Miller Walles wasn’t always a coffee farmer. It wasn’t until he purchased a farm in the municipality of Paicol, Huila, 15 years ago, that he finally decided to leave sugar cane behind and pursue coffee. According to him, the switch to coffee was a life-changing move, as it proved capable of supporting his family in a way that sugar cane could not.
Miller started his farm from scratch with the help of his wife, Dadny Salinas, and his oldest son, Ricardo. The land was absolutely wild and infertile. Miller decided to leave one part of his land as a protected forest so as not to disturb the incredible biodiversity.
During the “cold times” — as he calls the period between crops — he works together with his family to prepare his farm for the upcoming harvest. Relying partially on his family and partially on itinerant pickers for labor, he strives to harvest the ripest cherry possible, paying his workers approximately 1,000 pesos more per arroba (12.5 kilograms or 25 lbs. of cherry) than the going rate (COP 5,000-6,000).
After weighing out the cherries, he immerses them in cool water, skimming away the under-ripened fruit that floats to the surface. He de-pulps the cherry in the afternoon and leaves each lot to ferment for approximately 36 hours, depending on the weather, after which he washes away the mucilage thoroughly before taking the beans out to dry on shaded bamboo-and-mesh beds. Over a period of 35 to 40 days, he turns the coffee in order to achieve a uniform loss of moisture.
He believes that this dedication to the process, as well as the soil and unique climate of Paicol, is what makes his coffee special. Miller has learned about coffee production and farm management from various professional agronomists from local institutions like the SENA (The National Training Service) as well as by attending workshops brought to his area by the United Nations, and by the association of coffee producers of Paicol, which he belongs to along with 150 members.
Miller is tall, quiet and soft-spoken. This microlot is juicy with notes of caramel, vanilla and chamomile. We are grateful for him and his family and for their continued hard work and dedication to producing excellent, specialty coffee.