Category Archives: Farm Direct

Farm to Cup: Caffe Vita & Jackson 20 Travel to Guatemala

| December 17, 2014

For many years, Caffe Vita has sourced excellent coffee through our farm direct partnerships in Guatemala, one of the most prized coffee producing regions in Central America.

Coffee cherries.

Coffee cherries in Guatemala.

Usually, our Green Coffee Buyer Daniel visits the farms on his own but last week, a special guest from Alexandria, VA came along for the ride. Chef Brian McPherson of Jackson 20 has served Caffe Vita since opening six years ago. Located in the Hotel Monaco by Kimpton, Jackson 20 was named after President Andrew Jackson and is known for contemporary versions of traditional American classics.

So how did a Chef from Virginia get to spend six days in Guatemala with Caffe Vita? Long story short, our own, Bob Prince, pitched the idea to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, consistently named one of FORTUNE’s 2014 “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and a longstanding Caffe Vita wholesale account. The goal of trekking six days throughout Guatemala together was to take a talented chef who uses our coffee in his or her restaurant on a journey to witness Caffe Vita’s innovative farm to cup process.

The first week of December, Bob, Daniel and Chef Brian visited current, former and potential new partners in four coffee producing areas of Guatemala. When the trip began last Sunday, it was clear that Guatemalan hospitality would be a common thread throughout their stay.

Chef Brian and Bob Prince

Chef Brian and Bob Prince looking tough at Finca Nuevo Vinas.

First they spent time with the Keller Family in Finca Nuevo Vias where Caffe Vita has sourced coffee for seven years. The community threw a party and roasted a pig to welcome their guests on the last day of their trip in the country, a highlight of the experience according to Daniel. The FNV coffee has been farmed by the Keller family for over 100 years, and in 2003, they made the full transition to organic farming, an expensive and lengthy certification process. This is where Chef Brian first witnessed pulping, where the seed from the coffee cherry is removed from the actual fruit. For six years, he has served Caffe Vita coffee and now he knows exactly where it comes from.

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Chef Brian McPherson holds pulped coffee cherries in Guatemala.

Next, they made their way to Finca Pacamaral to meet the farm’s new owner, Sergio. Vita previously purchased coffee from this land but Daniel was looking forward to meeting with Sergio to discuss a potential partnership in the future.

After Finca Pacamaral, Valmar in Coban was next on the list, where Vita has purchased coffee for the past two years. Coban’s climate this time of year is very similar to Seattle, cold, wet and cloudy. Bob and Daniel felt completely at home surveying the property in their rain gear, and were welcomed into the farm home of the Valdez family.

Coffee cherries dry in the sun at Santo Tomas Pachuj.

Coffee drying in the sun at Santo Tomas Pachuj.

Then it was onto Santo Tomas Pachuj where Andres Fahsen grows coffee near the Lake Atitlán region, a nature preserve. Andres visited with us at Caffe Vita in Capitol Hill when he was in town for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event last April.

Compost with red worms at Finca Chacaya.

Compost with red worms at Finca Chacaya.

After Santo Tomas Pachuj the team drove to Finca Chacaya, a farm on the western shores of Atitlan that still grows old typica coffee, the first variety of coffee brought to the country and which is now hard to find.

Lastly, the team drove to San Juan Sacatepequez to visit the celebrated farm San Jose Ocana. Guillermo Sanchez gave a wonderful tour and provided a delicious lunch of local cuisine.

To be able to share this unique farm to cup process with Chef Brian was a fantastic experience for Bob and Daniel. Now that he has witnessed it for himself, Chef says that he plans to find new ways to use Vita coffee in his restaurant. Even bringing home dried husks to hopefully make bitters to be used in Jackson 20’s famous bar program.

Connecting with our Guatemalan farmers over long conversations, property tours, cuppings, and special meals with hard working families is certainly an experience these guys will never forget. “Every farmer we met exuded a strong sense of stewardship and pride for their land,” according to Daniel. This is something that Caffe Vita takes into account when searching for the best coffee; it’s about more than just a cup of coffee.

Learn more about how Caffe Vita meticulously sources the best coffee through our farm direct partnerships across the globe and purchase our own Guatemala Valmar single origin coffee today while supplies last.

Yopno Coffee Training

| October 17, 2014

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The YUS Conservation Area includes three distinct regions, named for the main rivers and languages spoken – Yopno, Uruwa, and Som.  It was four years ago that we began to work with the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in developing a sustainable coffee program as part of their mission to improve the livelihoods of those who have pledged their land for conservation.  The pilot project began in Uruwa, which had the most coffee and also were furthest along in terms of management and processing know how.  Having just completed our fourth harvest with the farmers of Uruwa, we have turned our focus to Yopno.

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After a delayed flight and a considerable amount of waiting, I arrived at the Teptep airstrip with Benjamin, Daniel, and six coffee pulpers.  After a brief snack we hiked to the village of Nian, where the workshops were to take place. More than 70 farmers had gathered from the surrounding villages to take part in the training.  As livelihoods coordinator for TKCP, Benjamin has a wealth of knowledge and experience teaching about quality coffee production.  Joining him was Daniel of the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC), and Namu, a Yopno community leader, one of the first to pledge land for conservation.

