Isaias Cantillo Ossa
Isaias runs a fourth generation family farm with a dedication to quality and a great attention to detail.
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Isaias’ sons Diomedes and Jose Manuel recently returned home to Huila, where Isaias presented them with a parcel of land for coffee farming.
We first met Isaias in 2007, when his coffee won the Cup of Excellence – our very own Jim Kelso was on the international jury panel that selected it – and we have been buying his coffee ever since. It’s a true pleasure to work with Isaias and his sons, as they are model coffee farmers and great hosts. His narrow focus on quality, hard work and a humble dedication to innovation shine through in his beautiful coffee every year. On a recent visit, he made us one of the best cups of coffee we’ve ever tasted on a farm visit – he roasted it fresh and ground it on the Porlex mini grinder we brought him as a gift. He also dons a very impressive mustache.
The beautiful La Esperanza sits high up in the Andes mountains in the Huila province of southern Colombia. Isaias purchased the seven hectare farm in 1987 and uses half of it to grow coffee, while the other half remains a native forest. It’s a family affair – his young sons have joined in, a good sign that La Esperanza will be a sustainable, profitable business for years to come.
We love to visit this farm with its epic sloped vistas and gracious hospitality of the Ossa family. On our last visit, we were greeted by Isaias emerging from the bushes, huge smile, hands covered in feathers after plucking a chicken his wife would later cook up for our lunch. She made us a traditional Colombia country dish called Sancocho, a chicken soup with root vegetables, ripe plantains, corn on the cob, and avocado.
Isaias’s dedication to innovation, quality and hard work shines through in his coffee. He uses a cherry floating tank to remove underripe cherries before depulping, and takes a controlled, deliberate approach to extended fermentation under water (not common in other parts of Colombia). He also developed a patented pre-drying system, which creates more body and higher levels of sweetness. He pre-dries the parchment to wick water away and then fully dries it under a covered drying patio.
Isaias and his family pick and process cherry Monday through Saturday. They manually depulp it, place it all in the same tank, adding the new cherry on top of the previous day’s harvest, and allow it to ferment in cycles Monday through Saturday. They meticulously change the water daily to keep the water clean during the fermentation process. On Sunday, they remove all of the coffee and perform a final wash. After washing, they float the coffee to sort it and use gravity to remove lower quality beans. What remains are dense, sweet and nuanced beans. Isaias nurtures and protects his coffee at one of the most vulnerable moments, the drying stage, which creates more body and higher levels of sweetness.