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Tag Archive for: Central America

by David Eldridge

Direct Trade: Relationships

Categories: 2013, SeptemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Why get into the cof­fee busi­ness?  Relationships.  Seeking out like-minded peo­ple all over the cof­fee grow­ing world and return­ing home with their hard work to share is what sep­a­rates cof­fee as a busi­ness from cof­fee as a lifestyle. My col­league Brandon Bir and I were for­tu­nate to find our­selves in Guatemala ear­lier this year amongst the finest of cof­fee and people.

We drop out of the sky and into the land of eter­nal spring. The weather in Guatemala, as adver­tised, is going to make our search that more enjoy­able. Brandon and I are here in search of that moment – hard to define but easy to spot once it hap­pens – when we dis­cover a cof­fee we just have to have. After cup­ping cof­fee together daily, Brandon and I know what we’re look­ing for.

At the air­port gate, we’re met by a friend who has set aside a few days to guide us. He is no stranger to this jour­ney; in fact, he has ded­i­cated his life to it. Once the youngest Q-grader in the world, Jorge Ovalle now spends most of his time look­ing for great cof­fee. We have arrived with the same purpose.

We quickly escape the air­port and embark on our quest. We are headed to Antigua, a grow­ing region of great tra­di­tion and renown. Some of the world’s most elo­quent cups of cof­fee are born in Antigua every year, but this year’s har­vest has come under attack. The region, like much of Central America, has fallen prey to Roya, or cof­fee rust, caused by the fun­gus hemileia vas­ta­trix. Even at drive-by speeds the effect is obvi­ous. The once-lush green foliage usu­ally adorn­ing the hill­sides has been replaced by spindly twigs, mere skele­tons of their for­mer grandeur. Some hold on to their dig­nity despite the plague and bravely man­age clus­ters of bright crim­son berries. The extent of the dam­age varies from one farm to another, as each uti­lizes its own prac­tices. Of course, the most vul­ner­a­ble farmer is the organic farmer, who can­not use chem­i­cal fungi­cides to com­bat the plague.

Jorge takes us to Maria del Pintado, the only Antigua cof­fee farm that is cer­ti­fied organic. Standing in the shad­ows of a majes­tic 400-year-old hacienda, which once housed Mother Teresa for a visit, we are wit­ness to a near-apocalyptic scene of denuded cof­fee trees. While Mad Max may have looked around, dusted him­self off and moved on, the owner and man­agers here have shown more back­bone. Within a few weeks, they must decide whether or not they are going to pull up all the plants and start over. If they do, there will be no yields for years to come. The other option is the use of non-organic fer­til­iz­ers. After meet­ing Belarmino, the man­ager, I don’t believe that this was ever a con­sid­er­a­tion. While tour­ing the grounds we learn of his fierce ded­i­ca­tion to this land and the cof­fee on it. Every aspect of pro­cess­ing El Pintado cof­fee takes place on the farm and under Belamino’s over­sight. “This was to be the year,” Belarmino told us, “But for the rust.”  The yield for this year’s har­vest can’t be ignored. Only 60 bags.

When the meet­ing of minds takes place and the fate of El Pintado is deter­mined, a key fig­ure in the deci­sion will be Jorge’s father, Jorge De Leon, Sr. He started in cof­fee in 1981 at age 17. He got a job clean­ing the cup­ping labs and orga­niz­ing the results. He would blind cup the sam­ples him­self and com­pare his notes with cup­pers’ records while no one was watch­ing. Jorge cleaned for years before he was offered the addi­tional duties of roast­ing the sam­ples. After work, he would go to the library and learn what he could about grow­ing and pro­cess­ing cof­fee. He has since worked as a cup­per for farms and labs through­out Guatemala, advis­ing on all aspects of qual­ity con­trol: farm­ing, milling, and cup­ping. In 2011 he won Guatemala’s national cup­ping com­pe­ti­tion and rep­re­sented Guatemala in Amsterdam at the world cup­ping com­pe­ti­tion where he was a final­ist. His work ethic remains unchanged 30 years later. Next to his house is his roast­ing and cup­ping lab. After vis­it­ing farms all day with Jorge Jr. we join Jorge Sr. at his house each night. We start cup­ping again between 8 and 9 p.m. Sometime after mid­night Brandon and I have to call it a night. Our nerves are on over­drive from a steady diet of caf­feine and we have new farms to see and new cof­fees to try first thing in the morn­ing. You just can’t out-cup the De Leons.

It was in the De Leons’ pri­vate cof­fee lab where we had that moment for the first time in Guatemala. Brandon and I both know this is what we are look­ing for. It was a blend that Jorge Jr. had put together using beans from local small-lot farms. We dubbed this blend “Jorge’s Pick.” Jorge had already taken us to visit many of the farms where the cof­fee was grown. Unfortunately, none of them would be able to help export the unusual blend, and the De Leons don’t have an export license. Still, we had to have this coffee.

The next day we cupped some good cof­fees and a few that stood out when that moment hit us again. It was the quin­tes­sen­tial Antigua, bal­anced and soft, rich with choco­late notes but still no real spikes. It is exactly what I want in an Antigua, and we have to have some of this too. As it turns out, this cof­fee is the prod­uct of El Pintado. But with such a small yield this year and reg­u­lar cus­tomers in Korea, would there be any left for us?  Obtaining the cof­fee would involve call­ing the owner, who was out of the coun­try at the time. She made her­self avail­able for us and agreed to set aside some bags of cof­fee. We also were for­tu­nate to make arrange­ments for export­ing the two types of cof­fee.  We have recently learned that the cof­fee trees of El Pintado will be spared.  I hope we are able to join them next har­vest, see their progress and shake hands again.

Coffee is a busi­ness of rela­tion­ships. The trick, when it comes down to it, is do you trust who you’re doing busi­ness with?  We trav­eled to Guatemala to find great cof­fee but more impor­tantly, strengthen the rela­tion­ships with the peo­ple behind the coffee.

Providing Land, Hope, and Life to Central American Families

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Argos 1Project Description
Agros International strives to reach rural fam­i­lies in Central America with crit­i­cal resources and train­ing that helps them to work their way out of des­per­ate poverty. A Seattle-based 501©(3) non­profit, Agros serves the rural poor of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico by pro­vid­ing access to agri­cul­tural land, water, pri­mary edu­ca­tion, and train­ing in how to grow crops. Coffee is a sta­ple cash crop for most of Agros’ com­mu­ni­ties. Our model focuses on three crit­i­cal areas: market-led agri­cul­ture, health and well-being, and finan­cial empow­er­ment. Through this holis­tic, inte­grated model, Agros fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties are equipped to become suc­cess­ful farm­ers; gain cru­cial knowl­edge about per­sonal, famil­ial, and com­mu­nity health; and receive train­ing in how to man­age their finan­cial resources.

