Founded in 1967
169 Members - All live near Jacaltenango
Altitude of plots between 1,300 and 1,500 ft
Approximately 160,000 pounds of green coffee produced per year
Located in the remote western Guatemala town of Jacaltenango, Coop Rio Azul is a 169 member cooperative. Founded in 1967, the cooperative has a long history of producing some of the best coffee exported under the famed “Huehuetenango” mark.
The members of Rio Azul all live no more than a 1.5 hour walk to the wet mill in Jacaltenango. This allows the cooperative complete control over several stages of the quality process. Coffee is picked by members until early afternoon and then delivered in cherry form to the mill each day beginning around 3 pm. All coffee is depulped, fermented, washed and dried at the coop's mill. Adjacent to the mill is a warehouse and office - capable of storing about 500 sacks of pergamino. Once a container quantity of pergamino is accumulated, a tranfer to the exporter's warehouse in the city of Huehuetenango (4 hours away) is organized. This coffee is then transferred to Guatemala City for final processing and export preparation in an organic dry mill.
The altitude of the plots farmed by members of Rio Azul ranges from 1,200 meters to 1,600 meters. All of the production will be graded SHB (the best grade available) due to the carefully attention given in the central processing facility and the excellent conditions for growing coffee in this area.
Rio Azul receives assistance from Oxfam in the form of capacity building grants to provide technical processing and administrative training.
An alternative income project to raise bees for improved pollenation and honey production has been quite successful. Twenty eight farmers currently participate and each manages 10 boxes. They typically produce about 50 pounds of honey resulting in annual honey production for the coop of over 15,000 pounds.
All members of the cooperative are of the Mayan group Jacaltec, also commonly called Pobp’ al Ti’ or Popti. About 40,000 people speak this language – most living in the Guatemala department of Huehuetenango with some living just across the border in Chiapas, Mexico. The cooperative's meetings are conducted in Popti as well as Spanish.
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