Vitelio’s competition lot possesses an appealingly gentle and nuanced profile. Look for florals, cherry, and black tea on the nose and soft tropical fruit and berry notes in the cup.
Vitelio Muñoz is a coffee farmer who lives with his family in the vereda of Bajo Horizonte, within the municipality of Suaza in southern Huila, Colombia. This beautiful pink bourbon from the family farm, El Mirador, was awarded 3rd place in the 2021 Copa Suaceña: a regional cupping competition organized to highlight the very best coffees produced by individual members of two producer groups that Passenger has been buying from for the past four years.
In December 2019 two members of Passenger’s green buying team traveled to southern Huila, Colombia to participate as judges in the inaugural Copa Suaceña. The “Suaza Cup” is a regional cupping competition, organized by our friends and partners at Osito Coffee, that was created to identify and recognize the highest quality coffees produced by a community of farmers that Passenger has been buying from for the past four years. To qualify for inclusion, coffees submitted to the competition have to meet strict physical analysis criteria (between 10-10.8% moisture content; between .48-.58 water activity; yield factor of 90 or less), and have to be produced by members of one of two producer groups from the Suaza region: La Cooperativa Divino Niño del Horizonte and ASOCAFOR. Since 2018, this community of coffee producers has been one of Passenger’s six foundational partners and their coffees are featured year round on our menu under the name Divino Niño
Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, it was sadly impossible for us to travel to Colombia for the 2020 and 2021 installments of the Copa Suaceña. While we certainly missed participating in Colombia, and wished we could celebrate in-person with the producers as we did the first year, Passenger has proudly served as one of the cupping locations for decentralized editions of the competition for the past two years. The most recent competition took place during the last week of January 2022. A panel of six judges, located in Colombia, Quebec, and Pennsylvania completed a meticulous sensory evaluation of the 39 competition lots, using video conferencing and shared spreadsheets to debrief scores and notes over three consecutive days of tasting. On the final day, the top 10 lots were re-cupped and overall scores were tabulated to establish the final ranking for the 2021 Copa Suaceña. When the names of the producers responsible for the winning lots were revealed, we were incredibly pleased to see many new names on the leaderboard, as well as a few well-known names from the previous year.
One of the newer names to place in the top 10 this year was Vitelio Muñoz Ramirez, a coffee farmer who lives in the vereda of Bajo Horizonte with his wife, Yudi Cabrera, and their three children Jonier, Juliana, and Emanuel. Vitelio primarily cultivates the pink bourbon, caturra, and costillo varieties on the family farm, El Mirador. His competition lot was 100% pink bourbon, and processed in the following way: after picking, the ripe cherry was placed in sacks for 24 hours prior to pulping. After the fruit was removed by the pulper, the coffee seeds underwent 20 hours of dry fermentation, before being washed. The clean parchment was dried for approximately 50 days.
The purchase of a portion of six of the top 10 competition lots from the 2021 Copa Suaceña marks an exciting continuation of the partnership that Passenger has been gradually building over time with the producers of Divino Niño and ASOCAFOR. The first step of the project was the addition of the Divino Niño community blend to Passenger’s Foundational Menu, making it feasible for us to pay fixed prices on an ongoing basis for the majority of the 86+ coffee that these 42 small farms produce annually. The second step was the creation of a home for coffees produced by the same farmers that achieve slightly lower quality scores (in the 84-85 pt. range). With the founding of our sister roasting company, Necessary Coffee, we were able to start buying these coffees from Divino Niño and ASOCAFOR as well. In more recent years, single producer microlots (such as the present Copa Suaceña release) and single variety community blends (such as our Divino Niño Pink Bourbon offering), that we are proud to feature on Passenger’s Reserve and Education Lot menus, are all the more compelling for us because they are grounded in a broad, growing partnership that we intend to continue building with this remarkable coffee producing community.
At Passenger we are committed to the idea that the pursuit of a truly viable specialty coffee supply chain requires that coffees of all quality grades - not merely the highest scoring microlots - be bought at a fair price. While still at a relatively early stage of development, our evolving partnership with the producers of Divino Niño is a project that fills us with pride and optimism for the future.