Jhohan watch this every step of the way, controlling yeast volumes and the fermentation process – which both have a significant impact on flavour.
If it helps, think of it like wine. Vintners would allow naturally occurring yeasts to control the grape fermentation centuries ago (as natural wine producers do today), resulting in unpredictable and inconsistent results. But many modern day winemakers will master this – creating something that’s much more enjoyable to most drinkers.
It’s very rare to see this forward-thinking practice done on a small farm like Oscar’s. The end result is nothing short of spectacular. The complexity in the resulting coffee, clarity of flavour and taste notes are all truly unique – the gold standard of Colombian speciality coffee.
You can taste it now in the chocolatey, orangey Los Nogales.