When we first decided to take our trip to origin, a visit to the Kankuamo was always going to be a personal highlight for me. To meet with a community that has been farming coffee for nearly 200 years, on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was going to be unmissable. We had no idea what to expect - even if filming would be considered appropriate - but were beyond excited to get up there.
A heady mix of jet lag and an early alarm is perhaps not the best way to kick off a day, but shortly after leaving our hotel we were in the car and on the way into the mountains. Normally a 3 hour car journey along rock strewn roads would be draining, but as we had Oliverio Villafany in the cab with us, the hours flashed by. All along the journey we were picking his brains about both his farm and the coffee he & his family produce.
A Peaceful Place
Called Dunariwun (which translates roughly to ‘a peaceful place’), the farm has been in his family for generations. He told us that they’ve been cultivating coffee since about 1860 - and whilst at first it was prized for its aroma and used to rub on their skin, it quickly became a key part of their daily lives. For Oliverio and his family, that first cup of coffee they share is incredibly important; and so much more than just fuel for their day. Indeed, as with the other crops they produce, they see coffee as a gift sent from God.
Dunariwun is located between two large mountains, with one representing the female spirit of the land, and the other representing the male side. For him, this represents the importance of both sexes coming together to work on the land in a way that both respects and protects what providence has given them.
Coffee by Moonlight
This belief also has a huge effect on the way that they cultivate their coffee. On Dunariwun, the coffee cherries are only picked when the moon is full or new - as they believe that the fruit draws its life from the moonlight. The moon itself is a very powerful symbol; it gives them the strength to grow crops and make their living in what could only be considered a very tough environment. Whilst the climate and geography is perfect to the success of the coffee bushes, it’s definitely less suited for the human side of cultivation; with the Villafany family spending plenty of time on each other shoulders just to reach the tallest coffee bushes.
Spending time with Oliverio’s mother, she told us that they compare these farming rituals to real life, and vice-versa. When you do not follow the right path in life, you create obstacles for yourself - and this is the same for farming the coffee; if they weren’t to follow the rules set by God and the land they work on, those same obstacles can appear, whether it be a poor crop, or the spread of the Roya ‘Coffee Rust’ disease.
A Different World
After our tour of the farm, we then showed Oliverio a couple of our Organic Colombian capsules that we’d brought with us. We then experienced a beautiful, almost pinch-yourself-moment, where we all sat down and shared a coffee. After our rough start and rocky journey, we were sitting on the slope of a mountain, with Oliverio playing away on his accordion, his daughters knitting beautiful handbags, and his wife & mother cooking up a lamb stew. It was unreal - a different world.