Agricultural land is at the cen­ter of the Agros model, and wher­ever pos­si­ble Agros helps farm­ers to estab­lish part­ner­ships that bet­ter enable them to mar­ket and sell their crops. For instance, at Brisas del Volcan in Honduras, farm­ers work with a cof­fee coöper­a­tive that helps them to process their raw cof­fee and also pro­vides a means by which to sell it. Working with this exist­ing coöper­a­tive helps ensure that farm­ers are get­ting the best price for their crops. In other com­mu­ni­ties such as Nueva Esperanza in Nicaragua, Agros is work­ing with their farm­ers on the legal and orga­ni­za­tional steps to set up their own cof­fee coöper­a­tive. In Bella Vista, Honduras, income from suc­cess­ful cof­fee crops once allowed a cou­ple of Agros fam­i­lies to pay off their land loan and become title hold­ers in under three years.

Coffee is a cor­ner­stone cash crop for many Agros fam­i­lies, and in many com­mu­ni­ties it is the first crop for income pro­duc­tion that is planted once they are estab­lished. As they wait for their cof­fee plants to reach pro­duc­tive matu­rity (about 3 years), they receive agri­cul­tural train­ing and inputs for other hor­ti­cul­tural crops, such as pep­pers, pasion fruit or peas. This then enables them to earn an income and add healthy food to their diets. Diversification is crit­i­cal to long-term agri­cul­tural suc­cess in the very rugged, remote areas where Agros works. It helps fam­i­lies to mit­i­gate the risks asso­ci­ated with farm­ing, such as nat­ural dis­as­ter, crop dis­ease, and other unex­pected calamities.

Who Benefits from this project?
Agros works in 42 vil­lages where farm­ers depend on cof­fee and other crops to make a liv­ing and sup­port their fam­i­lies. Agros exists to restore hope and oppor­tu­nity to eco­nom­i­cally mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple in Central America—people like Carlos and Marina.

When the Agros staff first met Carlos and Marina, they were liv­ing in the slums of San Pedro Sula, Honduras—one of the most dan­ger­ous cities in the world. They lived in a run-down shack on the edge of the high­way. On one side of their house cars screamed by, while on the other a pol­luted river flowed past. Marina lived in con­stant fear that her youngest daugh­ter Lizi, whom at the time was two years old, would either be hit by a car or drown in the con­t­a­m­i­nated water. They had a dream to buy land in a safe place. However, when they did so, they learned that their invest­ment had been stolen as part of a scam. They lost all hope for their future.

When they learned about Agros, every­thing changed. They moved to Agros’ Bella Vista com­mu­nity, where cof­fee is a sta­ple crop. This year, Marina, Carlos, and their three chil­dren har­vested their first crop. Agros is work­ing to reach more peo­ple in Central America with the life-changing resources of land, credit, and train­ing that will enable them to build strong futures for their fam­i­lies. As we com­plete our capac­ity devel­op­ment exer­cise, we will ramp up to a regional model, start­ing in Honduras, that will allow us to assist com­mu­ni­ties on a much broader scale.

How Can I Help?
Agros International’s work is made pos­si­ble through dona­tions from indi­vid­u­als, foun­da­tions, and cor­po­ra­tions who sup­port our mis­sion to end poverty. We wel­come any­one inter­ested to visit our web­site,, to make a gift that will help fam­i­lies gain the resources they need.

Our Alternative Gift Catalog has great ideas for smaller gifts that you can give in the name of a friend or loved one:

We invite indi­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions to spon­sor a table at our annual fundrais­ing event, Tierras de Vida (Lands of Life). Bring your friends and col­leagues to learn more about what we do and how you can be involved. This year’s event will be held on October 19, 2013, in Seattle, WA. Learn how you can help by going here:

Education is a crit­i­cal part of our work as well. We invite you to learn more about the work Agros does in Central America and tell your friends about the impor­tance of agri­cul­ture to poverty alle­vi­a­tion. To get started, watch this video to learn more about Carlos and Marina’s story:

Contact Name:     Anne Baunach
Location:     Seattle, WA, based; Central America Focused
Email Address:
Phone Number:     206.528.1066

Maternal Child Health and Education

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Pueblo 2Project Description
Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal Child Health pro­gram (MCH) is designed to reduce the excep­tion­ally high mater­nal and infant mor­tal­ity rates among the T’zutujil Maya in the Santiago Atitlán region. The World Health Organization reports that Guatemala has the high­est mater­nal mor­tal­ity rate in Central America.

MCH cre­ates a con­sis­tent, one-to-one part­ner­ship between inter­na­tional spon­sors and Guatemalan fam­i­lies, giv­ing moth­ers and their chil­dren in rural Guatemala cru­cial med­ical and edu­ca­tional sup­port through the most vul­ner­a­ble peri­ods of preg­nancy and birth through the age of five. MCH pro­vides this out­reach via a part­ner­ship with a community-based health cen­ter that sends social work­ers, nurses, and mid­wives into the com­mu­nity to work directly with families.

Pueblo a Pueblo ini­ti­ated MCH largely to address mater­nal and infant mor­tal­ity. However, most moth­ers par­tic­i­pate out of con­cern for the health of their new­born infants and young chil­dren. In a region where a typ­i­cal income is between $2 and $4 US dol­lars a day, many moth­ers face the dif­fi­cult choice between feed­ing their fam­ily and tak­ing a sick child to the doctor.

The high cost of med­ical care causes par­ents to hes­i­tate when they should act, some­times with deadly con­se­quences. Waiting too long to see a doc­tor has already cost the lives of two young chil­dren with pneu­mo­nia in the region in early 2013. When the cost of med­ical ser­vices is elim­i­nated and moth­ers are edu­cated about good health care, they take their chil­dren to the doc­tor at the first sign of ill­ness and get the treat­ment they need.

Education is a fun­da­men­tal aspect of MCH. Recognizing the signs of a seri­ous ill­ness or deliv­ery com­pli­ca­tions can be as crit­i­cal as hav­ing access to med­ical care, and know­ing how to pre­vent sick­ness and respond­ing to prob­lems quickly is equally impor­tant. MCH gives moth­ers (and a few fathers) monthly work­shops on top­ics like repro­duc­tive health, vac­cines, pre­ventable ill­ness, nutri­tion, hygiene, post-partum depres­sion, stress, and more. Social work­ers and other MCH staff work to define the train­ing top­ics while keep­ing the sched­ule flex­i­ble to address crit­i­cal needs in the community.

