Producers

In memory of Daniel Moreno

 Photo taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski 

Photo taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski 

Dear Daniel,

We just learned that you will not be there when we go to visit next time, that makes us very sad. I was looking forward to seeing you again, hugging you again, seeing your beautiful wife and children and grandchildren again. They will all be there, I know that, but you have been the anchor Daniel, you have been The Father Moreno, and The Farmer of ‘El Campo’. We will miss you.

We would, as always, meet at your house upon the hill, and it would have been a heartfelt revisit. We’d try to hold back some tears, but none of us could really help it. It has been like that for many years now, and that’s why. This is business for both of us, but we also know that we depend on each other, and over time affection and care and a sense of responsibility builds. It is as inevitable and natural as in all other aspects of life, certainly when meeting such a graceful man like yourself. 

As the routine has always been, you would be eager to show us the coffee on the drying beds just behind the house, behind the fermentation tanks, and every time there would be something new that had been done since last time we met that we’d look at and discuss. I am sure everyone that has come to visit has the same image as I have of you, standing by the drying beds, humble yet proud, while quietly and gently raking the coffee with your hands, always picking, always moving, always improving.

Seemingly, all of your nine children have inherited this from you, of working hard and always moving forward. You have raised a large family, I will admit that we sometimes joke about going to Moreno Town when we visit because the whole place up in El Cedral is crowded with people, all ages, carrying your last name. The first Moreno I met was Miguel, your oldest son. He has responsibly taken the role, as the first born son sometimes has to, of carrying the baton, maintaining the legacy that you have left them with. Yet there is a family behind him, a whole community of people ready to work on that now, all thanks to you. Well, as we both know that is something that Miguel and yourself have had serious discussions about since before the ‘new era’, back in 2004, when you were about to give up coffee farming altogether, the work was too much of a struggle, not well paid by any measure, and many of your children were trying to make a living by working abroad. But Miguel convinced you to give it one more chance, he was back in Santa Barbara for a short while, from his work ’en el Norte’, and you let him prepare a lot from El Filo and submit a sample to the first Cup of Excellence that year. He succeeded with that one, you had a winning lot yourself in the CoE from El Campo the following year and everything since then is history.

Dear Daniel, rest in peace my friend. You are not going to be around us in the same way anymore and we will miss you oh so dearly, but don’t you worry. We will continue to take care of each other, by working hard and working together and looking after each other. You have planted that in us, and planted many seedlings in the soil, and nourished them to become beautiful trees that you have taken so well care of throughout a long lifetime. We’ll continue to enjoy the fruit of your labor, a labor of love. El Padrino del los cafes delociosos de Santa Barbara, mil Gracias!

 

With Love, 
Robert

& Bjørnar
& Collaborative Coffee Source’s team and family and friends
& Kaffa and Kaffabutikk’s team and family and friends
& Java and Mocca Coffee shops’ baristas and family and friends
& our customers, Kaffa, Robert Kao, Sørlandets Kaffebrenneri, Nordbeans, Cemo, Åre, Da Matteo, Audun, Sey, 4letter word, Reveille, and Common Room Roasters, all loyal to your coffee year after year
& coffee lovers all over the world. 


Related posts

Astrid Medina, in her own words

 From left: Eduardo Urquina and Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, Astrid Medina, and Robert from CCS. Astrid was visiting Acevedo during the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 to support and learn from her coffee producing peers in Huila. 

From left: Eduardo Urquina and Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, Astrid Medina, and Robert from CCS. Astrid was visiting Acevedo during the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 to support and learn from her coffee producing peers in Huila. 

Within 30 seconds of meeting Astrid Medina, she invited me to her finca. She invites everyone, and her invitation is genuine, she would really love to show you her home and her coffee. She is a rockstar of specialty coffee with fans across the globe, but Astrid is a caring and humble person, grateful to coffee for what it has given to her family. 

Astrid is from Planadas, Tolima, an area of Colombia that suffered the some of the worst of the Colombian internal conflict, caught between the FARC guerrillas, the government, the narco-traffickers and the paramilitary groups. People of this region tend not to talk of this violence. Everyone has a story. Everyone suffered. As Colombia begins its journey to peace, these people are looking forward, not backwards. 

I asked Astrid to answer a few questions for me, and what she provided was this heartfelt essay. Rather than edit it into our usual style of blog post, I decided to post it as is. It has been translated from Spanish, and modified slightly for flow, but it remains Astrid's story, in her own words. 


By Astrid Medina

My farm, Buena Vista, is located in the municipality of Planadas in Gaitania, Tolima at an altitude of 1780 to 2000 metres above sea level. The varieties I grow are Caturra, Colombia and Castillo. The total area of my farm is 15 hectares of which 13.5 a dedicated to coffee production.

My coffee is cultivated, picked, processed and dried with upmost care to maintain the quality. Quality is our primary objective when working with coffee.


Coffee has always been part of my life

My paternal grandfather was a coffee producer, my father was a coffee producer, and the family of my husband were all coffee producers.

When I was 29 years old my father, Aureliano Medina, was killed. My three younger siblings and I inherited the farm. Two of my siblings sold their share, so now Buena Vista is owned by my husband, my younger sister and me.

It hasn’t been easy, it is a constant struggle to be a coffee producer, the price, the climate, the varieties, the work that must be done by hand. But it is a passion and an art, and we never stop learning.


Entering the specialty market

I began producing specialty coffee in 2014 when the National Federation of Coffee Growers and Nespresso launched a program called LH TIME, or Late Harvest, which was just for the Castillo variety and consisted of collecting the mature cherries. In our case we picked the cherries over four weeks to obtain the best state of ripeness of this variety. We managed to sell 5000 kg of coffee in parchment at a premium of 300,000 pesos (approximately an additional $100 USD per 125kg). This additional money really helped us to make investments in our farm to implement more processes to achieve better quality and improve salaries of our workers.

In 2015 they held the Cup of Excellence in Colombia and we decided to enter, it was held on the 13th of March, and our coffee won first place! This competition changed our lives. It not only proved that quality coffee is worth the effort, it also proved that hard work and dedication bring good things.

This competition lifted us from anonymity and introduced us to the world of specialty coffee. Many people were suddenly interested in visiting our region, tasting and buying coffee from Planadas. This really helped our region which was hit hard by the internal conflict in Colombia. The coffee producers improved their conditions, could invest in their farms and improve salaries for their workers.

Specialty coffee changed my life and that of my family for the better. It allowed us to improve infrastructure, improve the salaries of our workers, and gave us the opportunity to travel abroad, encounter new cultures, to meet with the people who had come to visit us on our farm. Coffee really unites people.

Specialty coffee allows us to educate our children and support my daughter who is studying at a university in Bogota. It has returned my sense of security, my will to work, to listen, to travel, to learn, to dream.
 

Family and the role of women in coffee

My husband is Raúl Antonio Duran, my daughter is Dayhana Alejandra Duran, she is 19 and is in the sixth semester of an environmental science degree at Universidad El Bosque, and my son Raúl Alejandro is 9 and finishing 4th grade.

My husband is a medical veterinarian, and I am an agricultural production technician. We have always worked in coffee. Before we inherited the farm, we worked for a coffee cooperative, and my husband continues to work as a buyer. In my free time I help with physical analysis, and this has really helped us to learn more about coffee.

My husband has a good head for finances and is an excellent administrator. This has given me the opportunity to participate, to learn, to contribute, and it has really helped us to grow and work towards the same goal. We work as a team.

To be a woman in the Colombian coffee sector is a crucial role that requires great commitment, work, dedication and above all, great passion for what we do. Gender equality is so important. In coffee there is always work for every member of the family, and it is very important to empower those who want to work. Men and women always complement each other and both are important. Both are in charge of what they do, both develop a role very important in their family.


Plans for the future

My plans for the future are very ambitious. I want my farm to be a place that does not harm the environment, where many varieties of coffee exist, where there are many ornamental and fruit trees, where we never want for vegetables. I want to have the highest standard of water treatment, to offer my workers training, and above all we want to learn more ourselves. We want to have some means of air transport to bring the picked coffee from the highest lots to the washing station.

I dream that my children will speak English, finish their university studies, and be in love with coffee.

I am very proud of my farm, it is the legacy of my father, but I am prouder of the coffee that we produce. It is wonderful and privileged position to offer specialty coffee, it gives me great satisfaction and fills me with gratitude. I am proud to know that we have placed one grain of sand in building the country of our dreams.

Special regards
Astrid Medina Pereira

The December 2017 harvest, Finca Buena Vista, Planadas, Tolima, Colombia. All photos courtesy of Raúl Durán. Astrid's award winning coffee is available in the US. See our North America Offers to order a sample. 

In memory of Alexander Ordoñez

Our friend and partner, Alexander Ordoñez from Huila, Colombia, was in a motorcycle accident and passed away yesterday. We at CCS are heartbroken by this news.

