Guatemala - San Miguel Escobar Cooperative
Guatemala - San Miguel Escobar Cooperative
Farmers: 30-Member Cooperative
Location: San Miguel, Guatemala
Varietal: Bourbon, Catuai and Caturra
Altitude: 1500+ masl
Processing Method: Washed
Relationship: Friends & Partners
Our Notes: Lemon-like Citrus, floral, sweet with a hint of caramel
The San Miguel Escobar Cooperative is a 30-member community of smallholder coffee farmers near Antigua, Guatemala. Situated at the base of Volcán Agua, San Miguel Escobar is located in a scenic, vibrant valley with views of other neighboring volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango. The town is home to many coffee farmers, whom you can see on a typical day heading up the slopes of the volcano through the communal paths to tend to their fields of coffee or other crops. The volcanic soil, high altitude, reliable moisture, and temperate climate provide an ideal setting for shade-grown Arabica coffee. We purchase the cooperative’s coffee through another great partner, De la Gente, which is a nonprofit organization working to create economic opportunity for coffee farmers.
Attention to Quality
The farmer-members of the San Miguel Co-Op are generally smallholders who each own just a few cuerdas 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.
This coffee from San Miguel is their cooperative blend, which means that the individual farmers submit their own high-quality coffee to be combined with the others’ lots to form a more homogeneous blend. The cooperative has high standards for quality and membership, and its members have been trained only to pick ripe coffee, and process according to high standards. It is a fully washed coffee, and the members dry mill their own coffee together at the cooperative’s beneficio, which is partially run by solar-powered electricity.
Reinvestment in the Cooperative and 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’s relationship with the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative, located near Antigua, Guatemala, was formed under purely serendipitous circumstances starting in 2014. We had ordered another Guatemalan coffee, and accidentally got sent San Miguel’s coffee. Our Director of Coffee knew it wasn’t what he ordered, but liked it anyway, and from there we worked to form a relationship with this cooperative that has deepened over the past several years. We 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.