MCH work­shops often cover top­ics that have long been vir­tu­ally taboo in Guatemala com­mu­ni­ties, such as fam­ily plan­ning, pre­vent­ing sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease, and domes­tic vio­lence. Family plan­ning, in par­tic­u­lar, can be an extremely impor­tant, but volatile, sub­ject. In a com­mu­nity where fam­i­lies of eight or more chil­dren are not uncom­mon, fam­ily size can mean the dif­fer­ence between hav­ing food and mal­nu­tri­tion, health and ill­ness, and edu­ca­tion and illit­er­acy. When fam­i­lies have good infor­ma­tion, they can make bet­ter choices for their own future. MCH makes it pos­si­ble for women to receive Depo-Provera shots and other family-planning meth­ods in pri­vate. As well as obtain­ing the oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss their options openly and safely with other women from the community.

MCH empow­ers women by teach­ing them how to over­come the lim­i­ta­tions caused by a lack of for­mal edu­ca­tion and mis­lead­ing tra­di­tional beliefs that have been passed on from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

Pueblo 1Who Benefits from this project?
There are 60 par­tic­i­pants in Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal-Child Health (MCH) Program. Although mater­nal health is big part of the pro­gram, most moth­ers par­tic­i­pate in MCH to receive free or reduced-cost med­ical care for their children.

When your child is sick, you say to your­self, ‘Where can we find the money?’ We only have enough for a lit­tle food,” says Juana, a mother in the program.

Pueblo a Pueblo is expand­ing its MCH pro­gram with peer-to-peer edu­ca­tors. Early this year, Pueblo a Pueblo selected 20 MCH moth­ers with strong lead­er­ship and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills to be trained to share their knowl­edge with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and to men­tor new MCH mothers.

We want the women to become mater­nal health advo­cates in their com­mu­ni­ties,” says  Rosemary Trent, exec­u­tive direc­tor. “They become the mes­sen­gers. The trans­fer of knowl­edge goes from us to the moth­ers and from the moth­ers to their chil­dren and the com­mu­nity around them. That’s what leads to sustainability.”

MCH really empow­ers these women,” pro­gram man­ager Giorgia Lattanzi adds.

We’re teach­ing them how to over­come the lim­i­ta­tions caused by a lack of for­mal edu­ca­tion and mis­lead­ing tra­di­tional beliefs passed on from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.”

A MCH mother puts it more sim­ply: “The top­ics we learn about here have changed my life.”

How Can I Help?
One can help by becom­ing a Maternal Child Health Sponsor. Unfortunately, spon­sors are hard to come by, and the emer­gency fund – which cov­ers urgent issues like pneu­mo­nia, a baby born with HIV, deliv­ery issues, etc. – is very small.

Many peo­ple find it eas­ier to donate to some­thing tan­gi­ble, like build­ing a school,” Trent says. “Our donors must be the kind of peo­ple who can look fur­ther ahead and envi­sion build­ing a future for moth­ers and children.”

As a spon­sor, you have the unique oppor­tu­nity to make a real dif­fer­ence in someone’s life. Your spon­sor­ship links you with a mother and child or stu­dent in Guatemala. Your ongo­ing con­tri­bu­tions make it pos­si­ble to gain access to health care, edu­ca­tion, and a bet­ter qual­ity of life for chil­dren, their fam­i­lies and communities.

Contact Name:     Rosemary Trent
Location:     Bethesda Md USA
Email Address:
Phone Number:     202.302.0622

Giving Growers a Hand Up

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Growers First 1Project Description
Nearly 15 years ago, spe­cialty cof­fee roaster, Dave Day, was trav­el­ing through cof­fee grow­ing regions in South and Central America and observed the chal­lenges that farm­ing fam­i­lies were fac­ing. It became his pas­sion to work with these farm­ers to improve their qual­ity of life. With that pas­sion moti­vat­ing him, Day started the non-profit orga­ni­za­tion Growers First ®. This NPO uti­lizes agri­cul­ture, edu­ca­tion, and com­mu­nity net­work­ing as tools to help improve the qual­ity of life for impov­er­ished farm­ing fam­i­lies and empower them to become self-sustaining. It has always been Dave’s intent to “give a hand up instead of a hand out.” Over the years, Growers First® has been part of sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion in the lives of farm­ing fam­i­lies – changes that are both mea­sur­able and traceable.

Growers First® assesses the needs of a remote farm­ing com­mu­nity, then works to develop com­mu­nity coop­er­a­tives on behalf of the farm­ers. It trains farm­ers in agron­omy to enable them to rad­i­cally increase their crop yields, and works with var­i­ous non-profit part­ners to pro­vide med­ical and den­tal care, vehi­cles, micro-loans for farm­ers, and training.

Villages are being trans­formed into sus­tain­able farm­ing enter­prises, with long-term socio-economic and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions asso­ci­ated with healthy and thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ties. This cre­ates sus­tain­able sys­tems, which pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant income to fam­ily farm­ers, along with health, edu­ca­tion, social, and envi­ron­men­tal improvements.

Not only does Growers First® do sig­nif­i­cant work on the behalf of farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties it serves, they also take inter­ested indi­vid­u­als with them for the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion and vol­un­teer service.

Day says, “Every time I take indus­try part­ners, sup­port­ers, and expert vol­un­teers on a trip to one of the coop­er­a­tives, we are over­whelmed by the evi­dence and sheer vol­ume of per­sonal and com­mu­nity suc­cess sto­ries.  Of course, we have the field assess­ments and data that track these trans­for­ma­tional won­ders, but I never grow tired of hear­ing farm­ers share their per­sonal sto­ries of vic­tory over poverty.”

Growers First® con­tin­ues to build life-changing part­ner­ships with the world’s impov­er­ished farm­ing fam­i­lies, empow­er­ing them to make their own way out of poverty through hard work and entre­prenueruial ingenuity.

Who Benefits from this project?
Impoverished farm­ing fam­i­lies liv­ing in remote rural com­mu­ni­ties around the world (cur­rently focused on Central America, with plans to expand to South American and Africa in 2014).