 Alexander Ordoñez Bravo on his finca Los Naranjos, in Acevedo, Huila, Colombia

Alexander Ordoñez Bravo on his finca Los Naranjos, in Acevedo, Huila, Colombia

Alexander was a gentle man, an exceptional coffee producer, and a loving dad. When asked what he was most proud of, he said “being a responsible father.” Alexander’s own father was never part of his life, and his mother only sporadically. Alexander passed though homes of friends and family, a week here, a month there. During many periods of his childhood he didn’t own shoes, he rarely ate meat or even rice. When Alexander was 15 he moved to Planadas, Tolima, where he was lucky to be taken in by a kind coffee farmer who taught him about coffee cultivation. Having left school after sixth grade, these were Alexander’s most formative years of education.

Alexander's wife Maribel comes from a long line of coffee producers, and shortly after she and Alexander married in 1999, the couple inherited a small piece of land near Acevedo. Over the past 18 years they have slowly built their farm, planting new trees and purchasing neighbouring lots to increase production, whilst raising their two kids, Laura Camila and Diego Alejandro. Recently they built a road on their property to connect their farm to the nearest official road, saving themselves an hour journey by mule to transport their coffee off the farm.

When we visited Acevedo in January, Alexander and Maribel hosted us for lunch. Maribel and her sister Maryoni prepared Asado Huilense, meat marinated in a local bitter orange, served with potatoes, tapioca root and plantain. Alexander opened his best bottle of whiskey and repeatedly filled glasses for his many guests. When I thanked him for his generous hospitality he insisted on thanking us for accepting their invitation for lunch. In previous years when CCS visited Acevedo he only had the opportunity to offer us a snack, which was hugely disappointing for the family. “My wife is an excellent cook,” Alexander explained.

Our thoughts right now are with Maribel, Camila and Diego and the community of producers in Acevedo. Alexander, we will all miss you.

CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 Recap

Acevedo Cup winners and other stellar coffees of the region will be arriving soon! Order your samples by contacting Sal in the US and Nico in Europe.

Jair Caicedo was this year’s winner, a surprise to many at the awards ceremony on Jan 21, as the young farmer is only 26 years old.

The full list of winners

1. Jair Caicedo, Finca Buena Vista

2. Alberto Calderon, Finca La Esmeralda

3. Carlos Calderon, Finca El Porvenir

4. Carmelo Carmelo Blend:
Oscar Ferney Cruz, Finca Jerico
William Arley Cruz, Finca Jerico

Jaimr Useche Gonzalez, Finca La Luna
Dionar Aleis Useche Gonzalez, Finca Los Alpes

5. Blend:
Otoniel Cordoba, Finca El Jardin
Edilson Calderon, Finca El Tesoro

Manuel Calderon, Finca Mira Flores

6. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

7. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

8. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

9. Guillermo Rojas, Finca La Falda

10. Blend:
Miller Norberto Bustos, Finca El Mirador
Jamir Usache, Finca La Luna
Diego Bernal, Finca Primavera
Alexander Granada, Finca El Rinconcito
Jose Ignacio Morales, Finca El Guadual

11. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

12. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

13. Wilmer Cuellar, Finca Las Brisas

14. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

15. Wilmer Cuellar, Finca Las Brisas

16. Mariano Leal, Finca Las Acacias

17. Luis Vargas, Finca Llanitos

18. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

19. Carlos Calderon, Finca El Porvenir

20. Jair Caicedo, Finca Buena Vista

Good years and bad years

The overriding theme of this year’s trip to Acevedo is that producing quality is really hard. Sometimes a farmer does everything right and still their coffee doesn’t make it to 86, the benchmark both CCS and Fairfield have set. Why? This season it was the weather. Heavy rains damaged the flowers resulting in lower yields. And those rains, combined with unusually cold weather, caused problems when drying the coffee, resulting in poorer quality.

This is the heartbreaking part of our job. We have a quality benchmark, and there are many good reasons for setting it at 86, but some years that means rejecting coffee from producers we love and dearly want to support. We wish we could buy all their coffee. This year, the best we could do to support them was show up.


The impact of being there

Being present should not to be underestimated, especially in Colombia. Accepting an invitation into a Colombian’s home, allowing them to nourish you, even with just a snack, shows enormous respect for them, and their respect for you. Maribel Claros Castro, wife of Alexander Ordóñez, prepared us a traditional feast called Asado Huilense, meat marinated in bitter orange and cooked on a wood-fired stove. Alexander has had a bad year, thousands of kilos of his coffee were damaged when unusually cold temperatures hit his region while his coffee was drying. But rather than complain about his financial loss, he thanked us profusely for accepting their invitation for lunch. “My wife is an excellent cook,” he explained.

For the producers, the roasters are the real celebrities. Dillon Edwards of Parlor Coffee joined us on this trip to Acevedo and it was his fourth time in the region in two years. He brought gifts for his treasured producers, including roasted coffee in packages bearing the names of their fincas. For many years Colombia offered just one coffee, “Café de Colombia,” so it is a a genuine surprise and delight for these farmers to know their work as a family is presented directly to coffee consumers. 


Bringing producers together

Events like the CCS Acevedo Cup also present a rare opportunity to collaborate. Seldom are so many producers of specialty coffee in one room together, as they were for the CCS Acevedo Cup awards ceremony. The after-party is as important as the awards presentation itself, the farmers use it to discuss, share and advise. 

Special guests at the event this year were Team Tolima! Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading is a big advocate of regional collaboration, and this year he invited several producers from Planadas to join us on our farm visits and attend the awards ceremony, including Hernando Gomez, Ivan and Jhon Molano, and Astrid Medina. One of the greatest highlights of this trip was seeing Astrid Medina’s reaction to Maria Bercelia’s unique drying facility on her farm, Finca Los Angeles. What a treat it was to listen as these two rock stars of Colombian coffee discussed the finer points of fermentation and drying.

 


What it means to win

Despite the adverse weather, there was great coffee to cup. While this year's event wasn't the marathon of 2016, we still had 37 lots to taste and overall the cupping scores were higher than last year.

What does it mean to place in the Acevedo Cup? In addition to being recognised in the community, winning a place in the top 20 means a significant financial gain. Jair Caicedo will earn 2,200,000 Colombian pesos per carga (125kg of parchment coffee) for his winning lot. To put that price in perspective, the FNC are currently offering around 800,000 pesos per carga. Once yield rates are taken into account, Jair will earn about three times the current purchase price.

We are so grateful to all the farmers who invited us into their homes, offered us meals and refreshments, listened, shared, and gave us their precious time: Javier Pulgarín and Patricia Rodriguez, Luis Vargas and his family, Alexander Ordoñez and Maribel Claros Castro, and Maria Bercelia and Jose Erazo. We are so humbled by your generous hospitality. See you next year.

Acevedo Cup winners and other stellar coffees of the region will be arriving soon! Order your samples by contacting Sal in the US and Nico in Europe.

Why farmers love meeting roasters at the CCS Acevedo Cup

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You’re invited: The second annual CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 with Fairfield Trading will be held next month in Huila Colombia, from the 17th to the 21st of January.
 

Come and explore the beauty of Acevedo, discover the exceptional coffees of this region of Huila, and spend time with these dedicated Colombian farmers. Email info@collaborativecoffeesource.com to reserve your place. 

The core of our business at CCS is connecting roasters to producers and forging long term relationships. The CCS Acevedo Cup is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways we achieve this.

It is hard to overstate the importance of having roasters attend this event. Their presence as judges and observers makes the farmers feel connected to the markets, and valued for their hard work and investment.

 The cupping team, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. Clockwise from top: Ria - Four Letter Word, Dillon - Parlor Coffee, Eduardo - Fairfield Trading, Melanie - CCS, Tali - Barismo.

The cupping team, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. Clockwise from top: Ria - Four Letter Word, Dillon - Parlor Coffee, Eduardo - Fairfield Trading, Melanie - CCS, Tali - Barismo.

In 2016, twenty coffees were selected as finalists for the CCS Acevedo Cup. When interviewed by Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading after the event, all twenty expressed their gratitude to the roasters who attended, and described their pride at reaching the top twenty.

Ciro Lugo of Finca San Pedro in La Marimba, who won fourth and sixth place, said being a finalist filled him with emotion “For the first time I received recognition for the work that, together with my family, we do [on our farm]. The CCS Acevedo Cup is a great achievement for coffee growers in Acevedo.”

 Albeiro Lugo (left) and his father Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

Albeiro Lugo (left) and his father Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

Discovering quality

Very often, farmers are unaware of the quality of the coffee they produce. By entering the CCS Acevedo Cup they receive useful information in the form of  cupping scores and tasting notes. This data serves as both recognition of their labors, and incentive to continue investing and improving their coffee.

