Brothers Carlos and Felipe Arcila started Cofinet with high ambitions and realistic expectations.
Their first test was to try to sell one container of Colombian coffee in four months. They sold it in 28 days.
“That was the first sign there was a market for our Colombian-sourced coffee in Australia,” says Carlos. “I had to send Felipe back home to be the driver of Cofinet in Colombia. He didn’t want to leave Australia but it was the best decision to make the business work. Felipe is our secret weapon. We discover unique places nobody has been to or hear of, because of him.”
A new shipment of Cofinet’s Colombian coffee arrives in Australia each month. Unlike African or Central American countries that only harvest once a year, Colombia always has one region in harvest so fresh coffee is always available.
“We love coffee hunting and discovering the identity of each coffee we find,” Carlos says.
Since the importing business started in 2015, Cofinet has gained a following with roasters throughout Australia – and soon New Zealand – keen to explore quality, unique, and exotic coffees.
To cater to demand, Cofinet has established a new processing centre on its family farm La Pradera to pulp, ferment, and dry coffees under controlled conditions.
“La Pradera’s processing centre allows us to add value to neighbouring businesses. We sit down with our producers and teach them about the processing methods we use and how we can help them. Everything is transparent. We share everything we know,” Carlos says.
La Pradera specialises in natural fermentation under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. It grows and processes exotic varietals including Pink Bourbon, Tabi, Gesha, and Java, just to name a few.
“We need more energy to dry naturals, and under our controlled fermentation guidelines, our coffees achieve fruity and complex profles,” Carlos says. “We pick our cherries with a strict ripeness criteria, hand sort them, ferment them and lie them on conrete patio for two days. The cherries then stay on raised beds until they achieve their ideal mositure content.”
The Arcila family has been involved in coffee production for the past 80 years. Carlos’ grandfather worked for a large coffee exporter in Colombia, his father Jairo followed suit, and his mother adopted the farming lifestyle when she joined the family.
“She knows more about coffee growing and agronomy than anyone else,” Carlos says.
That knowledge has been transferred to her sons. The Arcila brothers are carrying on the farming legacy and steering change in the Colombian community.
“So many farmers look to ask for advice on what they should grow in terms of super exotic coffees. Colombian farmers are just as keen to move forward also,” Carlos says.
With many exciting developments happening out of La Pradera, Cofinet invites roasters to make the 32-hour flight to Colombia to see its production first hand and explore producing regions that Carlos says aren’t designed to deliver specialty, but are heading in that direction.
The result, Carlos says, is an overwhelming and humbling experience for the hard work and dedication the farmers put into their work.
“A trip to Colombia is an opportunity to build new relationships and discover how Colombia is making its mark on the specialty scene,” Carlos says. “Most of our farms are 1400 to 1500 metres above sea level. People tend to think that specialty can only occur at 1700 metres above sea level and above, but we’ve proved it does with our natural Castillo.”
The ultimate goal is to encourage direct trade between Cofinet’s represented farms and roasters in Australia and New Zealand.
“We only buy from people we can buy from ongoing. We pre-commit,” Carlos says. “At least 97 per cent of the farmers we work with are the same as last year, with more than 50 specialty coffees on offer at any one time.”
Carlos says Cofinet already has a growing portfolio of clients who share the same passion for beautiful Colombian coffees, building relationships, and buying with a commitment, including baristas competing in the Australian Coffee Championships at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo. He says it’s this type of appreciation for their efforts that makes “the coffee hunt” worthwhile.
“The only reason to work with us is to get better coffee. If you want something of a lower grade and cheaper, there’s other options out there, but what sort of relationship do you want?” Carlos says.
157 Victoria Road, Marrickville,
Carlos: +61 430 618 082