How Can I Help?
1.     Donate funds to Growers First® orga­ni­za­tion and/or projects.
2.     Participate in pro­vid­ing micro-loans for poor farm­ers.
3.     Donate goods and/or ser­vices that can be uti­lized by poor agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties. In the past, we’ve been part of donat­ing books, soc­cer uni­forms, cloth­ing, vehi­cles includ­ing an ambu­lence, wheel­chairs, etc.
4.     Join Growers First on a trip to learn about and serve remote, rural farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties (building/repairing/painting com­mu­nity cen­ters , schools, med­ical clin­ics, agri­cul­tural edu­ca­tion, form­ing com­mu­nity coop­er­a­tives, etc.).
5.     Visit our web­site ( or con­tact our office for more ideas (

Contact Name:     Pam Apffel
Web Site:
Location:     Laguna Beach, CA
Email Address:
Phone Number:     949.551.1085

A Call to Action

Categories: 2013, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

In look­ing at our sup­ply chain issues, there are many that deserve our atten­tion. Given the urgency of La Roya, I believe that there are some imme­di­ate steps that we as a Council should be think­ing about.  I men­tioned to a num­ber of Council mem­bers a book, writ­ten by Bill McKibben, enti­tled: Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. McKibben is a Vermonter, and has an orga­ni­za­tion called ( He is an envi­ron­men­tal­ist who has done his home­work. In the first 20–30 pages of the Eaarth he describes how just 5 years ago, cli­ma­tol­o­gists had made a num­ber of pre­dic­tions of events that would unfold in the next 25, 50, and 100 years due to cli­mate change. His hypoth­e­sis is that over just the past few years, many of these pre­dic­tions that were recently made, have already come to pass. We are now on a dif­fer­ent planet than we were just a few years ago, and there is no return (hence the spelling of Eaarth with two “a’s). The cli­mate changes that are tak­ing place are tak­ing place at a much faster pace than any­one had predicted.

Why is this impor­tant?
Many farm­ers and agron­o­mists I have spo­ken with have sug­gested that the recent pro­lif­er­a­tion of La Roya is directly related to the increase in tem­per­a­ture in cof­fee grow­ing areas – just by a degree or two. Modeling that CIAT has done in Central America shows that with a very small mar­gin of error, that by 2050 the land area suit­able for spe­cialty cof­fee in Nicaragua, will be reduced by 70%, and that spe­cialty cof­fee will be grown at higher and higher alti­tudes. La Roya has often been asso­ci­ated with cof­fees grow­ing at some­what lower alti­tudes. It is mov­ing up the moun­tain, agron­o­mists have told me, due to cli­mate change.

I believe that the sus­tain­abil­ity of our indus­try is at risk, and that our focus as a Council should be to help encour­age col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts to help small-scale cof­fee farm­ers build resiliency, so that they can sur­vive La Roya and other events that may be headed their way. This involves sup­port­ing their efforts to enhance farm pro­duc­tiv­ity and reduce the impact of La Roya, as well as sup­port­ing their efforts to reduce their depen­dency on cof­fee as their only source of income.  Our part­ners (cof­fee farm­ing fam­i­lies) are so vul­ner­a­ble because so many have vir­tu­ally all of their eggs in one bas­ket – a bas­ket that they can fill, but have very lit­tle con­trol of since the price for their pro­duc­tion is largely set thou­sands of miles away. Like any of us, they deserve a qual­ity of life that meets basic needs, and more, allows them and their chil­dren the sta­bil­ity needed to advance in life.

Where do we start?
There are two fronts that need imme­di­ate sup­port: 1) agron­omy – sup­port to ren­o­vate parcels, along with the train­ing to keep their cof­fee plants healthy and pro­duc­tive. And 2) help­ing to pro­vide farm­ing fam­i­lies with the tools that they need to develop resiliency to SURVIVE in a rapidly chang­ing envi­ron­ment and an often harsh mar­ket. We all need the basics – food, water, shel­ter, etc. – to sur­vive. Encouraging our own com­pa­nies to take steps to sup­port these two areas is some­thing that we as a Council can take on together, while encour­ag­ing oth­ers to join us by advo­cat­ing for needed collaboration.

In Dominican Republic hundreds of people in white gathered to raise their voices and commitment to the climate crisis. The message conveyed was the threat of sea level rise to an island nation as Dominican Republic and was part of one of the 350 EARTH events happening worldwide, a week before the climate negotiations. This day, November 21st, will always be remembered as the day that Dominicans came together for Planet Earth, our only home.

In Dominican Republic hun­dreds of peo­ple in white gath­ered to raise their voices and com­mit­ment to the cli­mate cri­sis. The mes­sage con­veyed was the threat of sea level rise to an island nation as Dominican Republic and was part of one of the 350 EARTH events hap­pen­ing world­wide, a week before the cli­mate nego­ti­a­tions. This day, November 21st, will always be remem­bered as the day that Dominicans came together for Planet Earth, our only home.

La Roya at Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala; Photo by Rick Peyser

La Roya at Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala; Photo by Rick Peyser

When I was in Guatemala last week, trav­el­ing daily between Santiago Atitlan and San Lucas Toliman, approx­i­mately 80% of the cof­fee I saw showed vis­i­ble signs of La Roya. Some of the plants had weathered-looking yel­low leaves that were grad­u­ally falling to the ground, while most looked fright­en­ingly like skele­tons with bare branches, with just a few branches hav­ing a hand­ful of imma­ture cher­ries hang­ing on for dear life. I had the oppor­tu­nity to speak with a Mayan agron­o­mist work­ing in the area. He said that on aver­age 40% of the crop will be lost this year, and next year he believes the loss will be closer to 80%. That’s also an 80% loss of income for these fam­i­lies who have been strug­gling to sur­vive in bet­ter timers. How will they sur­vive now? The agron­o­mist said that fam­i­lies will do their best to cope with the sit­u­a­tion. The first step many will take is to keep their chil­dren home from school and to have them work on their farms – to save and use the money that would have been used for books and uni­forms to buy neces­si­ties like food. Even with this, he does not know how many fam­i­lies will feed themselves.

I believe that we are deal­ing with a nat­ural and human dis­as­ter that is grad­u­ally unfold­ing before our eyes that may have an unprece­dented impact on our busi­nesses and our part­ners. Big think­ing is required. Collaboration is required. Silos have to be torn down, and we need to work together as mem­bers of this Council and as respon­si­ble mem­bers of our indus­try, to help our busi­ness part­ners develop the resiliency they need to sur­vive and to PROSPER. If they are unable to weather this storm and oth­ers that are almost sure to fol­low, nei­ther will we.