Jon Wilson Poveda almost didn’t enter the competition. “I knew of the CCS Acevedo Cup,” he said, “but I hesitated to enter and I didn’t imagine I could win, because I knew that my fermentation and drying facilities were not helping to process the coffee well.”  Jon inherited part of his farm, called “Danny” in La Marimba, and decided to buy another lot of land to increase production. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t have the funds to expand his fermentation facilities or improve his drying beds. In 2016 he also couldn’t find enough labour to pick his cherries fast enough, a common problem in the region.

However Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading convinced Jon that several lots of his coffee were worth entering, and Jon won tenth place. Jon credits the forest reserve that borders his property for the quality of his coffee. The farm, which sits 1829 masl, draws water from the mountains to irrigate the coffee trees.

Leonte Polania of Finca El Ocazo in La Estrella was also surprised to place in the finals of the CCS Acevedo Cup. “I thought other producers had better varieties of coffee,” said the farmer who won 13th and 16th places. “We never rest during the harvest, it is arduous and constant,” Leonte explained. “Reaching the finals is the best compensation for that hard work.”

 Sunset at Finca Bella Vista, living up to its name.

Sunset at Finca Bella Vista, living up to its name.

Specialty coffee as a sustainable model

The CCS Acevedo Cup is financial proof that specialty coffee can be sustainable for coffee farmers.

Elizabeth Abaunza of Finca La Esperanza in La Barniza described the validation of winning after much financial investment in their farm. “We received the news that we won 5th place with such joy. It wasn’t easy to improve the farm, we incurred debts and what we had, we earned with our own sweat. To receive this award is a relief and motivation to continue pursuing quality.”

“Selling traditional coffee isn’t profitable,” said Maria Bercerlia Martinez of Finca Los Angeles in La Marimba. With help from Fairfield Trading, Maria and her family have invested in improving quality in order to enter the specialty market, and their work was recognized when two lots of their coffee placed 9th and 20th.

“It was so gratifying to win two places in the final of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016, thanks to the work of my husband and my son Daniel, who are so passionate about growing specialty coffee.”

Wilmer Cuellar of Finca Las Brisas in La Estrella was so proud to win 11th place, as it proved that producing high quality was financially viable. “I felt so happy to be representative of the group showing that quality coffee is the solution,” he said.

Wilmer was traveling at the time of the awards ceremony, but his wife and daughter attended, and proudly posted photos of the event on Facebook. “The other coffee growers congratulated us and we stood out in the coffee growing community.”


Meeting roasters

One of the best outcomes of the CCS Acevedo Cup are the relationships that are forged between roasters and producers.

Eighth place winner Otoniel Morales of Finca Las Delicias was very disappointed he couldn’t attend the awards ceremony of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016, because he really wants to meet the people who buy his coffee. “It would have been fabulous to be present and to be recognized as a good coffee producer,” said the coffee grower from Marticas. “To know that what I produce is appreciated by coffee buyers, that is what motivates me to achieve the best quality.”

Julian Castro of the farm Villa Juliana was proud to receive 15th place. “Our coffee wasn’t the first, but it was among the best of many coffees entered!”

“The competition was well organized,” he said. “For my part, I want to thank the roasters who came. Thanks to them I got to show my coffee, and I hope they repeat the event in the future.”

Join us for the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018, Jan 17 to 21st and be part of this special event, recognizing the great work of farmers in the Acevedo region, and the exceptional coffees they are producing. Email info@collaborativecoffeesource.com for more information. 

 The top ten coffee producers, CCS Acevedo Cup, 2016

The top ten coffee producers, CCS Acevedo Cup, 2016

Living Our Values 2017

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It’s that time of year when we pause to review our past and plan for our future. At CCS, we have taken this time to consider why this company was founded, its successes and frustrations, and our hopes for the coming years.

The report, “Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017,” is an attempt to highlight the work we are doing to achieve our mission to “source the right coffee, the right way.”

With this document we aim to hold ourselves accountable to our producers, partners, and customers, and everyone working in specialty coffee.

Before the end-of-year celebrations begin in earnest, we hope you find a moment to read this report. We invite you to question, comment and respond. Please email us at info@collaborativecoffeesource.com with your thoughts.

Read the report: Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017

Farmer Profile: Jesus Antonio Saavedra, Finca El Placer


Tolima, Colombia

Twenty years ago Antonio Saavedra sold his farm at 1200 masl in Tolima, Colombia, and bought another further up the hill at 1715 masl. Yep, twenty years ago. Before anyone was talking about global warming and its impact on coffee, Antonio realized that temperatures were rising and it would soon be impossible to grow great coffee on his lower altitude farm.

To reach his current farm called El Placer, located in the San Antonio municipality of Tolima, you have to travel one and a half hours by horseback from the nearest road. It’s the kind of trip Antonio is accustomed to making. He once travelled eight hours by horseback to reach the town of Planadas in Tolima, in order to deliver a sample of his coffee to Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, our partners in the region. Things are spread out in that part of Colombia and roads don't always take you where you need to go.

This is why Antonio created a school on his property. Seven children from neighboring families attend the school, which covers both primary and secondary curriculum. Of course, "neighbor" is a relative term. Their farms are quite far from Antonio’s, too far for the kids to travel back and forth on a daily basis. So they arrive Monday morning and stay until Friday afternoon.

 Children tending to their vegetable garden beside the school on Antonio Saavedra's farm in Tolima, Colombia

Children tending to their vegetable garden beside the school on Antonio Saavedra's farm in Tolima, Colombia

Their teacher is also the head cook and chief caretaker. She walks one and a half hours up the hill to Antonio’s property on a Monday morning, then teaches, cooks and cares for the kids until they all go home on Friday. Next to the school building is a vegetable patch and part of the kids’ daily activity is to maintain the garden and prepare meals using the vegetables they have grown. The kids could attend a government school, but it is further from their homes than Antonio's farm, and it doesn't provide housing during the week. If it wasn’t for the school Antonio built on his property for his neighbor's children, it is unlikely they would get a continuous education.

 New plantings on Antonio Saavedra's farm, Finca El Placer

New plantings on Antonio Saavedra's farm, Finca El Placer

The dedication of the teacher and the children is a reflection of Antonio’s own serious approach to life and work. The quality of his coffee is a result of daily persistence and willingness to learn. Antonio renovates his farm regularly to keep the trees young. His pickers are trained to collect only the ripe cherries which he depulps immediately and ferments for 36 hours in lidded containers filled with just enough water to cover the cherries. He washes the coffee up to four times to remove all trace of mucilage, and dries it slowly in a solar drier for around 15 days. He personally inspects every truck that will transport his coffee and accepts only impeccable cleanliness, his last chance to ensure his precious product isn’t contaminated by a smelly truck on its way to a buyer.

 Antonio Saavedra at the Expoespeciales specialty coffee event in Bogotá, Colombia, October 2017

Antonio Saavedra at the Expoespeciales specialty coffee event in Bogotá, Colombia, October 2017

“I have coffee in my blood,” Antonio explains, when asked for his secret to producing quality. “I have been a coffee grower for 40 years. Coffee brings me food, life, love. I’m so proud when people buy my coffee and enjoy it.”

Through his connection to Fairfield Trading, Antonio is now working with several buyers he describes as “very serious people who understand coffee,” in other words, people like Antonio. Through these buyers he hopes to learn how he can improve his coffee even more. “I have a lot of discipline,” he said. “I tend to my coffee every day, I will work every day to make it better.” 

Coffees from Tolima and Huila are arriving very soon in the US. Contact Sal on the East Coast and Colleen on the West Coast to get your samples.

Burundi 2017 Harvest Shipping Soon

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It's been so great to see the continuous build of up anticipation for our Burundi coffees year-after-year. When we first started working with this origin in 2012, finding roasters willing to take a chance on this new origin was challenging. And with good reason: it was relatively unknown as a place, let alone as an origin of exciting and quality coffees. On top of this, what little has been known about Burundian coffee has been impacted by the reality of the potato defect, which over time, has been intensively fought with every kind of control measure team Long Miles could think to throw at it. They perform meticulous black light scans of every lot pre-export, and Epaphras Ndikumana, ingenious planner and leader of Long Miles' farmer extension programs, even organized antestia bug hunts.

As our first containers of the recent Burundi harvest make their way to Mombasa port en route to New Jersey and Antwerp, we wanted to provide some context as to why the timeline for this year's arrivals is seemingly "later" than last year. The first thing to note is that the shipments are not actually departing late: everyone involved in the making of this year's lots have been working as diligently as possible; there have simply been forces at play that have been working against earlier shipment dates.


A Longer Harvest Period

Harvest typically begins in March and ends in late-May to the early-June. This year harvest started in April and went all the way to mid-July. This wasn't true across the board -- there were other washing stations and areas that had more of a "regular" harvest period. The difference? Politics.

