By Karen Lickteig, Marketing & Sustainability Director
As the weather starts to turn and autumn leaves begin to change, and we begin preparing for the upcoming holiday season, here at Nossa we are reminiscing about our time just earlier this year on our (very warm & sunny!) annual coffee origin trip to Guatemala. Around this time of year I would be knee-deep in planning for our upcoming trips, but we’ll have to wait, see, and hope to be able to return and visit our friends in late 2021 or 2022. Our last trip in January 2020 now seems like it was years away - so many huge global events have transpired, so much has changed.
But one thing that hasn’t wavered is our commitment to our producer partners, and sourcing and roasting delicious coffees to share with you. We are excited to announce two fresh crop microlot coffees from our good friends Timoteo Minas and Fredy Gonzalez. Our annual trips have never been complete without visits with Timo, Fredy, and their families. Both are founding members of the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative (Café Artesanal San Miguel Entre Volcanes de Antigua), a group of 28 smallholder farmers who produce coffee in the Antigua region of Guatemala. We work with the wonderful nonprofit coffee organization De la Gente to source their excellent coffee.
Timoteo Minas is a cooperative leader, and has been growing coffee for nearly 30 years with intense care on the slopes of Volcán de Agua. He cultivates his coffee, mostly of the Bourbon varietal, with an intense amount of care on the slopes of Volcán de Agua. Nearby is an active volcano, Volcán Fuego, and the sulfur emitted through its eruptions provides beneficial nutrients for the soil—great for coffee growing. Every action Timo takes on his land 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, and he’s also always willing to share his extensive knowledge and experience with other farmers.
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. In addition to his own six children, he now has six grandchildren. 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.
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. Following in Timoteo’s footsteps, many other farmers in this cooperative have since then been able to separate their higher-quality coffees as microlots in order to sell it for a higher price.
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, administering 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.
2020 Updates from Timoteo
I ran across a Facebook post a few weeks ago from Timoteo that made me smile. Timo doesn’t post much, but he shared this update alongside a photo of his coffee crop: “En nuestros cultivos que tenemos nunca debe falta una buena taza de café y un plato de frijoles y las tortillas "que mas podemos pedir” or, “In our crops we should never lack a good cup of coffee, a plate of beans and tortillas. What more could we ask for?” What a great reminder, in these uncertain and difficult times, to appreciate what we have, the food we eat and the little things in life (like a great cup of coffee).
Like Timo, Fredy is one of the founding members of the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative and the sole producer for this coffee. This year’s lot is the fourth we’ve purchased from Fredy since 2017. Fredy has taken home the top prize in the cooperative microlot competition, held in partnership with De la Gente.
Fredy 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, is the youngest member of the San Miguel Escobar cooperative at just 22 years old, and joined the moment he was legally allowed when he turned 18.
In 2017, Fredy’s Microlot was one of the top three winning coffees in the first microlot competition hosted by De la Gente for the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative (Café Artesanal San Miguel). 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. In the second competition held in 2018, Fredy’s hard work paid off, and his microlot scored the highest of all the submitted cooperative coffees, taking home the top prize. Fredy’s winning coffee was a high-altitude Bourbon, cultivated at 2033 meters above sea level. We have continued to buy this lot of coffee since that first year, and are happy to make it available to you.
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 after the first competition where he received second place, Fredy was not satisfied with his position in the initial competition, and set a goal 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 overripen, then picked on the second pass. This caused notes of ferment in the cup, due to the overripening of the cherries rather than an error in the processing method itself. Fredy was determined to improve on the quality of this lot and processing even further, and his meticulous level of care has certainly been rewarded.
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.
2020 Updates from Fredy
I keep in touch with Fredy’s family mostly through his son Julio, who has been learning English since a young age and is therefore able to communicate more easily with me despite my broken Spanish. He wanted to share this message with our Nossa family: