Loading... Please wait...

Blog

Coffee Education at Origin: Our Roaster Gets a Deeper Look in Guatemala

Posted

Ethan Ryan, our roaster extraordinaire, traveled to Guatemala for the first time in May to meet producer partners at the APECAFORM cooperative, learn about coffee harvesting and exporting, and generally polish up on his Spanish. It was his first time abroad. And his first time at coffee origin.

He traveled with company founder Bill Harris and kept a pretty tight schedule during his coffee tour.

Day One: Land in Guatemala City & visit a Dry Mill in Malacatan; overnight in Antigua
Day Two: Visit Antigua’s famous coffee museum: Finca La Azotea; overnight in Xela
Day Three: Meet with coffee farmers in Toquian Grande; overnight in Pueblo Nuevo
Day Four: Shadow Marco, the technico for Manos Campesinas; overnight in Xela
Day Five: Visit Café Armonia, a roaster and coffee shop in Xela; overnight in a homestay in Xela
Day Six: Start Spanish classes at Celas Maya in Xela; overnight in a homestay in Xela

It was a whirlwind coffee tour that left an impression on Ethan, who has been with Café Campesino since 2014. He started as a barista and after one year was promoted to roaster. Ethan knows the ins-and-outs of green coffee ordering, coffee roasting and packing, as well as coffee brewing and extraction. He is very well versed in the United States-side of the coffee industry. But sitting down with producer partners was new. Some of Ethan’s impressions from the trip are captured below in a Q&A-style interview.

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?
Definitely the meeting in Toquian Grande. Farmers were notified by word-of-mouth and cell phone that we were coming, and they slowly trickled into the meeting over the course of half an hour. It is a community of about 500 families, and there were probably 20 people at the meeting. Even though Coop Coffees and Cafe Campesino have visited other communities that are a part of APECAFORM, Bill and I were first coffee buyers this particular community had ever met. Up until that point, the farmers didn’t really have a clear idea of what happened to their coffee after it went down the mountain. As transparent as we are, there’s still a long way to go in terms of connecting the community of growers to the community of buyers.

There was also this idea that should someone come to visit them it would be to say that the quality wasn’t good enough or that the price they were to be paid was going to be lowered. For these farmers, getting bad news about their quality means less income for that year and thus fewer resources. After speaking very carefully with both the farmers and APECAFORM’s technico, Marco, they slowly realized that we were visiting as friends and business partners, not as judges or the bearers of bad news.

How did it change your perspective on the coffee industry?
I realized that all of the work comes before roasting - that while we may feel like we have long days in the roastery or long days behind the bar, it doesn’t amount to much when compared to the constant stress and work farmers go through to make sure their plants are healthy and well cared for.  It also opened my eyes to the effects of climate change. Climate change is inconvenient to us, but for farmers it’s a gradual deprivation of livelihood.

Tell us what it was like to follow around Marco, a technico, with Manos Campesinas?
As a technico, Marco is responsible for helping farmers understand how to improve their current systems to meet organic standards or improve their yields. Some of things he pointed out included:

- Moving a small branch that leans up against a tree, so insects wouldn’t crawl up it
- Keeping the base around the tree clean, so there’s no insect breeding ground
- Explaining how the color of the tree leaves might show a lack of nutrition in the soil
- Helping farmers understand their potential return on investment- how much it would cost per “cuerda” to improve their soil
- Explaining that the devastating fungus, la roya, spreads more easily when plants are closer together

We also visited an APECAFORM test plot where a young farmer named Hugo was undergoing an experiment in which he cultivated six varieties of coffee to see which plants offered the best yield and quality under similar conditions. Ultimately, he hopes to inform his fellow members which two varieties would perform best in their area.

What was it like at the Dry Mill?
Visiting the Dry Mill in Malacatan was an interesting experience - it’s where the processing from peragamino to oro (green coffee) takes place. We were greeted at the entrance by armed guards and the plant manager, who guided us between walls of coffee bags to the factory proper. Only about seven people worked in the facility where tens of thousands of pounds of coffee passed through a string of intricate machinery which dehusked the pergamino and sorted the oro by density, color and size. And each of these processes was done twice on each batch to ensure that no coffee was wasted and that they didn’t miss any bad beans.


Has the trip changed you in any way?
It’s certainly made me realize how much easier life is for some of us here in the United States. The air quality in the cities of Guatemala is horrible due to insufficient environmental regulations, and many of the families in the mountains use wood burning stoves with little ventilation, meaning that the mothers and daughters develop breathing disorders at a young age. On top of this, the water supply is unsafe and electricity is inconsistent at best. All these problems and more instill in me the desire to offer more to our trading partners, both in Guatemala and in other parts of the world. Everything that they do makes everything that we do possible, and that is our debt to repay. It’s not charity - it’s justice.

APECAFORM stands for Asociación De Pequeños Caficultores Orgánicos Maya-Mames (Association of Small Organic , Maya-Mame Coffee Farmers). It is a group that was founded in 1992 with the help of the Guatemalan Catholic diocese in an effort to stimulate local, small-scale coffee production. The co-op has about 400 members in 17 communities near San Marcos, which is located near the Mexican border state of Chiapas. APECAFORM works with Xela-based Manos Campesinas to export its coffee. Manos Campesinas sells APECAFORM’s coffee internationally, as well as in Guatemala at its coffee shop and roastery, Café Armonia. Located in Xela, Cafe Armonia is operated by the children of coffee farmers and sells exclusively coffee from Guatemala’s “pequeno productores” (small producers).

Back on the Bike: a Debrief of BRAG 2017

Bicycle Ride Across Georgia has become an important part of Cafe Campesino's identity over the years.  We've served coffee in the mornings, cycled the routes and even developed a special blend, BRAG Brew, in honor of the annual ride.  This year, company founder Bill Harris returned to the ride as a cyclist and "the coffee guy." [...]

Read More »


Five Reasons to Train your Baristas

Coffee training is such a vital part of a coffee shop’s success that many shop-owners send their staff to get trained. Our own Hannah Mercer is teaching coffee classes this week at Barista Camp- an annual training session for new baristas. It is organized by the Barista Guild of America and the Specialty [...]

Read More »


Notes from the Road: Hannah's in Colombia; Meets Nasa School that is a Fondo Paez Member

Cauca, Colombia- Hannah Mercer, our sales, customer service and training representative, is pictured here (center) with school children in La Nueva Colonia, a community located deep in the coffee-producing highlands of the Cordillera Central mountains of Colombia- home to Fondo Paez. Hannah is traveling this week with a delegation of coffee professionals from Cafe Campesino [...]

Read More »


Position Open: Coffeehouse Manager – Americus

We are looking for a great leader for our Americus coffeehouse team. Learn more about this open position below. Qualified candidates should apply by January 23, 2017.   Position: Coffeehouse Manager Type: Full-Time Compensation: Salary + Benefits Job Location: Americus, Georgia Job Description Cafe Campesino is a group of coffee-loving professionals who believe they can [...]

Read More »


Position Open: Barista – Americus

We are looking for a barista for our Americus coffeehouse team. Learn more about this open position below. Qualified candidates should apply by January 23, 2017. Café Campesino, Inc. – Job Description Position: Barista Type: Part-time Compensation: Hourly Summary The Barista has an above-average energy level, a “can-do” attitude, a happy, positive outlook on life, [...]

Read More »


Position Open: Coffeehouse Manager - Americus

We are looking for a great leader for our Americus coffeehouse team. Learn more about this open position below. Qualified candidates should apply by January 23, 2017.   Position: Coffeehouse Manager  Type: Full-Time Compensation: Salary + Benefits Job Location: Americus, Georgia Job Description Cafe Campesino is a group of coffee-loving professionals who believe they can make small [...]

Read More »


Position Open: Barista - Americus

We are looking for a barista for our Americus coffeehouse team. Learn more about this open position below. Qualified candidates should apply by January 23, 2017. Café Campesino, Inc. – Job DescriptionPosition: BaristaType: Part-timeCompensation: Hourly SummaryThe Barista has an above-average energy level, a “can-do” attitude, a happy, positive outlook on life, a commitment to environmental stewardship and [...]

Read More »


Sustaining Community: The Work of the Modern Coffee Professional

Esperanza meeting with a group at ourAmericus coffee house. In Spanish the word “esperanza” means hope, so it is fitting that one of fair trade coffee’s most hopeful protagonists would be named Esperanza. Esperanza Dionisio Castillo leads Peru’s CAC Pangoa cooperative, a farmer-owned enterprise of some 700 campesinos headquartered east of the Andes mountains. As Pangoa’s general [...]

Read More »


This Guy has Rocked my World

We are headed to a coffee farm named "Cual Bicicleta", or "Which Bicycle"? I knew this wasn't going to be a typical farm - actually nothing about Oscar Omar Alonzo Aguilar is typical! Oscar is a passionate soil advocate - his farm is an incredible living testament to the the organic farmer's mantra [...]

Read More »


  • Latest Tweets