While Burundi's coffee sector has officially allowed for private enterprise since the late-80s to early-90s, in practice it has been bureaucratically difficult to conduct business as a coffee entrepreneur. Corruption is rife and policy changes are often unforeseeable.
 

Disruptive Coffee Policy

There were two policy changes in particular that had devastating consequences for farmers growing in communities not supported by government interests:

  1. The government's halting of fertilizer imports to select areas, including the communities delivering cherries to Long Miles' washing stations. The main consequence of this was that the soil became too acidic for the plants to properly develop their cherries and the sub-consequence of that was uneven cherry development, leading to a longer harvest period.
  2. The removal of collection points.
    • Collection points are key for Burundi farmers because very few have motorized means of transport and deliver cherries by foot to washing stations.
    • As a result of the banning of collection points, many farmers (most of them women, like the woman in the photo above) walked up to 15km (30km round trip) [corrected from an earlier version describing a 30km one-way trip] to a Long Miles station in order to continue working with their team. Imagine walking 15km one-way with a bag of between 40-50kg bag of cherries on your head, once every week (not to mention the long walk back).

Usually when I come to make selections in June, I'm presented with pretty well all the top lots that will be available for that given season. Given that my visit this year took place in the midst ofharvest, many of the coffees that the team had planned to be ready simply weren't, meaning many of the selections took place via Long Miles' Picasso Nduwayo (Quality Control Manager) and his team sending batches of samples as quickly as they could be taken off their drying beds, to our Oslo lab for approval. By far a much more tedious and drawn out way of purchasing coffee.

Nonetheless, both Long Miles and CCS are pleased and excited about this year's selections. The Long Miles Team have once again outdone themselves and it is starkly evident that the communities in which they work are hugely supportive and believe in this project. How else do you explain a farmer choosing to walk 15km, past other washing stations, to sell her cherries?

Demand for these coffees have been very high. 90% of the first container coming to Antwerp has been pre-sold and so with that, we've decided to bring in a second container to the EU.

The first two containers, bound for Antwerp and New Jersey, are at Mombasa port and are scheduled for departure on December 9th, meaning a mid-January arrival.

Get in touch with Nicolas (EU & Asia) and Sal (North America) for availability and samples.

Melanie

Santa Barbara, Honduras 2017

  Neptaly Bautista: an early CCS partner in Santa Barbara

Neptaly Bautista: an early CCS partner in Santa Barbara

Field Reports from early and late harvest visits

This is an intro and a comment to what CCS is doing in Santa Barbara. As we are celebrating our 12th+ year of working in this region we are assessing some experiences and looking ahead; at how we want work here going forward.

CCS is making such a direct impact in this community like nowhere else I can think of. Our position is strong, which comes with great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It is really humbling. Our deeds are seen and our words are heard. Any temptation to give suggestions to a farmer-friend must be well thought through before it is said, or else, before you know it, what you said will be done.

These partnerships have fortunately been mutually beneficial. Yields have never been higher and the quality has never been better. That is of course not to our credit and is thanks to hard work from the people that live and breathe in Santa Barbara.

There is no mistake: Buying is Power. It has always been like that in this business and continues to be the case. CCS’ buying-power is evident in Santa Barbara, which is important for the things we want to achieve with San Vicente. This is a fact that we are well aware of and is something that needs to be protected, nourished, cherished and held on to.

In the years that have passed since the beginning of our focused sourcing and concrete buying from the region began, CCS is now committing to 20 times our original volume. When looking ahead we should prepare ourselves, collaborate with our farming partners (including our exporter San Vicente), and communicate with the marketplace that we will double the current volume within the next few years; a growth that is inevitable and has been almost organic.

  The Moreno family: one of CCS' strongest partnerships anywhere

The Moreno family: one of CCS' strongest partnerships anywhere

How This All Began

It started with buying just a few bags from Natividad Benitez, the first-place winner of Cup of Excellence in 2005. It sparked a relationship between Natividad and MOCCA in Oslo (later MOCCA’s roasting operation became a separate roasting company: KAFFA) yet instead we found ourselves growing into relationships with some of his neighbors over the course of the next couple of years. From these humble beginnings, today we find ourselves working with 40 families — and counting — through Collaborative Coffee Source.

Santa Barbara is one of those regions that was clearly discovered and defined by the CoE program. Arturo Angel Paz of San Vicente Coffee Exporters, is a dedicated and curious coffee cupper. He met Miguel Moreno of El Cedral, an ambitious and anxious producer (he was in huge debt at the time just before the competition) when Miguel dropped off one of his samples. From this moment, these two men have been instrumental in changing the Honduran coffee scene forever: Santa Barbara has clearly developed into an appellation. Ironically today, coffee cherries from Marcala (formerly recognized as the important coffee region in Honduras) are bought to be dried in Santa Barbara.

Like so many places we are visiting and buying from, the coffee supply chain and trade has clearly separated into two tracks: commercial or specialty, which not only defines level of ambition and empowerment, but livelihood and thus, level of poverty, to be clear. The dream of most farmers in the know is to find ‘a buyer’ — un comprador — one to grow with. Coffee farming is incredibly labor intensive and the only way to make a living when one has a small farm is to work the land yourself and engaging other family members. Only when the land is larger, just like in any economy, really, can one afford the overhead cost of management.

Having pickers/workers/employees, even in countries where the cost of labor is already unsustainably low (for the worker) when paid at its minimum level, is still the main cost for making coffee. It is also the cost that farmers really experience to be their main economic challenge.

The current price of coffee, even when at levels paid for specialty coffee these days, is dependent on keeping people in poverty, or at least paying them as little as possible for a job that is not only hard and uncomfortable — but totally necessary.

So when we speak about ‘equitable’ and ‘sustainable’ business for the people, we mean everyone involved.

  Pedro Sagastume (L) and his son-in-law, Edwin Pineda (R). Gen II relationships in SB

Pedro Sagastume (L) and his son-in-law, Edwin Pineda (R). Gen II relationships in SB

Paying up

Having responsibility suggests that one act responsibly. Our sense of ‘duty’ in these Santa Barbara communities is firm. I strongly believe that the only way to talk about the issues of ‘livelihood’ and ‘poverty’ is to acknowledge the fact that money matters — for all parties involved — and now is the time to bring it up with our suppliers in a way that is also making them feel the responsibility that they have as employers of coffee workers, many times from their own community and sometimes their neighbors.

There can be a subtle nuance between suggesting and requiring something. As much as there may be a desire to change things for what we think is better, we walk a fine line in trying not to impose our mindset. Exposing ignorance is one thing. Worse is being seen as disrespecting cultural differences and inter-relational dynamics in the communities that we - after all - visit only for a few days each year. We have to acknowledge that we don’t live our farming partners’ lives.

Still, this is the new paradigm we are working toward: This harvest/buying season we are increasing the FOB price to $4.25/4.50 per pound (hence Farm Gate pricing is increasing proportionally) as the BASE price for an 86-points lot, we are at the same time ‘asking’ that the farmers also the pay their workers: farm-workers, pickers, etc., more. It is not a condition, but this increase of 50 cts/lb from last season is meant to give the farmer/land owner/owner of the facilities/business person/ employer an opportunity to distribute some of the gains they are making in relationship with us, to their workers.

As for the farms themselves: the stories, challenges and qualities from this harvest, we’ll share these over the next few weeks as we receive the lots and distribute them to their homes all over the world. Due to the prolonged harvest season, which started in January and went all the way to June, we have visited the region more often this year and have thus selected lots from the mid-harvest point (March), which has now just landed. The lots selected from the later harvest point (June) will soon be afloat.

Follow here and our social media for more on the specific farm updates that we will present in the coming days and weeks.

Coming up in the next season, we will work closely with a team of people on the ground to improve quality even further and in all aspects of making great coffee: husbandry, picking, processing, drying and packaging.

See you soon at a cupping table near you!

- Robert W

Panama Harvest Visit, March 2017

The purpose of my recent visit to Boquete, Panama was to spend a couple of days cupping with long-time friends and partners. Over the course of this visit, I observed and learned about the latest developments concerning how coffee cultivation has changed in this famed micro-region. My hosts and the coffees we cupped included:

  • Hacienda Esmeralda, Geishas, Washed and Naturals
  • Elida Estate, Catuaí and Geisha, Washed and Naturals
  • Panama Coffee Traders (PCT): the new sourcing and export company of Wilford and Wilford Lamastus Jr. of Finca Elida. Catuaí and Geisha, Washed and Naturals.

This visit proved to be a bit early ‘in the season’ for cupping, although mid-March isn’t typically early in Central America. One major reason for this comparatively “later” harvest period is that the farmers we are buying from, along with many more in the Boquete valley, are growing their best coffees at higher and higher altitudes, in part due to climate change.
 

