Who Is Wilton Benitez?

Who Is Wilton Benitez?

Wilton Benitez is a highly specialised Colombian coffee producer, with over 12 years of experience in cultivating some of the world’s rarest coffee varietals. Strangely enough, our relationship with Wilton begins in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire... 


Back in March, we met with a group of Northern coffee roasters in Slaithwaite for a talk about Farmers' Voice Radio - a great initiative which helps producers around the world to better communicate and improve their crops. There we met Jonny Martinez of Mi Café, who told us of his family's farm in Colombia, and working with a chap named Wilton...


Fast-forward to June, and Tom and I headed to Milan for the annual World of Coffee convention. We planned to meet with Jonny and Wilton, cup some coffee, and talk about bringing some into the UK. If you've been following us on social media, you'll already know that the coffees we tasted totally blew our minds. It was fascinating to talk to Wilton about his process (more on that in a bit), and we knew we had to get some of his coffees in our roaster. 


About The Coffees


Wilton currently owns and operates 3 naturally diverse coffee farms located in Piendamo – Cauca in Southwestern Colombia, at a height of 1800 – 2100 masl. There's La Macarena (75 hectares), Las Brisas (22 hectares) and Granja Paraiso 92, the smallest of the three at just 5 hectares. Granja Paraiso 92 is where our three coffees were grown. 


Wilton comes from a family background in coffee production and started his coffee journey on the family farm. Here he discovered the true potential of coffee through fermentation technology. Wilton took a keen interest in how fermentation practices were delivered in other industries such as wine, beer, and cheese – to aid the development of new and unique flavour compounds. As his understanding increased, he started developing his own protocols for coffee processing. 


Wilton has told me personally that “everything is about control”. The process is complex, but if the conditions are controlled and managed, the results create distinctive flavours. 


For each of the coffees we sourced, there is a multi-stage process. Each varietal has its own set of protocols depending on the desired flavour profile. Wilton aims to highlight the coffee's unique flavours whilst taking care not to obscure any of the varietal’s intrinsic attributes. Take the 11-step Caturra varietal process, for example:


 1. Manual harvest.

 2. Characterisation of the cherry.

 3. Classification of the cherry by density and size.

 4. Sterilisation of the cherry (with UV and Ozone).

 5. Cherry fermentation for 48 hours.

 6. During cherry fermentation, the addition of specific yeast

 (Saccharomyces pastorianus) to enhance fruity notes. In the beer industry, this yeast strain is favoured when making crisp-tasting lagers.

 7. Cherry pulping.

 8. Fermentation for 68 hours in parchment.

 9. During cherry fermentation natural juices are produced. These are incorporated in the second fermentation, following the pulping process.

 10. Washing of the seed.

 11. Drying of the seed with controlled equipment for 48 hours at 38°C


All Wilton's coffees undergo a high level of skill and management. The investment in the farm's dry mill 2 years ago allows Wilton and his team to have control over the full process. This is an important aspect, as although the milling of the seeds will not aid in flavour enhancement, it can impart undesirable taints if the process isn’t clean and well managed.


The dry mill also allows Wilton to pass on some of the processing skills to neighbouring farms. He has adopted a social framework for farmers to share agricultural, processing and milling practices. Wilton reiterates that for farmers to understand their coffee, they first need to be able to taste - to understand which elements need to be addressed for quality improvements. 


This is a great philosophy and one of the many reasons we are so fortunate to have access to these special lots. What we have received from Wilton are 3 of the most distinctive coffees we have ever tasted at Rounton Coffee, and to celebrate the great work of this individual producer we will be showcasing all 3 coffees as a Limited Release Box Set.


In this box there are 100g bags of:


Caturra - with notes of Guava, Hops and Violet

Colombia - with notes of Pink Grapefruit, Lime and Cane Sugar

Castillo - with notes of Hazelnut Praline and Black Cherry.


We hope you enjoy them.