2012 Editor’s Prologue

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

First a lit­tle house­keep­ing, the arti­cles in this issue are the ideas and opin­ions of the writ­ers and do no NECESSARILY rep­re­sent the opin­ions of CoffeeTalk and the Daily Dose or its employee – includ­ing me! I would have thought that this was pretty obvi­ous but appar­ently not. Maybe we all have become so jaded to the way news is pre­sented and manip­u­lated that the idea that we might print an opin­ion from some­one that dis­agrees with our own edi­to­r­ial view just doesn’t seem pos­si­ble to some. We at CoffeeTalk take the idea of fair and bal­anced seri­ously and so we print oppos­ing ideas to our own – weird, huh?

There, that is out of the way!

Editor’s Prologue

December 21, 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to just say that I for one am extremely grate­ful that a giant fire­ball thrown off by the sun did not cre­mate the entire earth. I see that as a huge pos­i­tive – just saying.

During this past year, sev­eral fes­ter­ing issues have finally bro­ken through into the lime­light. The fore­most of these are, in my opin­ion and in no spe­cial order…

• The accep­tance of the real­ity of Climate Change
• Emerging Latin con­sumer power in the US mar­ket
• Market accep­tance of the OMG fac­tor regard­ing the health ben­e­fits of coffee

Others of course will have their own lists, but these are my favorites. During this com­ing year, I see these items expand­ing and redefin­ing our approach to so many fac­tors of the cof­fee busi­ness includ­ing; sup­ply, mar­ket­ing, fla­vor pro­files, new prod­uct devel­op­ment, store design, and other essen­tial busi­ness elements.

Climate change has been one of those sub­jects that have lin­gered in the issue bag for years. I know that we at CoffeeTalk have been shout­ing about it for well over seven years. Finally, the impact on cof­fee and the sup­ply chain has become so obvi­ous that even those who think that the idea of cli­mate change being dan­ger­ous to our well being is so much bologna have come to believe that there is some­thing going on. I think that the accu­mu­la­tion of dev­as­tat­ing nat­ural weather dis­as­ters cou­pled with crop fail­ures in Colombia, Central America, and Africa as well as drought and polit­i­cal insta­bil­ity caused by food inequity, finally woke deci­sion mak­ers up. Unfortunately in the sci­en­tific cof­fee com­mu­nity, the gen­eral opin­ion is that it is too late to fix the cli­mate and instead we must hurry to mit­i­gate the dis­as­trous effects of cli­mate change.

At ASIC (Association for Science and Information on Coffee) this year, Climate Change and Sustainability were the pri­mary sub­ject lines through­out the entire con­fer­ence. The wide con­sen­sus was that talk of avoid­ance is long past; the industry’s only choice now is to respond to the effects. Wide pest and dis­ease infes­ta­tion, drought or, equally bad, exces­sive mois­ture, nature’s impact on infra­struc­ture, tem­per­a­ture changes, loss of opti­mum farm­lands and other impacts can no longer be halted by behav­ioral and indus­trial changes, we can only mit­i­gate the effects.

Emerging Latin Consumer power in the US mar­ket. If there is one take-away from the recent elec­tions in the US, it is that the power is no longer held exclu­sively by old white males. The same is true for con­sumerism. Rapidly expand­ing mid­dle class pop­u­la­tions that have not been tra­di­tional con­sumers of spe­cialty cof­fee are rapidly emerg­ing as impor­tant demo­graphic lead­ers – key to this is the Latin Community. How can we as an indus­try con­tinue to ignore Latin con­sumers when we know they embrace the spe­cialty cof­fee cul­ture, just look at Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil for exam­ples? Look no fur­ther than the Latin con­sumer in America if you are hop­ing to expand mar­ket share!

Second on the list of major changes this year has to be the extra­or­di­nary story of the emer­gence of cof­fee as a healthy bev­er­age. After spend­ing the bet­ter part of the last cen­tury jus­ti­fy­ing the con­sump­tion of cof­fee as a kind of sin­ful plea­sure, what a sur­prise it is to be able to hon­estly talk about the remark­able pre­ven­ta­tive health ben­e­fits of brewed cof­fee. We are pur­vey­ors of the elixir of life, the cure for can­cer, and the keys to the Land of OZ. Coffee as a healthy alter­na­tive to caf­feinated sodas is so for­eign a con­cept that many in cof­fee are skep­ti­cal of our own facts. Taken in mod­er­a­tion, less than 5 cups per day, cof­fee reduces the risk of Type 2 dia­betes, can­cer of the pan­creas, colon, pros­trate, liver, and other organs, onset and deep­en­ing of Alzheimer’s, onset of Parkinson’s dis­ease, and so many other mal­adies. It is the golden age of cof­fee and health. Hurrah!

In the com­ing year, we expect that nutraceu­ti­cal prod­ucts derived from green cof­fee will flood the mar­ket with expan­sion into beauty prod­ucts, nutri­tion sup­ple­ments, and pre­ven­ta­tive medicines.

These are just some of our takes on the past, and the com­ing year. In this issue, you will read the ideas and thoughts of over 35 other con­trib­u­tors from a wide rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our indus­try. These rep­re­sent some of the most impor­tant lead­ers of both pri­vate and non-profit orga­ni­za­tions weigh­ing in on the impor­tant issues of our busi­ness. We hope that you enjoy this year’s port­fo­lio of writ­ers and they pro­voke thoughts about your own busi­ness and your role in our wider global community.

Thank you for your ongo­ing loy­alty, con­stant read­ers, and we look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to bring you closer to the issues that mat­ter to you most dur­ing the com­ing year. And thank you to our writ­ers and con­trib­u­tors who braved the pos­si­bil­ity of the destruc­tion of the world and still made our dead­lines to bring you these stories.

Coffee Outlook for 2013 from Rabobank

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 11-ACoffee prices are expected to increase in 2013 find­ing sup­port from increas­ing global demand and tight­en­ing stock lev­els. Arabica prices are down over 52% from the 2011 high. However, a poten­tial deficit in the 2013–14 sea­son, as well as an already large short spec­u­la­tor posi­tion, will tem­per fur­ther down­side. Robusta mar­ket prices are con­tin­gent on the Vietnamese crop, and as the cur­rent out­look is pos­i­tive, major ral­lies are not antic­i­pated, but expect mod­er­ately higher prices in 2013. The price dif­fer­ence between cof­fee vari­eties has set­tled to a level of sta­bil­ity in the com­ing year. The range-bound out­look for the spread between Arabica and Robusta prices in 2013 is a fore­cast for less volatile price action in the Arabica mar­ket. Coffee con­sump­tion has not decreased, but demand has largely moved away from washed Arabica to Brazilian-natural Arabica or Robusta, which has shifted dif­fer­en­tials closer. This dynamic is a focal point in our fore­casts for mostly lat­eral but pos­i­tive move­ment in 2013.