Climate Change, Geisha & the Harvest Period

Ronaldo, who has been working with coffee farming in Boquete over three decades (most notably at La Hacienda Esmeralda) is unequivocal about the average temperature noticeably increasing upward over the years. Rain patterns have also been changing; there is later or irregular rain, leading to “irregular” flowering and harvest periods. The harvest period is now starting in December lasting in August, with the main harvest period going from February through April.

The farmers in Boquete are incredibly competitive and they have long been rivalling one another in growing Geisha trees at the climactically highest altitudes possible. Early on this meant exceeding 1900 meters above sea level, then 2000 and today, ‘high’ has increased to 2100 masl. What was once not even considered possible is now happening, due both to competition and climate change. What’s next?

 Ripe geisha cherries at La Hacienda Esmeralda

Ripe geisha cherries at La Hacienda Esmeralda

Regardless of temperature or climate change, the Geisha plant is a sturdy one once it has settled. But it is also delicate and slow growing in terms of producing fruit worth calling a harvest. These factors, along with the high altitudes, the fact that Geisha cultivation requires seven to eight years or more of careful husbandry, the necessary wind protection, nourishment, and waiting, all culminate in the Geishaendeavour requiring great investments in time and all other imaginable resources.

The coffees themselves are becoming more elegant, whether wet processed or other. I think that when it is well done, Geisha might be one of the best varieties to make naturals from. I’m not saying that natural processing makes for a better cup than washed per se. But the best version of this variety and this method is showing its best and true attributes here. These Geisha naturals showcase the processing method in such a way that makes for both complexity and balance: they have all the floral notes and structured acidity, together with all the sweetness, body, and juiciness that a 94-points kind-of-coffee ought to have.
 

Hacienda Esmeralda

During the weekend of my visit, La Hacienda Esmeralda was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The farm started with dairy production during the late ‘60s, moved into coffee soon afterward and is today strong in both fields. In the coffee world, Esmeralda is The World's #1 most recognized farm for Geisha coffee. After all, it was the Peterson family that discovered it. Who even spoke about Geisha before the Best of Panama competition in 2004?

 Happy 50th Anniversary, La Hacienda Esmeralda! Big congrats to the Peterson Family.

Happy 50th Anniversary, La Hacienda Esmeralda! Big congrats to the Peterson Family.

Earlier, I mentioned Ronaldo who has been working with the Peterson family since 2002. He arrived when they bought the now-famous plot on the Jaramillo hillside where the first Geisha trees were discovered. Back then, Geisha trees were being harvested from an altitude range of 1450 to 1650 masl. Much has changed since then.

Esmeralda continues to dry their lots on cement patios and in mechanical driers. There has been little innovation there. Their meticulousness, however, is unquestionable, along with their coffees’ cup results. As a matter of fact, I have yet to see the same consistency in results from other markets. I’m thinking particularly about colleagues from across the border in Costa Rica, who claim theirs are the best practices when it comes to drying naturals and ‘honey’ coffee on raised African beds. I’m wondering whether these methods truly make a difference.

What are the cup-profile correlations? And what are the long-term effects of a given method? How well does the processed green coffee keep its quality?

 Robert (left) with Wilford Lamastus of Finca Elida

Robert (left) with Wilford Lamastus of Finca Elida


Finca Elida and Designing Flavour

Speaking of processing and cup quality, Wilford Lamastus of Finca Elida told me he is growing more and more skeptical of de-pulping machines (i.e. eco-pulpers). He thinks it is obvious that the pulper’s physical strain on the parchment, including the centrifuging of the mucilage, is damaging the coffee-in-parchment to an extent that is limiting the quality potential of the coffee both in the cup and over time.

While I understood his evidence as anecdotal, I think it is worth following up. Wilford now processes his best coffee without de-pulping. Rather, the skin is removed using good old-fashioned fermentation and washing techniques, which he calls hand washed coffee. I like that.

This classic process uses more water, so for this is a problematic trend (if it becomes one, again) in terms of environmental considerations. On the other hand, and this became clear to me later in the conversation with Wilford, the other motivation for taking the cherry-skin off carefully is to preserve the skin as well as possible so he can make the best possible cascara from it. Some good news for the same environmental analyses.

 Drying at Finca Elida

Drying at Finca Elida

Elida’s lots, both washed and natural, are generally cupping great, with scores ranging from 86 to 89 points (the family might have scored them higher). There were only a few scoring a disappointing 84 points and then the family knew something had gone wrong, whether in the drying or in the roasting. There were also cups that were (un)questionably winey, but then again, these are spot-on for other buyers’ preferences. So it goes.

Like those winey flavors in your naturals and want more? You’ve got it! The Elida approach to servicing a market, by designing flavor, is something we are seeing in other places in the coffee world too. Wilford is adamant about this approach being a pragmatic one. From his perspective as a craftsman, the ‘secret’ lies in the drying of naturals. For those that want a cleaner cup with less mature-fruit driven flavors, he will suggest a faster dried coffee cherry: one dried on a hotter surface; using thinner layers; with more sun exposure and more raking; over 5-7 days. Done! For a fruitier cup for other markets, he will deliberately do a slower drying by using raised African beds, thicker layers, less shade or less direct sunlight, turning just once a day, with a two-week drying time, or more.
 

Pricing

Beyond the yearly ritual of cupping with Rachel (at Esmeralda) and Wilford & Wilford Jr. (at Elida), I learned a few things about how Boquete producers strategize their production and sales, even designing profiles of their lots to meet various markets. It has been evident for years that Boquete is the home of Geisha in quite literal, as well as statistical senses. There is a tremendous amount of Geisha plants being grown, whether it’s the re-planting of existing farm land, or new plantings. The Lamastus' farms alone will plant 45,000+ trees this year, which is on par with their growth last year. Given the time it takes to see any noticeable harvest, production levels aren’t going to explode any time soon.

The Petersons, easily already the biggest Geisha farmers in this community, continue to buy land and grow trees at a formidable rate. They do so in no rush and with no cutting of corners. The family work with coffee based on solid investments and farm work. I often think that we owe a great deal of gratitude to the fact that it was this family, and this community, that discovered Geisha. Had it been somebody else, what would they have done? Would the field have advanced to where it is today?

 The Petersons: (from left) Daniel, Rachel, Erik, Susan & Price)

The Petersons: (from left) Daniel, Rachel, Erik, Susan & Price)

Auctions continue to be a thermometer and a regulator for the price setting of Geisha coffee, although, going from astronomically high prices of $300+ per pound, to more down-to-earth levels of $30/lb and below speaks clearly, in dollar value terms, that not all Geisha lots are ‘worth' the same. At BoP and at Esmeralda’s very own auctions, the lots are very competitive in quality. For example, Esmeralda is not auctioning any lot under 88-points. This means that when they sell their Private Collection, it is a blend of 86-88 points, which is not a bad deal, considering that one does not need to bid for it.

Farmers delivering to and succeeding at Best of Panama know that they cannot expect to sell their non-auction 86-point Geishas at +$30 per pound. While I think these price-structures are interesting and well deserved, we must realize that there is a new economy in coffee that is separate from and totally different than the rest of the coffee market. Like in any other well-functioning economy, knowledge is power. In Boquete, cupping is key, and the best farmers in this town are also the best cuppers, competing with their customers in knowing the most about what’s on the table. When these coffees meet an educated market, offered by empowered farmers, it is a quite beautiful battle. One that is ‘fought’ on equal terms.

 The Best of Panama Auction has been instrumental in empowering Panama coffee farmers in setting great benchmark prices for their lots

The Best of Panama Auction has been instrumental in empowering Panama coffee farmers in setting great benchmark prices for their lots

Elida sells its Catuaí cascara for $3.50/lb and its Geisha for $10/lb. Power!

This year, the Lamastuses introduced me to their Panama Coffee Traders' (PCT) program for sourcing and buying lots from neighbours. This company was started with the aim of finding buyers good and sold Boquete coffees that are at a lower price-point. While my visit proved to be a bit early in the season, I still cupped some lots and have asked about places, people and potential for future relationships. I scored one non-Geisha from PCT at 86 points and the highest scores were between 86.5 and 87-points but both were Geisha.

Well, the season isn’t over and symptomatically of climate change and coffee growing at higher altitudes, the BoP which used to take place in Early-April is now happening at the end of May. Hopefully you, the buyer, will accept these realities and not fill up your inventories with other Central American coffees, while Boquete coffee have not yet been harvested.

