In this week's Microlot Release Club box, we dive deeper into one of the Cooperatives we featured last week: the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative. Located in Ciudad Vieja, near Antigua, Guatemala, this cooperative is a tight-knit group of 30 farmers. New members have to go through a strict vetting process and uphold cooperative rules. One of our longest-standing and deepest origin partnerships lies here, especially with Timoteo Minas, one of the founders and leaders of the cooperative, whose lot we started buying separately from the rest of the cooperative a few years ago. This year we bought a new single-farmer lot from the cooperative, courtesy of Fredy Gonzalez. These two farmers' diligence and attention to detail in every step of their farming and processing practices has paid off in the cup.
REGION CIUDAD VIEJA, ANTIGUA
ALTITUDE 1500-2030 MASL
VARIETAL BOURBON, CATURRA, CATUAI
REGION CIUDAD VIEJA, ANTIGUA
ALTITUDE 2033 MASL
Timoteo Minas ('Timo') cultivates his coffee, mostly of the Bourbon varietal, with an intense amount of care on the slopes of Volcán de Agua. Every action he takes is deliberate—from the spacing between his trees to how he processes it. He is always innovating and searching for better production and processing methods. While most of the cooperative members blend their coffees to sell under the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative name, a few years ago we asked Timoteo to separate his lot for us to purchase separately - because it was that good, and we’ve seen it get better year over year.
Timo lives with his wife and six children in a concrete home he built with his own hands, gradually adding rooms with the income from each coffee harvest. Thanks to the incremental income, Timo has also been able to further his children’s education. He stands out for his commitment to the education and progress of his daughters, spending over a third of his income on their education. Timo exudes generosity and humility, and has the most infectious smile. He has graciously hosted several groups of Nossa Familia employees and customers since 2015. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to purchase his excellent coffee.
Timo also works for De la Gente, the nonprofit coffee importer for this coffee, which works to provide Guatemalan coffee farmers with the skills and market access they need to run sustainable and profitable businesses. He works as the lead agricultural trainer in their professional development program, adminstering training, quality control, and production analysis to various cooperatives around Guatemala. He educates coffee farmers about things like combatting roya and how to improve their farming practices – using his success to make others successful too.
Fredy is one of the founding members of the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative, a 30-member organization founded in 2005 in the Antigua region of Guatemala. He has been around coffee farming his whole life, working in his parents’ coffee fields since he was a small boy. He started his own coffee farming operation with only two cuerdas of land, and was able to grow his farm holdings to 20 cuerdas (over 6.5 acres) thanks to the assistance of low-interest loans through the nonprofit De la Gente and the cooperative structure. With so much more land he is proud to offer employment and good wages to 3 members of his local community. It is his dream to one day own 50 cuerdas of land, and he is confident that by working hard year after year he will achieve this goal.
Fredy lives in Ciudad Vieja with his family, and has nine children - six sons and three daughters. Three of his boys are carrying on their father’s legacy by continuing to work in coffee. One of his sons, Julio (pictured above with his father with their home de-pulper), is the youngest member of the San Miguel Escobar cooperative. He's just 22 years old, and joined the moment he was legally allowed when he turned 18.
Fredy’s Microlot was one of the top three winning coffees in the first small “taza de excelencia” (cup of excellence, no affiliation with the official COE) competition hosted by De la Gente. In this friendly competition, a special cupping (coffee tasting and scoring) was held in which cooperative farmers competed with their own special small lots of coffee. The three highest scoring coffees were rewarded with a lucrative prize: a contract with a roaster to buy that lot at a high price. Fredy’s winning coffee is a high-altitude Bourbon, cultivated at 2033 meters above sea level.
Fredy’s pride in his coffee is clear, and he is ambitious when it comes to making his coffee the best it can be. Siempre superar, he says - continuous improvement. This philosophy of always building upon what he has comes through in the way he talks about his coffee and the life it has afforded him and his family. When asked about his winning microlot, Fredy was not satisfied with second place, and hopes to win first in the next round. He says that in the cupping there was a slight fault in his coffee due to a note of ferment, which made it taste more like a natural process when it was a washed process coffee. He determined that this was because in the first pass of harvest, some cherries were left on the trees and allowed to over-ripen, then picked on the second pass. This caused notes of ferment in the cup, due to the over-ripening of the cherries rather than an error in the processing method itself. Fredy is determined in the coming year to correct this and to improve on the quality of this lot even further, hopefully so he can take home the top prize in the next competition.
Fredy is proud of his work and loves to share his passion and his coffee with visitors from all over the world, and it brings him so much happiness to know that people everywhere are learning about coffee producers in Guatemala and drinking their coffee.