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2019 Year in Review: Deepening Our Coffee Relationships

Around the world, coffee producers in our community are celebrating the end of another great year and looking forward to the next. It is a meaningful pleasure for us to serve as the connection between you and our friends and neighbours who produce our coffee. Every time you choose us for your daily cup or your weekly bag of beans, you are supporting efforts to build stronger, healthier communities and provide greater opportunities for everyone in the community.

We know that coffee supply chains work best when they are transparent, quality focused, both farmer and customer-oriented and are run by a team of partners committed to mutual long term success.  We want to share our progress towards our goals of connecting you more closely with your coffee farmers and making sure your decision to buy coffee from us has the greatest possible positive impact on the people and the land within our extended community.

One of our top goals is to get as close to the farm as possible for each of our coffees. This allows us to build a strong community of producers, traders, roasters, baristas and coffee drinkers that is founded on shared goals and benefit. 

While our single origin coffees are almost always from farmers that we know well, we also aim to understand the origins of our most popular blends right down to the small farms behind these coffees, which are primarily located in Peru, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala. In the 2019 harvest year we continued to invest in stronger supplier relationships. We’ve been able to increase the proportion of our coffee that comes from producers we work with directly from 67% in 2018 to 82% this coming harvest year. 

One benefit of knowing exactly where our coffee comes from is that it allows us to give thanks to the people that make it all possible. 

This year we are thankful for the farmers of Café Orgánico Marcala in Honduras, who last week celebrated their 18th anniversary. This year they have continued to lead the global community of small organic farmers towards greater productivity and sustainability with their Certification in Organic Agriculture farmer training program, which graduated its 43rd cohort of students in November. In this harvest year we enjoyed delightful coffees from Oscar Omar Alonzo (this writer’s personal holiday selection for home brewing), Rommel Melghem, Demetrio Melghem, Efraín Urquía, and Montgomery Melghem amongst others.

Elsewhere in Honduras, in the mountains high above Lago de Yojoa in Santa Bárbara, the small producers of the Cielito Lindo Cooperative produced remarkable coffee for us this year. One of our most extraordinary coffees of the year was a Parainema variety from Heyvis Sagastume - our Head Roaster’s favourite of the year and a delight that is still available and not to be missed!

Across the border and further up into the clouds in the high mountains of Huehuetenango, Guatemala our partners at CODECH celebrated a strong maturation of the annual coffee competition from which we get most of our Guatemalan coffee. We have been involved in this annual event from its inception in 2013, and now we are very thankful that incredible coffees from producers like Ramon Pablo and Anita Ramirez Perez have become staples in our lineup. 

Our partners in South America are enjoying a well deserved rest this holiday season having recently concluded their annual harvests. In Peru this year we got to know our suppliers at Coop El Milagro in the far north of Jaén, near the border with Ecuador, much more closely. They received a very special Christmas present this year -- their community has always been separated from the rest of Peru by the Chinchipe River, a fast flowing body of water that could only be crossed by raft or a makeshift overhead cable system. Just a few weeks ago a new and highly anticipated bridge was finally opened after years of construction! We are looking forward to our best ever harvest from this group -- currently in transit are delicious coffees from producers like coffee cupper Agenor Carrion, star producer Luis Alcides Chinchay, and Evaristo Castro, who placed in the final of this year’s Peru Cup of Excellence.

The last of our major suppliers, ASOPEP in Planadas, Tolima, Colombia, enjoyed continued progress this year as well. At their expanding headquarters they opened a new building to house their coffee school where children of producers can attend on weekends to develop their skills as coffee cuppers and baristas. Two of the youth were awarded the prestigious title of Q Grader - a coffee grader’s accreditation normally conferred on adult professionals with many years of experience. We have some exceptional coffee on the way from this group at the moment, including one made using a special processing method normally used in wine-making that we have never offered before!

On behalf of these partners in addition to others in Nicaragua, Indonesia, Uganda and DR Congo we thank you for your support this year and we look forward to serving you again in 2020!

Camilo Ensico Suarez of ASOPEP in Colombia opens a new bridge that will allow school children in remote communities to safely get to school on rainy days.
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