- Robert

Farmer Profile: Dario Hernandez

Farm & Production Data

Farm Name: Dario Hernandez
Owner: Dario, Angelica & Tono Hernandez. A family of three (Tono is Dario’s and Angelica’s son) – each with their own plantation making up the farm as a whole
Closest town: Antigua
Department: Sacatepéquez
Altitude (masl): 1600-1800
Farm Size (ha): 17.5
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 3400
Soil composition: volcanic
Harvest season: January – April
Harvest peak: Mid-February – Mid-March
Approx. annual production (per 46kg bags green coffee): 300
Varieties: Bourbon & caturra


Wet process

Washing - Cherries go into reception tank and floaters are separated out, then pumped into the depulper - After being depulped by a mechanical depulper, cherries are sorted in two ways: clean and those that still have fruit o The ones with fruit go to a separate channel to undergo a second depulping - Clean cherries are moved with recycled water over to fermentation tanks o If there happen to still be cherries with fruit, they are sent to another tank where they will most likely be processed as commercial grade - Dry fermentation for 14-15 hours - Clean water then used to rinse the parchment which is then moved to a mechanical washer and finally transported to the drying patios or beds.

Three types of drying methods. Dependent on quality:

  1. Green house with raised beds • Used for small lots (e.g. Hunapu). Do some honeys and naturals • Temperature, moisture, humidity levels are monitored • There are windows that can be opened to allow for more air flow when needed
  2. Mechanical dryers used for biggest/commercial lots • Stay in the dryer for 24 hours @ below 50C • Then dried for five days on the patio
  3. Patio
    • Most volume dried here
    • 12-16 days
    • Tube test in the middle of coffee lots to figure out whether coffee is dry enough to be measured for 11% moisture content. If it sticks to the tube, it still needs drying. If it doesn’t, moisture content reading is taken.
  4. Post-drying - Parchment is packed in grain pro and rests for 30 days - At the dry mill, there are three different mechanical sorters that grade by A (biggest), B and C (smallest) o This process is repeated at least seven times to ensure even grading - Finally, the coffee is deparched and packaged.
     

Other Data

Other crops grown: avocado, used for family consumption
Number of people employed at farm: 8-10 family members work on the farm; an additional 12-14 pickers hired during the peak of harvest. Most of these are friends of the family. A law was recently passed in Guatemala that requires employers to register workers as employees and this provides them with government social and healthcare benefits that they didn’t previously have access to.
Pickers’ wage: 50-70 GTQ/45kg.


About the farmer & plans for the farm

The Hernandez family comes from a long lineage of coffee farmers and it’s easy to see this, walking through Dario’s plantation, which is neatly planted, pruned and seeing the health of the coffee plants. Although disease (roya and ojo de gayo) remain the family’s biggest challenges to coffee production, the family has, together with the Zelcafé team, managed to find the right inputs, use of labour (e.g. selective pruning) and tools to quickly manage outbreaks of disease before they become unmanageable. A result of their careful management is that the family can safely say that inputs are largely organic in composition. The family’s main goal for the future is to expand the size of plantations. Land is very expensive, however, so for now, good and regular management of the farm is the focus. About Bella Vista & Zelcafé
 

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

Farm Profile: La Soledad

 Lucía Zelaya with her husband, Ronny Asensio

Lucía Zelaya with her husband, Ronny Asensio

Farm & Production Data

Farm Name: La Soledad
Owner: Lucía Zelaya
Farm manager(s): Julio Pablo Damian & Ronny Asensio
Closest town: Antigua
Department: Sacatepéquez
Altitude (masl): 1600-1800
Farm Size (ha): 12.5; 10 planted with coffee
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 3500
Soil composition: Clay mixed with volcanic and sandy loam
Harvest season: Late-December – Early-April
Harvest peak: Mid-February – Mid-March
Approx. annual production (per 46kg bags green coffee): 400
Varieties: 30% bourbon; 70% caturra

 Manager: Julio Pablo Damian

Manager: Julio Pablo Damian

Wet process

Washing - Cherries go into reception tank and floaters are separated out, then pumped into the depulper - After being depulped by a mechanical depulper, cherries are sorted in two ways: clean and those that still have fruit o The ones with fruit go to a separate channel to undergo a second depulping - Clean cherries are moved with recycled water over to fermentation tanks o If there happen to still be cherries with fruit, they are sent to another tank where they will most likely be processed as commercial grade - Dry fermentation for 14-15 hours - Clean water then used to rinse the parchment which is then moved to a mechanical washer and finally transported to the drying patios or beds.

Three types of drying methods. Dependent on quality:

  1. Green house with raised beds •
    • Used for small lots (e.g. Hunapu). Do some honeys and naturals
    • Temperature, moisture, humidity levels are monitored
    • There are windows that can be opened to allow for more air flow when needed
  2. Mechanical dryers used for biggest/commercial lots
    • Stay in the dryer for 24 hours @ below 50C
    • Then dried for five days on the patio
  3. Patio •
    • Most volume dried here  
    • 12-16 days
    • Tube test in the middle of coffee lots to figure out whether coffee is dry enough to be measured for 11% moisture content. If it sticks to the tube, it still needs drying. If it doesn’t, moisture content reading is taken.

Post-drying - Parchment is packed in grain pro and rests for 30 days - At the dry mill, there are three different mechanical sorters that grade by A (biggest), B and C (smallest) o This process is repeated at least seven times to ensure even grading - Finally, the coffee is deparched and packaged.
 

Other Data

Number of people employed at farm: 5 permanent; 15-20 pickers. A law was recently passed in Guatemala that requires employers to register workers as employees and this provides them with government social and healthcare benefits that they didn’t previously have access to.

Pickers’ wage: 50-70 GTQ/45kg.
 

About the farmer & the farm’s management

Lucía Zelaya comes from both a well-established and long-standing coffee producing family. She is both a cousin of Luis Pedro Zelaya and is herself a 4th generation producer. Her husband, Ronny, also comes from coffee producing heritage and owns another separate coffee farm, manages yet another, on top of overseeing the management of La Soledad.

It is in part due to Ronny’s farming principles that La Soledad maintains a strict and aggressive pruning regimen of removing 20-30% of the farm’s branches at the end of each year, to combat disease, make coffee picking easier for the women and ensure efficient production year after year. The pruning program is part of a broader integrated farm management program that has seen a dramatic decrease of reliance on chemical inputs on the farm. The goal is to decrease chemical inputs by 80% in the longer-term through the implementation of this program. It was introduced to Ronny by a sweet pepper producer who has successfully decreased his chemical inputs to 10% and is one of the best sweet pepper producers in Latin America (based on a balance of quality & volume measures).

Though the couple is happy and motivated to continue coffee farming, they cite profitability as the farm’s biggest challenge. Land prices in the area are quite high and climbing, so balancing their wish to continue the coffee legacy of their family with the realities of coffee market instability keeps them revisiting the question of coffee’s viability every once in a while.
 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

 

Farmer Profile: Cresencio Izaguirre

32627807521_8a6a0ec3cf_z.jpg

Family Details

Farmer’s & Spouse’s names: Cresencio Izaguirre & Maria de Los Angeles Martinez Farmer’s Date of Birth: 10 June 1972
Children’s names & years of birth: Ruber Joel (1999); Ingrid Jackeline (2000); Jairo Nahun (2002); Lusby Roxeni (2005); Yeldy Maritza (2008); Seiri (2010)
Year farmer received/purchased first coffee farm: 1989
 

About Cresencio & his family

Cresencio comes from a coffee growing family; he is a second-generation farmer. His brothers (Bernardo, Glenis & Juan Angel) and mother (Maria Adilia) own their own coffee plantations, which neighbour Cresencio’s plantations. Together, the family share drying facilities and are currently constructing a beneficio/wet mill.  His current focus now that he has purchased more land, is to build a new house for his family.

When asked why he chose coffee farming, Cresencio responded that coffee provides a stable income. He also wanted to continue the coffee farming legacy of his parents. When asked what his biggest accomplishment has been to date, Cresencio responded that he is most proud of the fact that he is a coffee producer. According to Cresencio, the biggest challenge he faces in relation to coffee production is disease, like “roya”, along with not having enough resources to fight them.

32751712985_1dda22621f_z.jpg

Farm & Production Data

Closest town: El Cedral
Region: Santa Barbara
Altitude: Three plantations: 1. 1600 masl; 2. 1580 masl; 3. 1580 masl
Farm Size: 3.8 ha
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 2450
Soil composition: Volcanic
Harvest season: January to June
Harvest peak: March
Approx. annual production: 15 bags (per 69kg)
Variety: almost 100% pacas with a few bourbon plants
Process: dry fermentation for 24 hours, then washed 3-4 times with agitation
 

Other Data

Other crops grown: corn & beans for family’s own consumption
Percentage of income coming from coffee production: 100%
Number of people employed at farm: 5 pickers/seasonal workers + family
Pickers’ wage: 50 HNL/5-gallon bucket

 

About the Farm & Coffee

Cresencio’s coffee production comes from three separate plantations (as noted above) and in 2015, Cresencio purchased more land at a lower elevation. This plot was already planted with coffee (of the bourbon variety), which Cresencio stumped, meaning the re-growth will begin producing in 2018. Most Cresencio’s production is from the pacas variety, with maybe one bag of bourbon. We’ll see the bourbon production increase once the newly purchased and stumped plantation is producing again. For the first time (2017), Cresencio has agreed to separate out his bourbon production, even though this will only produce about a bag. Both he and we are curious about what the cup profile will be.

