Cundinamarca's Garden of Eden

By: Chris Davidson

The La Fragua Estate is situated in the shade of the mountain called Media Luna, outside Nilo, in Cundinamarca. This 75 hectare farm was founded in 1876, by the ancestors of Juanita Sinisterra, who runs the estate now. Starting the farm required incredible vision and energy, since the Sinisterra family had to secure their equipment in London, bring it across the ocean, float it hundreds of miles up the Rio Magdalena into the Central Cordillera of the Andes, and finally haul the enormous iron machines by mule train up the mountains to Media Luna. The farm and mill were then built, brick by brick, around the well-traveled processing equipment. That labor of love was rewarded with the establishment of La Fragua estate, which is still producing one of Colombia’s finest coffees nearly 140 years later.

Since 2009, Atlas has been working closely with Juanita on numerous coffee experiments at La Fragua. Together we’re exploring new ways of improving farming and processing methods in order to maximize the potential of her coffee. In 2012 we helped Juanita establish a coffee variety garden, to determine which trees responded best to La Fragua’s unique soil and micro-climate. We’re already receiving very small volumes from these plots, and are discovering some amazing new flavors along the way. La Fragua only produces around three containers each year, much of which we purchase as micro lots divided by plantio (individual plots within the farm) as well as blended lots from the entire farm.

Many technological improvements have been made at La Fragua over the years, but amazingly the original machinery is still in place and functioning over 100 years after being installed. Recently, an ornithologist from a university in Canada discovered that the rich diversity and sheltered environment at the base of Media Luna is home to a host of migratory birds whose wintering grounds in South America were previously unknown. Elevation up to 1,800 meters above sea level contributes to the coffee’s bright, focused acidity reminiscent of star fruit, complimented by medium-light body, and a touch of brown sugar sweetness.

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