From deep in the mountainous Andes of central-western Colombia, Leonid Ramirez has defied the odds and breathed new life into his origin’s classic processing methods. Colombia has long been a celebrated origin, but even with its long producing history, smallholders can still struggle to capture the full value of their farming. Through the support of exporters, Five Senses and Cofinet, Leonid has been able to continuously improve quality and efficiency offering delicious coffees and improving his family’s livelihood. Specialty coffee driving positive impact? That’s something Five Senses is very proud to support.
The origins of the Origin
Sixteen years ago, Leonid arrived in the idyllic region of Génova in Colombia with a fervent desire to acquire his own land. He worked hard plying his trade on a coffee farm in the region, alongside his older brother. Tirelessly searching for an opportunity to go out on his own, he eventually heard of an abandoned farm owned by his boss at the time. Seizing the chance with both hands, he approached his boss and said, “If there is no one to take care of the farm, I would like to be considered.” Leonid convinced his brother to come with him to meet with the owner to discuss taking over the farm. The owner first offered the farm to Leonid’s brother, who said he was not interested in running the farm. He then offered it to Leonid, who eagerly accepted.
The initial days on the farm were daunting for Leonid, financial constraints and the dilapidated state of the property posed considerable challenges. However, fueled by an unwavering passion for cultivating the land, he dove headfirst into the arduous task, even if it meant operating at a loss due to unfavourable market prices. Since discovering specialty coffee in 2004, Leonid has dedicated himself to perfecting his craft and was determined to unlock the hidden potential within his coffee beans.
Finding success through his perseverance
Leonid has been participating in coffee contests since 2006, but in 2014 after years of dedication and a healthy harvest that year led to his coffee being recognised as one of the two in his category, qualifying him for the national final. Placing 23rd in the prestigious Taza de la Excelencia (Cup of Excellence) contest, his coffee fetched an impressive price of $4.2 per pound. This breakthrough enabled Leonid to demand higher prices for his coffee on the open market and attracted the attention of various buyers interested in his remarkable coffee.
Among the interested parties, was Don Felipe, a prominent figure in the industry. Introduced to him through a friend of Leonid, Andres, who was a taster for Don Felipe. Leonid met him at Andres’ shop in Génova and offered him some samples. He established a connection that would provide to be transformative for Leonid, and with Don Felipe’s support, he was able to secure the best prices for his coffee.
Igniting a chain of enthusiasm
Leonid Ramirez’s journey goes beyond personal triumph; his story has become a source of inspiration for the community. The relentless pursuit of his dreams has captivated the interest of his neighbours, friends, and family, igniting a chain of enthusiasm among local producers who yearn for a brighter future in the coffee industry.
However, even amidst this renewed hope, Leonid remains acutely aware of the challenges facing the coffee industry. The traditional focus in Colombia is on quantity over quality, and the few who do try to invest in quality cannot afford to continue. A lack of sustainable pricing, adequate investments, and support threaten the existence of these unique flavours.
If it wasn’t for Leonid’s success in the contest in 2014 and a fortuitous encounter with Don Felipe, you probably wouldn’t be tasting his coffee today. Before then, his own family criticised him and constantly asked him why he gave so much attention and effort to his coffee when if he focused on processing quickly he could harvest greater quantities.
Trusting the process
Leonid stands as a steadfast advocate for change. He firmly believes that the cultivation of unique coffees requires immense effort, attention to detail, and investment. The journey he embarked upon was never sustainable until he discovered a platform that recognized the value of his exceptional beans. He remains grateful for the support he has received and the sustainable prices he now enjoys. However, he warns against reverting to a system that devalues the hard work and sacrifices made by farmers. The long-term viability of the coffee industry hinges on a shift towards prioritizing quality, ensuring fair compensation, and nurturing the passion of dedicated producers.
We’ve been featuring Leonid Ramirez’s coffees since 2018 and his unwavering determination serves as a testament to the transformative power of passion, hard work, and resilience, reminding us to Trust the Process. As he continues to cultivate exceptional coffee and inspire those around him, he stands as a beacon of hope for the future of specialty coffee, urging us all to savour the extraordinary flavours born out of dedication, love, and an unwavering pursuit of excellence.