A new café in Fremantle is challenging coffee industry norms by working exclusively with ASPROUNION, a farming cooperative in Colombia where everything from growing beans to exporting them is governed by the community.
Talking ethical coffee, Mauricio Velasquez is as passionate as they come. Having grown up in Cali, Colombia, he’s seen his fair share of inequality – and he’s seen coffee farmers in villages across Colombia remain largely impoverished despite producing some of the world’s highest quality beans for a multi-billion dollar global industry. But he also sees, within this conundrum, great possibility. For the last ten years, he’s worked in international sales for ASPROUNION, a farming cooperative operating just outside the town of La Union in southern Colombia, where coffee beans are grown on the fertile, volcanic slopes of Mount La Jacoba, the bean’s namesake. It’s the only cooperative in Colombia geared for exporting to the international market – largely thanks to Mauricio’s direction. His faith in the organisation and the model it espouses is so strong that he and wife Lizmar’s new business venture – Micro Lote Coffee, set to open this week in Fremantle – will have only La Jacoba beans on rotation.
Moving into the Pakenham Street Art Space (PSAS), Micro Lote is set to showcase the local roasters who’ve supported ASPROUNION through buying La Jacoba coffee since Mauricio first introduced it to Perth back in 2012. The cafe will act as a hub for customers looking to try different styles – from espresso, to pour over and even cold brew – all made from the same beans.
“We will be showcasing the roasters who have supported us since day one, and hopefully customers will then go out and seek their coffee around Perth,” Mauricio says. Expect to see roasts from Antz Inya Pantz, The Co. Lab, Leftfield Coffee Roasters, Precision and Pound Coffee. Two nitro cold brew taps were being fitted when Fabric Quarterly visited, and Mauricio seemed particularly excited about what they’d be pouring: Filament’s La Jacoba Nitro, made with La Jacoba 84+ beans roasted by Antz Inya Pantz, alongside a Geisha varietal roasted by Pound from which we’re told drinkers can expect smooth vanilla notes.
The space will look fairly familiar to anyone who frequented Micro Lote’s predecessor, Studio 37, but features a freshly fitted plywood benchtop and some shiny new equipment. As always, the quiet and contemplative ambience of PSAS means coffee drinkers can enjoy the Federation Warehouse architecture as well as any going exhibitions alongside their morning brew.
“This will be a place to sit and enjoy a very nice cup of coffee,” Mauricio says. “But it will also be a place to learn about where coffee comes from.”
By all accounts, the flavour profile of La Jacoba coffee is enough for roasters to buy it alone – but the radical business model adopted by ASPROUNION that ensures farmers get their fair share just makes it a no-brainer.
“My country, Colombia, has got in majority small coffee farmers and I think dedication, passion and commitment is something that first world countries should value,” Mauricio says. “Profits should be spread more evenly for the good and sustainability of the industry.
With the consumer’s appetite for coffee that’s good in more ways than just flavour stronger than ever, Mauricio is optimistic about Micro Lote’s opportunity for influence.
“We are going to prove that this model works – that there is an alternative to the capitalist model for the coffee industry,” Mauricio says.
And, he assures me, the coffee will be as good as you can get while they’re at it.