In a society where consumers are increasingly aware of trade practices, direct trade has become more and more popular. Consumers are demanding fairness and quality from the businesses they support. A few of the main goals of direct trade are improving traceability, product transparency, and also encouraging businesses with shared values to work together. All of these are great goals and play a role in our mission to “Do Good Farm to Cup”... but in the end, our favorite aspect of engaging in direct trade is something less measurable.
A necessary part of direct trade is growing personal relationships between the producer and consumer. For us this means getting to know those who grow, pick, and process the coffee we roast and brew. The opportunity to build these relationships and learn from these hardworking friends is what makes direct trade so valuable to us. Through these relationships we have been able to learn first hand how the different ways farmers care for their plants with unique fermentation processes, and how the many variables in the coffee industry can affect each farm. We are always learning; and this learning curve would be much steeper without the relationships that we continue to build through direct interaction with those producing the coffee we buy.
We started a business with some of our best friends which makes it easy to maintain an enjoyable work environment. When we purchase coffee directly we are doing the same thing. Working with friends. This makes selling coffee enjoyable because we know their story, we know the effort they’ve put forth to create this coffee, and we are eager to share this with our customers. We respect all the hard work our friends have done cultivating these coffees, and feel a responsibility to continue attention to detail when we roast and brew the coffee they have farmed and processed.
An additional benefit to working closely with those who grow the coffee we purchase, is that they are eager to hear feedback. They strive to create coffees that YOU want to drink. Our goal is to support friends who grow great coffee and to serve the most enjoyable cup possible. We have been blessed with the opportunity to grow these relationships from Farm to Cup, and this is why we trade directly whenever possible!
A few years ago, we blindly made our first visit to Guatemala. At the time we were working towards opening our shop in Ocean Beach. Our lives consisted of digging ditches, demolition, building and very little coffee. We didn’t know much about coffee. We were clueless really, but we were eager to learn.
We have now had our shop in Ocean Beach open for almost 2 years. While we are still far from coffee experts, we have definitely learned a lot over the past few years. This time we returned to Guatemala with more specific goals. We were looking forward to spending time with our friend Manuel, and the De Leon family. We were excited to cup this season’s coffee and to see the production of one of our favorite new coffees. As much as we love our shop, we couldn’t wait to get out of the cafe and in to the field!
We spent our first morning at the home of Jose Humberto Jr.’s family. They treated us to breakfast and showed us some machinery that had been passed down through generations. Coffee is the family business. We drank the coffee of Jose Humberto Sr.’s brother this particular morning. Jose Humberto Jr.’s Finca, Montanita sits above the rest of the family’s plots and has produced coffee that has quickly become one of our favorites! It’s a unique and special coffee and we were excited to learn more. “Senior” is an agronomist and Junior is an innovative dreamer. Together the combination of Senior’s intelligence and Junior’s creativity led to a fermentation process unlike any other — resulting in a coffee unlike any we’ve ever tasted! The process involves oranges, bacteria, and a lot of trial and error. They have found that certain varitals work well while others simply don’t work. The results from the first year were amazing, but the experimentation hasn’t stopped. Jose Humberto Jr. is still tweaking the process and pushing creative boundaries. For example, while most coffee ferments for around 24 hours, Jose is trying to slow this process down to ferment his coffee for up to a week which would heighten the brightness and sweetness of the coffee. Jose Humberto Jr. is always thinking outside of the box.
When we arrived at Finca Montanita, it was easy to see how Jose Humberto Jr stays inspired, Finca Montanita is a coffee paradise. This steep farm sits in the shadows of the tall overhead canopy. Intersecting trails lead to clearings in the brush, opening up to incredible views of the valley below. With most of the picking completed for this season, the farm rests in a quiet and peaceful environment. It is evident how Jose stays inspired amidst the beauty of this place. His passion for the farm emanates through his smile as he shows us around and explains which varietals are which. Pointing at the very trees that have produced the coffee we are so ecstatic about.
Coffee isn’t just a way for Jose to pay the bills, it is his passion. It’s been in his family for generations. He cares for his coffee, and cares for his farm and the result is amazing coffee that we have the privilege of drinking. His excitement is contagious and we are excited for everyone to try his “Orange Peel Process” coffee, rich with notes of dark chocolate and citric brightness. We hope that you are inspired by Jose Humberto Jr. as you drink the coffee coffee made possible by his fervor and zeal.
By Taylor Langstaff