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Why Cuatro Caminos?
In our Nursery
All 6 Varietals
On the Farm
In coffee production soil is one of the more important resources. Because of that the soil conservation is a key part of production, to be sustainable over time. This management includes a group of different activities that help to maintain and improve the quality of the soil.
At the beginning of each new cycle we take soil samples from each farm to determine the status of the soil (Ph, mineral levels, % organic matter). Based on those results we develop a fertilization and nutrition plan for each farm. This plan assures we provide exactly what the soil needs and we don’t damage the natural balance of the soil.
Specialty coffee is produced in Boquete’s highlands, an area with a very irregular topography dominated by steep slopes. These conditions increase the possibility of soil degradation if erosion is not controlled. We use contour planting to reduce the possibility of erosion and conserve the soil. Our proprietary design uses 3 meters between rows and 1 meter between plants resulting in a density “engineered” for top quality specialty coffee.
The wind is another factor responsible for soil erosion. Because of the windy conditions prevalent in the Boquete highlands we plant different trees, such as Corpachi, which grow quickly and bend with the wind acting as wind barriers for our coffee trees.
Other Sustainable Farming Practices
Temporary and permanent shade management
Shade is a very important factor in the growth phase of specialty coffee. It’s important to manage it very carefully.
The fertilization plan includes foliar and soil fertilization for the young and adult plants. This fertilization occurs from April to October.
The principal coffee diseases are caused by fungus, such as: Coffee Rust (Hemileia vastratix), Rooster’s Eye (Mycena Citricolor),
Derrite (Phoma costaricensis)
The principal pest in coffee is the coffee borer beetle (Hypothenemus hampei). This insect attack directly the coffee cheery.
The main objective of this activity is to reduce the non-productive parts and direct the energy to the productive parts of the coffee tree.
Our Wet and Dry Closed Loop Processing Mill
Technically, a closed loop system relates to a process in which effluents and/or sub products are recycled, treated and/or returned for reuse. At ICFC, we understand that applying a closed loop philosophy not only benefits the environment but it also provides many advantages for our own processing system.
The vermicomposting system is a biotechnology that manages the intensive breeding of earthworms in specialized beds transforming fresh organic substrate into a more suitable material for plants.
Here, the pulp and coffee mucilage produced in the wet mill is used to obtain humus and leachates (or worm exudate), both highly valuable products for soil improvement purposes.
Although many earthworm species have the capacity to carry out this type of biological process, the California red worm (Scientific name: Eisenia foetida) is the “specie par excellence” used in vermicomposting systems, and there are plenty of reasons. Among them are its high reproductive rate, lack of migratory habits, good response to captivity and an accelerated metabolism.
After a complex biochemical transformation, the worms acquire nutrients from the pulp and mucilage of pre-processed coffee. Once it travels through the digestive system, worms excrete a dark material we called “humus”. In addition, the worm releases a liquid exudate, which also has usable properties for the soil.
Changing Our Dryer Fuel Source
Drying is the final step to produce green beans. At ICFC, we manage two systems: patio drying and dynamic machinery. In the patio, the heat source is basically the sun.
However, in the dynamic machine, we obtain the energy for drying by burning a fuel source. In the past, we used wood. However, now that we are producing green coffee for export, the final peeling process provides a large amount of parchment that we use as a fuel source for our dryers.
Parchment is the covering of the green bean that represents 4.2% of the dry fruit. It is mainly lignocellulose (same as wood), and therefore can be used as a high quality fuel source to heat our dryers. In fact, the heat generated by parchment is a little higher than wood which means that we are not only eliminating our use of wood but replacing it with a sustainable source of fuel.
Integrated Mill Water Management System
Inefficient water use is one of the biggest problems that traditional wet-mills face. In fact, the traditional systems can use more than 75 liters per kilogram of water for conveyance, floating, depulping, fermentation and washing coffee during the milling process.
To rectify this situation, ICFC decided to invest in an ecological mill that only uses around 10% of the water used in traditional mills. To do so, we substitute the water conveyance method of processing coffee cherries with mechanical conveyance. In addition, the mucilage is removed mechanically with a specialized machine, replacing the fermentation step that uses large amounts of water.
Even with our use of modern technology, our eco-friendly mill still uses a small volume of water that cannot be returned untreated directly into a stream or on the farms after being used. In the coffee sector, we refer to it as “honey waters” and in ICFC we use it in our vermicomposting process.
Truly a closed loop system!
In Our Quality Control Laboratory
Quality Control Management
At ICFC we follow international protocols established by SCA (coffee cupping protocol) and PROMECAFE (Coffee Quality Analysis Protocol) to assess the quality of each coffee we produce in the farms. Thanks to our traceability system, we are in the position to manage separately each batch of coffee. This gives us a broad control range and the possibility to detect in time any problem or defect before the coffee is sold.
In the lab, we have high quality equipment specialized for coffee quality analysis. We have a two-barrel Probat sample roasting machine, CM-100 coffee color analyzer, SHORE Model 920C Moisture Tester, Pinhalense coffee grading sieves, and all the necessary ancillary equipment for professional specialty coffee cupping.
Coffee cupping is a versatile strategy that allows us not to just assess the quality of the coffee but also to classify or categorize the coffees we produce by identifying their attributes based on intensity, complexity and defects. In each cupping session, we follow international protocols, that allow us to have a comparable result with other Q-grade coffee cuppers around the world.
In our lab we have different traditional and 3rd-wave brewing systems that allow us to test each coffee and define its better uses and potential clients. For that purpose, we use different filter systems such as: Chemex, V60, Kalita; full immersion systems such as French Press and a combination of immersion systems and filters such as AeroPress and Siphon. Furthermore, we have our own espresso machine, to help us define coffee for espresso blends or single origin.