Arabica fun­da­men­tals are fore­cast to be in sur­plus for 2012 and 2013, which will be a bear­ish aspect weigh­ing on prices in late 2012 and early 2013 due to investor short­ing and hand-to-mouth roaster buy­ing. Market prices may hit a bot­tom in 2012, with a pos­i­tive out­look in 2013 based on new sea­son fun­da­men­tals and increased buy­ing. The fun­da­men­tal fore­cast for Arabica beans in 2012–2013 is for a 4.1 million-bag sur­plus, while early pro­jec­tions for 2013 and 2014 sug­gest a likely deficit. The Arabica price out­look in 2013 is pos­i­tive due to this poten­tial deficit, antic­i­pated roaster buy­ing and Brazilian farm­ers hold­ing sup­ply off the market.

Farmers in Brazil still have a sig­nif­i­cant amount of 2012 Arabica har­vest to sell on the mar­ket, but given their well-capitalized posi­tion and gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for stor­age, we antic­i­pate the sup­ply from Brazil will arrive only if prices are attrac­tive. The spec­u­la­tor gross short position—near his­toric highs—is expected to be pared back in 2013 as the deficit sea­son looms. The gross short posi­tion is equiv­a­lent to 14 mil­lion bags of cof­fee, and a reduc­tion in 2013 will likely sup­port futures prices. With the Arabica mar­ket in sur­plus, buy­ers have dis­ci­plined roast­ers in 2012, likely based on the assump­tion that the over­sup­ply will result in a fur­ther reduc­tion in prices. The out­look for 2013 calls for end users to increase buy­ing to build stocks, which will sup­port a retrac­ing in the market.

Market expec­ta­tions for the 2013 Brazilian Arabica crop will drive roaster buy­ing and spec­u­la­tor posi­tion­ing in the com­ing year. While early devel­op­ment is pos­i­tive, it will be an off-season crop, poten­tially shift­ing the Arabica fun­da­men­tal bal­ance into deficit. The scale of the season-to-season pro­duc­tion shift has fallen in the past decade due to agro­nomic prac­tices. The dif­fer­ence between on– and off-season crops is antic­i­pated to con­tinue to shrink in the com­ing years, but given the scale of Brazilian pro­duc­tion rel­a­tive to global Arabica output—forecasted at 46% in 2012 and 2013—the off-season har­vest will still likely bring about a global deficit in the com­ing sea­sons. Also impact­ing the sup­ply of Arabica in 2013 will be lower incen­tives from prices. Multi-year pro­duc­tion highs of Arabica in Central America, Asia and Africa in 2012 and 2013 were in part a reac­tion to the high­est nom­i­nal sea­son aver­age New York price ever. In 2013, antic­i­pate lower New York val­ues and lower washed dif­fer­en­tials will reduce incen­tives to use inputs and thus mod­er­ate yield poten­tial in the short term. With reduced yields and an off-season Brazilian har­vest, a high prob­a­bil­ity of an expected Arabica deficit sup­port­ing New York prices in 2013 is predicted.

The shift­ing demand pro­file in the cof­fee mar­ket will keep washed Arabica prices and dif­fer­en­tials under pres­sure and sup­port Brazilian Naturals and Robusta mar­kets in 2013. Coffee-demand growth in 2013 is likely to be con­cen­trated in emerg­ing and non­tra­di­tional mar­kets as it has been for the past cou­ple of sea­sons. Given the price con­scious con­sumers in these grow­ing mar­kets, roast­ers are expected to focus on lower-priced beans, there­fore max­i­miz­ing Robusta use. The 2010–2011 price rally in New York sup­ported washed Arabica pro­duc­tion. This, cou­pled with demand mov­ing towards Brazilian Naturals, is pro­jected to result in an over­sup­ply of washed Arabica. In the short term, over­sup­ply is illus­trated by the New York exchange inven­to­ries grow­ing 52% in the sec­ond half of 2012 as ori­gins sell to the board due to mod­est phys­i­cal buy­ing inter­est. The post-boom Arabica mar­ket leaves Brazilian sup­ply in demand while higher cost washed sup­ply exceeds demand. In 2013, the mar­ket will have to pay Brazilian farm­ers higher prices to draw out sup­ply while pro­duc­ers of washed Arabica will find the mar­ket over­sup­plied. This has resulted in dif­fer­en­tials mov­ing closer together, a sit­u­a­tion that is likely to remain in 2013.

The Robusta mar­ket has been bal­anced with strong demand growth and large Vietnamese har­vests, and in 2013 we see this dynamic con­tin­u­ing. Expect the mar­ket to be sup­ported by increased con­sump­tion, espe­cially at ori­gin and in Asia. In our view, the sub­sti­tu­tion of Arabica for Robusta in 2010 and 2011, which esti­mated at between 3 mil­lion and 5 mil­lion bags glob­ally, was a dynamic not expected to occur again. If the Robusta/Arabica price spread remains near cur­rent lev­els, we do not expect con­sump­tion to shift back to Arabica, and we do not expect fur­ther sub­sti­tu­tion. Robusta demand is fore­cast to increase 3.8% in 2012 and 2013, down from 11% the pre­vi­ous year, and will likely grow at a sim­i­lar pace in the fol­low­ing sea­son if prices are near our fore­casts. Robusta mar­ket fun­da­men­tals are fore­cast to be in a mod­est deficit of 204,000 bags in 2012–2013. The con­tin­ued growth in demand is expected to be coun­tered by a large Vietnamese crop of 27 mil­lion bags in the new season.

The spec­u­la­tor gross long posi­tion in the Robusta mar­ket has been pared back sig­nif­i­cantly since its peak in July 2012 as the sup­ply out­look improved. If Vietnamese and Indonesian crops meet expec­ta­tions, investors will likely keep reduc­ing long posi­tions. A sharp rever­sal in the fund posi­tion­ing is prob­a­ble if bull­ish sup­ply news arrives, and con­se­quently our sense for price spike risks in Robusta are ele­vated. With our base case Robusta sup­ply sce­nario for 2012 and 2013, we do not antic­i­pate investors increas­ing the net long lev­els, but we expect com­mer­cial buy­ing and the need to encour­age Robusta pro­duc­tion to be sup­port­ive fac­tors, result­ing in increas­ing prices in 2013. Early sea­son har­vest pres­sure cou­pled with fund liq­ui­da­tion is fore­cast to give way to com­mer­cial buy­ing sup­port­ing futures prices.