Cup profile: Guava, nectarine, hints of pine in the aroma. Starfruit, dried nectarine, some citrus peel, pear-like in the cup.

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The Relationships

We were introduced to Cresencio by our good friends and exporters, San Vicente, based in Peña Blanca, the closest city to almost all the farmers we work with in Honduras. San Vicente has been an invaluable partner to us, helping the development process of our relationships with the farmers with whom we work, introducing us to new potential partners, providing milling & logistic services, and actively working together with farmers on new strategies to improve farm-level practices to improve cup quality each year.
 

Background to Santa Barbara

The villages Cielito, Cedral and Las Flores follow one after another along the mountain range in Santa Barbara. Grown on this hillside is mostly Pacas, a coffee species akin to Bourbon, as well as Yellow Catuaí and Pacamara. It is challenging to process coffee cherries in areas like these, which are close to the jungle and thus, to rain. The drying process is especially demanding. But when these processes are precisely controlled, seemingly problematic factors (like drying under challenging conditions) are what make coffee from this area particularly interesting. The coffee produced here cups with flavour attributes not found anywhere else in Central America.

Since 2005, the region, Santa Barbara, and the small producers living and working there, have shared the distinction as the place and the people producing exceptional coffee within Honduras. Our work and the

beginning of the on-going relationships we’ve since established here began during the 2005 Cup of Excellence. We came to realize that there are exceptional producers from this small area. And since that inaugural year, we have purchased from over twenty different Santa Barbara producers.Located in the village of Pena Blanca is coffee exporter San Vicente – the company that coordinates the coffee we buy from Santa Barbara. Over the past several years, one particular hillside has become the largest supplier of CoE winners in Honduras. The most successful farms with the smartest and most innovative farmers are neighbours on this hillside and they help each other to refine the best of their lots.

There exists an eagerness here; a willingness, motivation and ambition to produce the best coffee in the country. But there are also large differences amongst the farmers and our purpose is to be close to this special coffee community and get to know the most ambitious of the farmers here; the ones we can develop something with. In order to build relationships – that allow both parties to have a common understanding of quality coffee – there must be frequent and long-term presence.

To produce coffee that tastes fruity is not very complicated. But to produce coffee that is clean, clear, fresh and fruity – that’s an art. One of the biggest assumptions within specialty coffee is that coffee from high- altitude areas naturally exhibits these characteristics. But high elevation can lead to potential problems, even in tropical climates.

In the highest areas of Santa Barbara, up to and over 1800 meters, producers can experience “freezing”: the combination of temperatures between 4-5C and rainfall that combine to cause cherries to not ripen and leaves to die on the bush. These conditions create a cold and humid climate, which is hazardous for processing and requires steady and reliable drying conditions for coffee so quality will not deteriorate. These natural conditions, of course, cannot be evaded. But clever and prescient coffee farmers, like the ones we collaborate with, invest in drying systems that minimize the risks associated with weather.

Farm Profile: Buena Vista

Farm & Production Data

Farm Name: Buena Vista
Owner: Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre
Farm manager(s): Carlos Patal (daily operations); Franklin Quiche (overall)
Closest town: Jocotenango
Department: Sacatepéquez
Altitude: 1772-1900 masl
Farm Size: 80 ha
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 3200
Soil composition: Clay mixed with volcanic and sandy loam
Harvest season: December to April
Harvest peak: February to March
Approx. annual production: 1330 bags (per 46kg bags)
Variety: 25 ha planted with bourbon; 6 ha planted with caturra; 3.5 ha planted with catuaí; 3.5 ha planted with villa sarchí; 15 ha planted with catimor.
 

Wet process

Washing

  • Cherries go into reception tank and floaters are separated out, then pumped into the depulper
  • After being depulped by a mechanical depulper, cherries are sorted in two ways: clean and those that still have fruit
    • The ones with fruit go to a separate channel to undergo a second depulping
    • Clean cherries are moved with recycled water over to fermentation tanks
      • If there happen to still be cherries with fruit, they are sent to another tank where they will most likely be processed as commercial grade
      • Dry fermentation for 14-15 hours
      • Clean water then used to rinse the parchment which is then moved to a mechanical washer and finally transported to the drying patios or beds.

Three types of drying methods. Dependent on quality:

Green house with raised beds

    • Used for small lots (e.g. Hunapu). Do some honeys and naturals
    • Temperature, moisture, humidity levels are monitored
    • There are windows that can be opened to allow for more air flow when needed

Mechanical dryers used for biggest/commercial lots

  • Stay in the dryer for 24 hours @ below 50C
  • Then dried for five days on the patio

Patio

  • Most volume dried here
  • 12-16 days
  • Tube test in the middle of coffee lots to figure out whether coffee is dry enough to be measured for 11% moisture content. If it sticks to the tube, it still needs drying. If it doesn’t, moisture content reading is taken.

Post-drying

  • Parchment is packed in grain pro and rests for 30 days
  • At the dry mill, there are three different mechanical sorters that grade by A (biggest), B and C (smallest)
    • This process is repeated at least seven times to ensure even grading
    • Finally, the coffee is deparched and packaged.
       

Other Data

Number of people employed at farm: 18 permanent; 100-150 temporary/seasonal pickers. A law was recently passed in Guatemala that requires employers to register workers as employees and this provides them with government social and healthcare benefits that they didn’t previously have access to.

Pickers’ wage: 50-70 GTQ/45kg.
 

About the farmer & plans for the farm

Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre is the patriarch of the Zelcafé group of companies, which includes Bella Vista Mill (see below) and several farms either owned or managed by the group. Buena Vista has been under LPZA’s management since 1998 and the farm has been planted with coffee since 1991.

The biggest challenges for Buena Vista are disease (especially roya) and drought.

Projects include replanting all the catimor with gesha (seeds coming from Finca Carmona, a farm owned by a relative of LPZA’s, Maria Zelaya) and replanting a plot of 3 ha currently planted with bourbon & caturra with a newer bourbon strain that grows shorter (easier to pick) and has a better cup profile. 1 ha of Buena Vista has been planted with the java variety and will first harvest next season.

The farm’s coffee trees are fully replanted every 30 years, with the first pruning cycle occurring after seven years. Pruning occurs every year, while stumping occurs every third year.
 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

 

Kenya: The Backward Rise of the Small Estate Farm

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Connecting quality coffee with specific farms and their owners has become the specialty coffee norm, which emphasizes cup score, long-term relationships, and transparency. This bodes well for smallholders and roasters alike, as these expectations point to an evolving market; one that is slowly shifting away from purely speculative pricing and is now favouring connections between specific people selling and buying to/from one another.

Kenya, then, has been anomalous from other specialty origins in that much of its best quality lots are sold through a centralized auction and come from cooperatives serving up to 2000 smallholder members each. But contrary to other origins, many of Kenya’s coffee farmers’ cooperatives are impressively run organizations. Many of them actually accomplish what so many cooperatives in other origins fail to do: provide services and disseminate information that help farmers grow great coffee which in turn attracts buyers willing to pay good prices. Kenyan coffee cooperatives are in fact so successful, that some of the highest quality lots in the world come from them: AA and AB lots produced by cooperative factories are consistently the most expensive commercially traded coffees in the world.

To understand how and why coops became so strong, let’s go back to the beginnings of how Kenyan coffee was traded.

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A Brief History of the Kenyan Coffee Auction

In the beginning (pre-Depression era), coffee was sold by London traders who took up to six months after the coffee was shipped before paying the farmers. Farmers had to rely on banks to finance them during this period, as well as pay for shipment costs. Further depleting their returns was the fact that coffee was initially dry milled in London, rather than in-country.

By 1926, the Coffee Planters’ Union was established with the aim of helping producers both make better coffee and more money from it. The 1930s was a time of rapid changes within the Kenyan coffee industry with various groups trying different kinds of cooperative and marketing systems, with the result that the Planters’ Union began splitting into smaller cooperative societies. The Thika Planter’s Cooperative Union became the largest and most dominant of these factions, which eventually was replaced by the Coffee Board of Kenya (KPCU), due to political lobbying from farmers and traders.

Until this point, the various planters’ unions and then the Coffee Board of Kenya had focused their efforts on gaining control over processing and curing coffee. So far left out of these movements was the gaining of genuine control over the marketing of Kenyan coffee. The auction was thus borne from the impetus of Kenyan farmers who wanted to gain control over the marketing of their coffee.

The first auction was established in 1931 but did not overthrow the prominence of the London traders. Several other auctions followed to varying degrees of success until in 1937, when the Nairobi Coffee Exchange was opened to widespread support. In addition, a nationwide standard in grading was developed in 1938. This became controlled by the KPCU.

