Colombino Coffee sources coffee straight from Colombia, where owner Sebastian Lloreda grew up. One of the South Hills’ coffee suppliers is Mina Rica, a female-owned coffee farm led by third-generation Colombian farmer Carolina Posada, who is as resilient and caffeinated as the crop she grows and sells.
“My grandfather, he lived in a small town in Colombia and he had a … coffee farm. He lived from coffee. Then, actually, he was murdered during the violent time of Colombia in an attempt to steal his coffee,” said Posada. “My grandmother, she had seven children and she decided to move to the main city looking for better opportunities for her kids. But my father stayed at the town and he continued with the coffee farm. He didn’t want to sell.”
Posada’s father began acquiring small, nearby farms and increased coffee production. “Now, I’m trying to expand the family’s business,” Posada said. “Bring it here to the United States.” Posada launched Mina Rica, a company focused on coffee excellence, in 2017. It took four years to export her first batch of green coffee beans, grown in Colombia’s Antioquia region, 1,700 meters above sea level, to the United States.
Beans are harvested twice annually, once in April and again September through December. “During the harvest season, we can have around 80 coffee pickers. Our coffee is handpicked, so we only pick the ripe beans,” said Posada, whose brother oversees production while she’s making connections in the states. “The dynamic there, it’s really nice. It’s really teamwork, you have a lot of people helping with the production, and it’s a really humble environment.”
Posada is humble, too, though she doesn’t let that dampen her ambition. Posada is grassroots campaigning Mina Rica coffee throughout New Jersey, where her green coffee beans are stored, and Pennsylvania, and the east coast. Recently, she completed a three-week door-to-door sales tour, during which she drove 7,000 miles, visited 104 American coffee roasters and delivered 8,400 pounds of coffee.
“It’s tough because there are large importers and multinational that they are really competitive on price. But I feel people and roasters are also open to new suppliers. At the beginning it’s hard because I’m gaining the trust from the roasters, so they are like, ‘OK, I’ll buy one bag from you.’ It’s really slow, but the clients are reordering now, so it is starting to make sense,” Posada said.
Repeat customers include Lloreda, who opened Colombino Coffee in Bethel Park in April. “Her coffee’s really good,” said Lloreda. “It’s very competitive coffee in terms of price and quality. It’s very versatile. We like it a lot.” Posada is working to make Mina Rica a household name, but the company’s mission is broader than selling her own coffee beans. Posada aims to connect with and sell Mina Rica coffee to roasters and coffee shop owners in the U.S. and forge connections so she can bring other young Colombian farmers’ coffee here, too.
“I feel like I have a responsibility or a commitment with my region,” said Posada, who was given the opportunity to spend six months learning English in Canada. “I have the opportunity to export, import, and be able to bring the coffee here. Most of the coffee farmers in Colombia are really small. Most of the small farmers, they don’t speak English, they don’t have the resources to bring coffee here. Bringing small quantities of coffee here is really expensive.”
And coffee farming is labor-intensive. The average age of a coffee producer in Colombia is about 52, Posada said, and younger generations are seeking jobs in bigger cities with better pay. “The production can be really tough and the prices are really volatile. It can be years where the internal price is lower than the cost of production, and then other years it can be better. It’s a tough business,” Posada said. “If you have the connection with the roaster and established clients, you can have a more stable selling price. That’s why I want to create that link: So I can offer them, also, better prices.”
Posada understands the massive undertaking that is selling Mina Rica coffee in the U.S. and advocating both herself and other Colombian farmers, but she’s got a vision and she is following that dream wherever it leads. “I’m proud that I’m able to bring my coffee here. When I have the direct connection with the roasters, it’s like what I always wanted: to know … the final roaster and they are selling my coffee in their shops,” Posada said.
“I love it, but it’s tough. It’s a lot of investment, a lot of work, time and yeah, it takes a lot of resilience. But I know it will be worth it,” she said. “I just want to more visible … to more roasters and for more opportunities to open up. Because if I get more clients, it will help me rotate faster my coffee and then I can bring other coffees from other farmers. I want them to feel motivated to keep growing coffee.”
Source: THE ALMANAC