12_12 11-BKeith Flury, Senior Analyst Soft Commodities for Rabobank

12_12 11-C

Arabica dif­fer­en­tials have shifted closer together as demand has moved from washed to naturals

12_12 11-D

Robusta is fore­cast to move to deficit in 2012/13 while Arabica will be in surplus

12_12 11-E

Connecting at Origin — Approaching Sustainability from a Holistic Perspective

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 13-AIn order to approach the sub­ject of sus­tain­abil­ity it is imper­a­tive to look at the indus­try in a holis­tic way. This not only starts by exam­in­ing your own prac­tices but also by under­stand­ing what hap­pens through­out the sup­ply chain, and par­tic­u­larly, the issues tak­ing place at ori­gin. With this in mind, this November two major events took place in Costa Rica that brought indi­vid­u­als from all over the world to con­nect, dis­cuss ideas, learn, and share find­ings about the world of cof­fee. And what bet­ter place to do this than in a place where cof­fee is actu­ally grown?

Sintercafé is known as the biggest cof­fee event in a pro­ducer coun­try. For a pro­ducer, this is a con­fer­ence to learn, but most impor­tantly to net­work and con­nect with buy­ers. Various farm­ers in Costa Rica had the oppor­tu­nity to enter­tain their buy­ers and show them their coun­try, as well as their farms and prac­tices. Farmers from other coun­tries had the chance to not only meet new buy­ers, but also dis­cover and learn about new and dif­fer­ent ways of grow­ing, pro­cess­ing, and sell­ing cof­fee. Other indus­try pro­fes­sion­als had an oppor­tu­nity to cre­ate a pro­found rela­tion­ship with farm­ers, develop new rela­tion­ships, and con­nect with their exist­ing clients on a deeper level.

Another major con­fer­ence that took place in Costa Rica this September was the 24th International Conference on Coffee Science orga­nized by ASIC (Association for Science and Information on Coffee.) This was the first time it was done in a Central American region, and it achieved record atten­dance with over 500 atten­dees from 38 coun­tries. While very tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tific, the pur­pose of this con­fer­ence is to inform the world about the results and achieve­ments of the most recent sci­en­tific stud­ies related to coffee.

12_12 13-BAccording to Andrea Illy, President of ASIC and CEO of IllyCaffé, “The most impor­tant macro issue that the world faces today is sus­tain­abil­ity: Social, envi­ron­men­tal, and eco­nom­i­cal.” For this rea­son, two major top­ics were addressed at this con­fer­ence: Coffee and Health and Coffee and Climate. The first sub­ject, addressed how cof­fee improves health, as it focused on the vast med­ical evi­dence that shows how the con­sump­tion of cof­fee is linked to min­i­miz­ing the risk of dis­eases such as Parkinson’s dis­ease, Type 2 dia­betes, and sev­eral types of can­cers. Furthermore, other health related sub­jects were dis­cussed, such as address­ing com­po­nents in cof­fee that might affect health and how to neu­tral­ize them.

The sec­tion on Coffee and Health began with James Coughlin, Board Member of ASIC and President of Coughlin & Associates, pre­sent­ing on the topic of cof­fee and can­cer, and the news that has been reported on this sub­ject by pre­sent­ing sci­en­tific research show­ing that cof­fee actu­ally helps pre­vent many types of can­cer. “15 years have been spent defend­ing cof­fee and its impacts on health. We have been try­ing to change the consumer’s men­tal­ity and per­cep­tion about cof­fee because through sci­ence we have found that most of the bad rep­u­ta­tion of cof­fee was wrong.” stated Coughlin.

The lat­ter topic, which focused on Coffee and Climate, focused on the devel­op­ment of new dis­ease and cli­mate resis­tant vari­eties; new and improved agro­nom­i­cal prac­tices; and the impact of cli­mate change on cof­fee. Coffee is very impor­tant in Central America and many other parts of the world. Many fam­i­lies are based and sup­ported by cof­fee pro­duc­tion, mean­ing that cof­fee has a direct effect on their eco­nomic and social stand­ing. Currently, pro­duc­ers have var­i­ous chal­lenges that they can­not solve them­selves; top­ics like cli­mate change that are affect­ing crops, yields, and there­fore, the very sus­tain­abil­ity and liveli­hood of the farmer. “What we are try­ing to do at this con­fer­ence is invite var­i­ous pre­sen­ters to exhibit sev­eral issues and pos­si­ble solu­tions.” said Coughlin.

12_12 13-CEvery coun­try has its idio­syn­crasies in how they pro­duce, process, and sell cof­fee, and there is much to be learned about these dif­fer­ences. The atten­dees of these con­fer­ences had not only the oppor­tu­nity to talk about sus­tain­able prac­tices, but to actu­ally wit­ness it in Costa Rica. Unlike many coun­tries, cof­fee pro­duc­tion in Costa Rica is reg­u­lated by mul­ti­ple laws and decrees, which war­rant fair pric­ing along the entire cof­fee sup­ply chain within the coun­try. In addi­tion, these laws and decrees pro­tect bio-diversity, forests, and water resources to ensure the sus­tain­abil­ity of the indus­try and the environment.

If we under­stand what is hap­pen­ing since the incep­tion of cof­fee, until this is a final prod­uct, only then, will we be able to truly approach the con­cept of sus­tain­abil­ity and accu­rately edu­cate con­sumers. If dif­fi­cul­ties arise at ori­gin, this will have a direct effect on the end prod­uct. By com­ing together to share con­cepts, ideas, and research we will be able to con­nect and improve our daily prac­tices to ensure the sus­tain­abil­ity of our indus­try as a whole, from crop to cup.

12_12 13-DAshley Prentice, Freelance Journalist
CoffeeTalk Media & Certified Q-Grader.

Ending Poverty 
Through Land Ownership

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Nathan Hawkins

Location: Mexico, Central America
Email Address:
Phone Number: 206−528−1066

Project Description

Agros is founded on the con­vic­tion that the rural poor can and should be empow­ered to take con­trol of their own destiny

Agros, (Latin for “land,”) has been help­ing to break the cycle of poverty for land­less, rural, poor fam­i­lies in Mexico and Central America since 1982. By offer­ing access to agri­cul­tural land, long-term credit, and train­ing in sus­tain­able farm­ing tech­niques and com­mu­nity devel­op­ment, fam­i­lies who were once migrant pick­ers and the like are able to start, develop and even­tu­ally own homes, farms, and the busi­nesses they cre­ate for themselves.

