This week we're delighted to feature two Cooperative Blends from Guatemala - La Armonia Hermosa and the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative. What does it mean for a coffee to be a 'cooperative blend'? Simply, it means that the coffee from individual smallholder farmers and various plots of land around the same community are batched together and sold under one name, as one coffee. Essentially, both of these coffees we're highlighting represent a community coming together with shared values and goals, to make a product they are all proud of and benefits each member.
REGION CIUDAD VIEJA, ANTIGUA
ALTITUDE 1500-2030 MASL
VARIETAL BOURBON, CATURRA, CATUAI
REGION SANTA MARIA DE JESUS
ALTITUDE 1200-1500 MASL
VARIETAL BOURBON, CATURRA, CATUAI
ATTENTION TO QUALITY
The farmer-members of the San Miguel Co-Op are generally smallholders who each own just a few cuerdas (one cuerda is nearly an acre) of land. Most of them haul harvested coffee cherries down from their fields, de-pulp them in their own homes or those of their neighbors, and lay the coffee out to dry on their rooftop patios. The farmers and their families cultivate, harvest, and process the coffee with great care and attention to detail in each step. Many of the farmers we have met are ambitious to improve their coffee quality, and we have truly seen their hard work and growing expertise pay off year after year. They are also optimistic about the future of their cooperative and community, and have mentored and encouraged younger generations to produce high-quality specialty coffee.
REINVESTMENT IN THE COOPERATIVE & THE COMMUNITY
By working with De la Gente, a nonprofit that works on the ground with coffee farmers in Guatemala, many of the cooperative members have gotten access to microfinance capital to allow them to purchase their own equipment or more land. The cooperative also has its own beneficio, or dry-milling facility, that cooperative members can access to complete the last stage of processing their own coffee. In addition, the cooperative owns a few roasters that is used to roast members’ coffee to be sold in local markets - a great economic boon to those producers.
Nossa Familia Coffee is proud of our relationship with the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative that has deepened over the past several years. We have purchased their coffee since 2014, and have enjoyed tasting the fruits of their labor in an ever-improving cup. We now take several trips a year to visit the producers, meet new farmer-members, discuss ways we can continue to support each other, and purchase new coffees. In 2016, Nossa Familia made a donation to support the acquisition of solar panels for the cooperative’s dry-milling facility, which contains several machines, in order to significantly reduce electricity costs for the cooperative.
We also undertake projects with the cooperative designed to promote coffee quality, such as cuppings, trainings, and green coffee grading. In 2017, along with De la Gente and a few other specialty roasters, we hosted the first ‘taza de excelencia’ (no relation to the trademarked Cup of Excellence) competition to select the top microlots to be sold separately from the cooperative blend and for a higher price. In the first year, we were happy to purchase and offer a new microlot (just two bags) of coffee from Fredy, one of the winners of the competition. We saw great excitement about this friendly competition amongst the cooperative farmers and hope to continue it to promote a focus on working to produce high-quality, complex, and interesting coffees.
THE BEAUTIFUL HARMONY
Historically, the smallholder farmers around Santa Maria de Jesus in Guatemala have struggled to make a good living growing coffee. One farmer with a dream of helping his community looked beyond their collective history and laid out a vision of hope. Julio Cuy saw that as individuals success might be limited, but when neighbors collaborate, they can not only produce some of the world’s best coffee, they can help the community thrive. Since 2005 his vision has enveloped over 20 coffee growers who now comprise La Armonia Hermosa - “the beautiful harmony.”
In the past, coffee farmers had no real knowledge or control of what happened to their coffee once they’d picked and delivered their lots to a mill outside the area. Working with Deeper Roots Coffee, La Armonia now has its own ‘beneficio’ - a coffee processing mill where the coffee is de-pulped, fermented, washed, and then dried in the sun. Processing coffee is often one of the most difficult steps of production for coffee farmers - there is great room for error and loss of quality, and the machinery involved to make it less labor-intensive can be very expensive. Having their own wet mill helps La Armonia’s members ensure that their coffees are processed with a focus on quality in order to receive the highest possible price. A mill of their own also creates more jobs for the community.
La Armonia Hermosa is Nossa Familia’s longest-standing relationship outside of our family’s farms in Brazil. We have been importing their coffee since 2012 and have consistently been amazed by the increasing quality of the coffee and its deliciously unique flavor profile. We pay above market value for this coffee and provide a line of credit to pre-finance the harvest. Doing so ensures funds for improved access to medicine, education, and a better quality of life for those who grow, harvest, and process this coffee.