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Over the course of four days we covered the topics of garden management, pruning, harvesting, cherry selection, pulping, washing, fermentation, and drying.  On the final day we tasted YUS coffee (from Uruwa) together and spoke with anticipation of the day that the quality of Yopno coffee would be included.  We are setting a goal for the harvest of 2015 for the first export from Yopno to Caffe Vita.  First, the farmers must finish pruning and cleaning their gardens, organize into groups to set up their pulpers and construct solar driers, and construct a storage warehouse near the airstrip.

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We spent the following few days visiting villages throughout the region, meeting with farmers and checking out their coffee gardens.  As Caffe Vita’s buyer I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the people of Yopno and their coffee.  Having witnessed the positive impact in the Uruwa region, we are looking forward to replicating the same success in Yopno.  Additionally, from a quality standpoint, the farmers of Yopno have the potential to produce some truly exquisite coffee that will be among the highest grown in the world.  Our GPS read out elevations of 2000-2400 meters above sea level at all of the farms we visited.  With massive swings in temperature between day and night, ridiculously fertile black soils, and old growth heirloom varieties of coffee, the sky is the limit.

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Coffee and Conservation

| September 26, 2014

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Equator Prize Award Ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York City. Every two years, this prestigious award is given to projects that have successfully protected biodiversity while reducing poverty within indigenous communities and as Caffe Vita’s Green Coffee Buyer, I felt honored to be among groundbreaking conservationists from around the world.

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Of the 1,234 nominations this year, Caffe Vita’s friends and partners at the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in Papua New Guinea were one of the few that received this prestigious award.  A key reason that they were chosen was due to Caffe Vita’s involvement with the coffee program over the past 4 years.  Revenues generated by our purchases have supported community health, education, and conservation projects for the people living in this region.

 

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The awards ceremony featured celebrity guests and conservation leadership from around the globe.  Al Gore gave a riveting speech on climate change and how grass roots projects such as TKCP are at the forefront of the war against climate change.  Jane Goodall also spoke, saying that ‘a healthy well managed forest can lead to economic improvement.’ The ceremony also featured musical performances from Jackson Browne, Bon Iver, and Feist.

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By working with indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea, TKCP has established a conservation area of more than 180,000 acres, including the pristine cloud forests that are home to the endangered tree kangaroo.  With deforestation being one of the leading causes of global warming, this project received special recognition for sustainable forest management.

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Coffee is unique in that it is a cash crop that can and should be cultivated under native shade trees in diverse, living ecosystems.  Part of our mission here at Caffe Vita is to have direct involvement with the farmers that grow our coffee.  Next week I will be returning to Papua New Guinea to help conduct training workshops near the Yopno River, a new area for the coffee project.  I look forward to working hand in hand with the indigenous people and local agronomists to teach proper pruning, garden management and processing techniques.

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We are honored to be involved in a project that has had a positive and measurable impact on the environment while also improving the livelihoods of the communities vital to maintaining the health of the planet.

 

 

Mexico, March 2014

| March 20, 2014
The view from Guadalupe Victoria, looking into Guatemala

The view from Guadalupe Victoria, looking into Guatemala

Greetings from Chiapas, our last stop on this harvest visit to Mexico’s coffee states.  Starting in Veracruz, we’ve woven our way south through Oaxaca and witnessed the tail end of what has been a trying harvest.  Estimates of production are at forty percent reduction due to poor weather and roya, the leaf destroying fungus I wrote about in our visit to Guatemala last year.  It’s been a whirlwind of a trip, with long days on windy mountain roads, numerous cupping sessions, and meetings with farmers. Here are some of the highlights:

Visiting Finca Fatima, near Xalapa

Visiting Finca Fatima, near Xalapa

Meeting Ranulfo Lara in Teoselo (he let us try his homemade orange liquor!)

Meeting Ranulfo Lara in Teoselo (he let us try his homemade orange liquor!)

Germinating Marsellesa, a rust resistant variety with good cup quality

Germinating Marsellesa, a rust resistant variety with good cup quality

Cupping at the Ixhuatlan wet mill

Cupping at the Ixhuatlan wet mill

Visiting La Lagunilla, an organic cooperative in Oaxaca

Visiting La Lagunilla, an organic cooperative in Oaxaca

In Oaxaca, Claudia preparing a delicious breakfast of chile de huevos, tlayudas, and café de olla

In Oaxaca, Claudia preparing a delicious breakfast of chile de huevos, tlayudas, and café de olla

The stunning mountains outside of Chico Musela, Chiapas

The stunning mountains outside of Chico Musela, Chiapas

Checking out Mario Lopez's farm near Pantelho, Chiapas

Checking out Mario Lopez’s farm near Pantelho, Chiapas

An amazing sculpture, in memory of the victims of the Acteal Massacre.

An amazing sculpture, in memory of the victims of the Acteal Massacre.