As an aware­ness of the plight of those at ori­gin grows, peo­ple are gain­ing an under­stand­ing of what the cof­fee farm­ing fam­ily endures in order to pro­duce their prod­uct. Months of hunger, lack of edu­ca­tion and lim­ited access to health­care are only some of the chal­lenges they face. Imagine though, being on the eco­nomic level below that even of the small cof­fee farmer, on the level of the migrant cof­fee picker’s fam­ily, who not only make a dis­mal wage for a short period out of the year, but also have noth­ing to sus­tain the basic needs of rais­ing a fam­ily; shel­ter, food, clean water, and most impor­tantly, secure fam­ily relationships.

These are the peo­ple Agros International seeks out. Through Agros’ unique, time-tested, prac­ti­cal assis­tance, poor fam­i­lies gain the land and skills to build a bet­ter future. While respect­ing the knowl­edge, spir­i­tu­al­ity, and expe­ri­ence of the peo­ple, Agros sup­ports train­ing that brings about change in the whole per­son and the whole com­mu­nity. Agros offers step-by-step assis­tance and train­ing in the fol­low­ing areas:

  • Community and lead­er­ship development
  • Sustainable farm­ing tech­niques through diver­si­fied agri­cul­tural production
  • Building homes, self-composting latrines, com­mu­nity build­ings, roads, schools and more
  • Family Health and child well-being assess­ment and education
  • Business and mar­ket development

Agros believes that those who pay for goods and ser­vices retain a greater amount of dig­nity and develop a stronger sense of own­er­ship than those who learn to expect oth­ers to meet their needs for them. Agros mate­r­ial and finan­cial sup­port is for a lim­ited time. Therefore, the fam­i­lies who par­tic­i­pate must even­tu­ally sup­port them­selves through pro­duc­tive enter­prises, viable social struc­tures, and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of nat­ural resources. The great suc­cess of Agros’ model is evi­denced by the thou­sands of fam­i­lies who have paid off their land and micro-loans in the short span of five to ten years. Land own­er­ship is key to erad­i­cat­ing poverty.

Who Benefits From This Project?

Coffee is the main income-producing crop for many Agros vil­lages. Of Agros part­ner com­mu­ni­ties, 44 are pro­duc­ing cof­fee for com­mer­cial sale: 3 in Nicaragua, 1 in Honduras and 40 in Guatemala. Where pos­si­ble, Agros has worked with com­mu­ni­ties to secure con­tracts for inter­na­tional export, as well as facil­i­tat­ing direct trade relationships.

How Can I Help?

YOU CAN CHANGE LIVES. Visit to learn prac­ti­cal ways to get your staff, cus­tomers and com­mu­nity excited about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of cof­fee farm­ing fam­i­lies. Go on a “Vision Trip” to see Agros’ in action and join in this wor­thy work.

Retailer Profile: Ipsento: A Must-Go in Chicago

Categories: 2012, JuneTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

[dropcap2S[/dropcap2]ome cof­fee mani­acs say that the Chicago cof­fee scene would be empty with­out Ipsento Coffee House. Apparently, there aren’t too many cof­fee places like Ipsento that can live up to the stan­dards of the young, urban and artsy com­mu­nity of Chicago. Please lis­ten up to the Ipsento’s owner Tim Taylor, who is here with us today:

V. What is up Tim! What is your story of ini­ti­a­tion to cof­fee?
T. Hi Max! I was an avid cof­fee drinker in col­lege about seven years ago. However, as many other col­lege stu­dents, I was on a bud­get; so, I decided to save money by roast­ing my own cof­fee. I bought green beans, roasted them on a pop­corn pop­per at home and got great cof­fee that way. I started research­ing a bit more try­ing to fig­ure out how to roast bet­ter, and all of it was really inter­est­ing to me, so it all quickly became a hobby.

Once I grad­u­ated from col­lege, I started work­ing for U.S. Airways in the air­port and actu­ally vis­ited some cof­fee farms in Guatemala and Costa Rica while I was work­ing for the air­line in Central America. At some point, I was like “Man! I am gonna start a cof­fee busi­ness.” I actu­ally got a roaster and a cart, so the roaster was on wheels and then, I started bring­ing the whole thing to a farm­ers’ mar­ket in Chicago to roast on-site. At this point I didn’t have any loca­tion; I would just roast on week­ends at the market.

About the same time, I vis­ited a cou­ple more farms and tried to import cof­fee in very small amounts ini­tially. However, I was get­ting started amidst a cof­fee cri­sis in early 2004-05, when farm­ers weren’t paid really well, so I became famil­iar with that story. This is how I got into import­ing and wanted to make sure that farm­ers were paid fairly. After I started out, I con­tin­ued with the farm­ers mar­ket and import busi­ness for a cou­ple of years on the side, before I opened up a café. Then I took over Ipsento.

V. Nice story! What kind of roaster are you using?
T. Diedrich IR-3. We do about 5-pound batches in it, but I did just pur­chase a larger roaster that is not installed yet. It is a Diedrich IR-12, and we will install it in a cou­ple of weeks at the exist­ing loca­tion, but we are still look­ing for a place to expand for a larger oper­a­tion later on.

V. How is the busi­ness going?
T. Business is going pretty well in spite of the econ­omy here in the U.S. I am directly import­ing about half of our cof­fees, and I am work­ing with other importers who have sim­i­lar ethics and that made my life a lot eas­ier. I am still learn­ing because I didn’t study busi­ness and had to learn a lot along the way.

V. What makes you dif­fer­ent from your com­peti­tors in Chicago?
T. For starters, we are roast­ing on-site, and there aren’t that many cafes in Chicago roast­ing in-store, so peo­ple respond to that: they like to see us doing our work. We also put a big empha­sis on edu­ca­tion, and that is a big thing for Chicago – we edu­cate our con­sumers and not just our baris­tas, by doing a free cup­ping every week.

We also offer a cou­ple of unique drinks. The most pop­u­lar one was cre­ated by my sis­ter: our Ipsento latte con­tains coconut milk and honey, among other ingre­di­ents. To my knowl­edge, there is no other place in the city that offers some­thing like this so far.
And lastly, we have part­nered with a local syrup pro­ducer, who has crafted a cus­tom syrup just for us, and it has been a big hit in our store.

V. Is there any­thing you would like to share with the cof­fee world?
T. I know my baris­tas are frus­trated with me, but I am all the way to the Third Wave – no more mochas, no more milk, just cof­fee except machi­ato. I do know a num­ber of shops that failed try­ing to do this because the con­sumers aren’t at this point yet. We want to bring the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try to the next level by engag­ing and invit­ing con­sumers to expe­ri­ence the true taste of cof­fee. However, it is about grad­u­ally edu­cat­ing our cus­tomers, not just telling them what they need to like, and this is what we have been try­ing to do here.

Ipsento Coffee House & Roaster

2035 North Western Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

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