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The Rise of the Coffee Smallholder

Land ownership rights will always determine how a coffee sector is structured. With Kenya’s colonial history, early coffee production was represented and controlled by colonial land owners. In 1946, the government (still colonial) began to open rules for who could grow crops where and actively began encouraging indigenous Kenyans to grow cash crops, including coffee.

Then in 1954, a local chief got coffee seedlings from a European friend and began to plant on his farm. While he was initially subject to criminal proceedings, the growing independence movement (“Mau-Mau rebellion”) aided the chief in having his case successfully dropped. Once the rebellion ended, the Director of Agriculture removed restrictions previously allowing for only large plantations to grow coffee. The smallholder revolution had begun.

These days, Kenyan coffee is made up of two main sectors: plantations, made up of ±3,300 farms comprising an area of ±40,000 hectares (ha) of coffee. Within the plantation sector, there are 3000 small estates (<50 ha) and 300 large estates (>50 ha). This accounts for about 25% of Kenya’s coffee planted land. The other 75% is comprised of the coop sector, made up of 270 cooperatives with a membership totalling 700,000 smallholder farmers cultivating 120,000 ha of coffee.

Smallholder cooperatives began building factories/washing stations in the 1960s so that they could process their coffees the way large plantations did. Nowadays, these factories serve up to 2,000 members each. Smallholders, overall, control of 58% Kenya’s coffee production. Not only do they contribute the largest proportion of coffee, they are known for producing the highest quality coffee coming out of Kenya.

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Changing Times: The Rising Small Estate Farm

Given Kenya’s coffee history, it is unsurprising that the cooperative has been the dominant seller of Kenyan specialty coffee. Specialty coffee buyers are very used to working with cooperatives and marketing Kenyan coffees in this way. But not all cooperatives are working equally well and it has often proved frustrating for a buyer to align themselves with specific coops and/or factories because of things like corruption, mismanagement issues, and fluctuating quality.

It is for these reasons, traceability concerns, etc., that we have started exploring relationships with both single estates as well as small farmer groups beginning to form micro-coops. As is true at origins with well-developed farm-level marketing, these kinds of partnerships are enticing for even greater quality and relational potential than is possible with big group organizations.

While touring Kirinyaga during early-November this year, we met with the newly established “Slopes of 8” micro-cooperative. As its name implies, this cooperative is made up of eight estates that have banded together to market their coffees together with the aim of establishing long-term relationships with buyers. The project has garnered so much interest from neigbouring farms that the leader of Slopes of 8, Joseph Karaba, is consulting others on how to begin their own micro-cooperatives.

In February, we will hopefully cup lots from a couple of these newly established coops and start some new partnerships.

We have already had a lot of success with one small estate farmer relationship that was established two seasons ago: John Njoroge owner of Kiambu and Kiriani estates, who has produced great coffees for us two seasons in a row. The current harvest will represent our third season working with him and we were thrilled to see that he had invested in and constructed beautiful, sturdy, shaded drying beds, even though the drought brought on by El Niño/La Niña earlier this year has left him with a disappointing volume of coffee this season.

Unfortunately for farmers all over Kenya, the current harvest will lead to lower than average volumes this year, which often leads to higher overall cup quality. Look forward to sharing our selections with you in a few months.

-Melanie

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Bibliography

  1. Block, R. Pearson & C. Tomlinson. Kahawa: Kenya’s Black Gold. C. Dorman LTD. Nairobi, 2005.

Farm Profile: El Pilar

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Region: San Juan Sacatepéquez
Average altitude: 1520-1920 msnm
Coffee area size: 90 hectares
Coffee Varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Catuaí
Shade: mixed
Owner: Juan Carlos Chen
Managed by: Juan Carlos Chen
Harvest season: January- March (Peak: last days of February and the beginning of March)
Flower Season: May
Annual rainfall: 950 mm
 

About El Pilar

El Pilar is located just outside of Antigua and is owned and managed by Juan Carlos Chen. The farm area is over 1900 hectares of which 90 hectares are dedicated to coffee. The varieties grown here are Bourbon, Caturra and Catuaí. The agricultural management is starting to be stricter, especially when it comes to plant nutrition and Juan is looking to produce with a sustainable focus in mind. This focus is evident in the fact that the land not being used for coffee cultivation is managed as a natural reserve. Most of the farm’s activities are focused on conservation.

When it comes to coffee, a mix of organic activities take place in order to keep conventional agriculture techniques as a last resource. All the tissue taken from the plants turns into organic manure for the plants, chemicals to control diseases and pests are the last option and implementation of soil sampling with satellite technology is the newest innovation at the farm, in order to have a strict fertilization protocol. This technology helps the use of as little chemical fertilizer as possible, which in turn helps to avoid the contamination of groundwater.
 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

Farm Profile: La Florida

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Region: Patzun Chimaltenango
Average altitude: 1805 masl
Farm size: 21 hectares
Wet mill: Florida
Dry mill: Bella Vista
Coffee Varieties: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Catuaí, Pache
Shade: Native trees, Gravileas, Ingas
Owner: Rodolfo Benavente
Managed by: Víctor Hugo Juárez
Harvest season: February- April (Peak: beginning of March)
Annual rainfall: 1200 mm
 

About La Florida

La Florida is owned by Rodolfo Benavente, who has worked in the coffee world pretty much all his life. The farm is managed by a relative, Víctor Hugo Juárez, and Victor has been steadily improving the management of the farm every year by, for example, “stumping” the older trees (80 years old!) in order to renew the trees’ tissue and increase productivity. Stumping is a pruning practice wherein the tree’s stem is cut down to just 10-15 cm above the soil. As one can imagine, this practice is a huge investment, given the length of time it takes for the plant to regenerate and produce cherries again.

Although this practice has given the family a hard time, they understand the long-term benefits of it and results are starting to show: increased quality and productivity. As well, keeping the old trees which have historical significance to the family. Additionally, the family is starting to plant new varieties.

La Florida experiences a late harvest due to the altitude, so the harvest season goes from the beginning of February to the end of April. There are two to three rounds of hand-picking (with consistent people year to year) and the coffee is sorted at the wet mill located at the farm. Drying takes place on the farm’s own patios too.

Bella Vista is able to get La Florida’s coffees with the help of Byron Benavente (Rodolfo’s son), who helps outsource coffee from that area. Byron has also facilitated help/consulting for the family to improve in agricultural management and processing at the wet mill.
 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

Farm Profile: Chuito

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Region: Antigua
Altitude (masl): 1500-1900
Farm size (ha): 44
Wet/Dry mill: Bella Vista
Varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Villa Sarchí
Shade: Gravilea
Owned and Managed by: Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre
Harvest season: December- April (Peak: last days of January and the beginning of February).
Flower Season: May
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1200
 

About Chuito

Chuito is owned and managed by Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre – the owner and operator of Bella Vista Mill in Antigua. Varieties grown on the farm include Villa Sarchí, Bourbon, and Caturra and gravilea trees are used for shade: strict management of the shade is employed, as it is very important for the growing process. Renovations undertaken over Mr. Zelaya’s management of the farm has allowed for the separation of lots by variety and harvest days. Specialized agricultural activities overseen by Mr. Zelaya ensure good production yields and high quality. In addition, cherries are hand-picked by workers living near the farm, creating a good source of local employment.

After cherries are picked, they are taken to Bella Vista for wet processing and dry milling. Coffee is separated by day of picking, variety, and altitude. Once separated, the coffee is either sun-dried on patios, or dried in the greenhouse, which provides a controlled drying environment leading to better cupping results.
 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.

Farm Profile: San Juan

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Region: Antigua
Average altitude: 1600-1800 msnm
Farm size: 28 hectares
Wet mill: Bella Vista
Dry mill: Bella Vista
Coffee Varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Villasarchí
Shade: Gravillea
Owners: Elizabeth Hegel de Figuera & Eduardo Figueroa
Managed by: Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora
Harvest season: December- April (Peak: last days of February and the beginning of March).
Flower Season: May
Annual rainfall: 952.50 mm
 

About Finca San Juan

Elizabeth de Figueroa and Eduardo Figueroa are the owners of Finca San Juan, which has been managed by Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora since 2010. The harvested cherries are processed at Bella Vista (a wet and dry mill). As with all farms managed by Luis Pedro, renovations on parts of the farm allow for lot separation which provides the possibility of offering coffee with greater quality and transparency. Bella Vista keeps strict adherence to specific agricultural activities to ensure high production and quality. Cherries are hand-picked by people from around the area near the farm.

Once cherries are brought to Bella Vista wet mill, they go through the whole process of depulping, fermentation, washing and the drying. The coffee can also be sun-dried on patios or in the greenhouse. After some resting in the Bella Vista warehouses, parchment goes through dry milling and is then ready for export.

 

About Bella Vista & Zelcafé

Background

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Sustainability & the Future

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.