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They are the future of Guatemalan coffee!

Post by Ola Leszczyñska

 Eduardo beginning his second coffee harvest.

Eduardo beginning his second coffee harvest.

“You know, I really don’t have the knack for veggies. Nor do I have the heart to grow them,” said Eduardo when we started the steep climb up the volcano to visit his coffee field. Eduardo’s family used to farm vegetables in a neighboring village, but after they decided to switch to coffee production, they had to sell that land and purchase another piece of land appropriate for the different crop. Once the right field was found, Eduardo’s father divided it into smaller plots and gave his sons a choice. They could choose either a piece already planted with coffee, or a bare piece of land. Not sure what to do, Eduardo asked advice from Daniel, his father-in-law and a member of Café Artesanal San Miguel cooperative, who told him to start from scratch in order to learn everything from the beginning. And that's exactly what the young farmer did.

Maybe Eduardo doesn’t have the heart for vegetables, but as soon as he starts talking about coffee his eyes begin to shine. At only 26, he really knows a lot about coffee production. For 4 years he worked at a large finca learning everything about field management practices. He became the owner of his own coffee field 3 years ago and the day we met he was about to begin his second harvest. Now Eduardo is saving money to fulfill his dream of purchasing enough land to make coffee farming a self-sustaining source of income on its own. And that came as no surprise, after seeing the pride and tenderness with which he was looking at his coffee trees as we were walking among them.

Eduardo is one of the 21 members of La Segunda Generación de Café Entre Volcanes - a newly formed youth group of coffee producers from San Miguel Escobar. The initiative came from the members of De la Gente’s local partner co-op who decided to support their children who have shown interest in agriculture, and who have usually been helping with the family coffee business from an early age. When Eduardo first heard about the group, he immediately wanted to join and asked his father-in-law for recommendation. 

 Eduardo with his favorite views in the back. 

Eduardo with his favorite views in the back. 

I am not like my brothers who are after quick money. They prefer to sell coffee fruit to coyotes for lower prices, but I have the patience, because I know it will pay off. I want to export my high quality product under my own name,

explained Eduardo as we were resting in his favourite spot in the middle of the field. The young man clearly looks up to Daniel, who became a successful farmer after joining forces with his fellow cooperative members.

No doubt the success of Café Artesanal San Miguel is a powerful incentive for the next generation to carry on the tradition. The cooperative has challenged the perception still common among local youth who see farming as dirty work to be done by poor, lower-class community members. The co-op members have proven that coffee production and processing can be a viable and even trendy profession, and they have earned respect in the community due to their achievements. And the fact that their passion turned out to be contagious is comforting, keeping in mind the global concerns about the future of coffee. The concern is shared by the San Miguel farmers too, so there is definitely more than just a parental pride as the fathers and mothers begin to hand down the fruits of their labor to the next generation. And the young farmers couldn’t ask for better guidance, as they get the caring supervision of the best, most experienced small-scale coffee producers in the area. A win-win situation.

 Alvaro, a law student, controlling coffee humidity with his father Miguel

Alvaro, a law student, controlling coffee humidity with his father Miguel

 Karen, a future doctor, depulping coffee with the help of Alejandra, another member of the group

Karen, a future doctor, depulping coffee with the help of Alejandra, another member of the group

Not all members of the youth group want to dedicate themselves full time to coffee like Eduardo or Erick, the 18-years-old group’s president who studies agronomy. For example Karen, Lesbia and Armando’s eldest daughter, plans to go to medical school to become a doctor. Alvaro, Miguel’s son, already is a law student. His knowledge will be helpful for La Segunda Generación when they decide to formalize their status (for now, all the legal documents are being signed by the Café Artesanal San Miguel co-op, who also takes all the risk and responsibility for the youth and their production). Julia, another member of the group, says “La Segunda Generación de Café Entre Volcanes is a very important concept. In fact, a concept which has already become a reality! I think it is breaking new ground for all of us. In Spanish there is a saying 'every mind is a world unto itself'. And we are plenty in the group, so there are many worlds here.”

Julia began her adventure with coffee at the age of 9 or 10. After school, together with her 4 brothers, they would go to look for their mother who worked at a nearby finca. Julia recalls with laughter that they saw the finca as a great playground. Their mom used to organize little cherry-picking competitions for them. “Alright, kids!” she used to call “Let’s see who fills the basket first!” and the children were beginning the hunt for plants most loaded with fruit, the guarantee of victory. But it was Julia’s father, Gregorio, who planted the first coffee trees in the family to better handle the household’s income volatility. Having embraced change, Gregorio got his kids on board. He taught them the whole process, from planting the seeds to sorting the jade-colored beans for export, and instilled the value of hard work in this children from the young age.

When asked what is her favourite part in the whole process, Julia answers: 

What I like most, and what astonishes me, is a finished cup. I used to wonder why all these foreigners were coming to taste our coffee. I was asking myself why there were finding it so special and I wanted to learn it as well. Beause when you dedicate yourself to processing, among all the tasks that need to be completed, you sometimes lose this part. And I only knew the coffee I was preparing at home. But then I started going to Antigua and I could see all these cappuccinos, espressos, latte art... So whenever I had some savings, I was going to try them. And yes, it felt great to taste a cup and know the grand process hidden behind it.
 Julia - a mother, a teacher, a cook, and a coffee farmer!

Julia - a mother, a teacher, a cook, and a coffee farmer!

The first La Segunda Generación de Café Entre Volcanes coffee cupped very well, revealing plum, chocolate and stone fruit notes. And for us it carries much more than the grand work Julia mentioned. It is the heritage of the farmers we have been working with since the very beginning of De la Gente, and it also carries the vision and the hopes of the young passionate producers. We are pleased to support this great initiative by purchasing 9,000 lbs of their-first ever coffee. We hope you will enjoy it, too!

Are you a roaster interested in this new offering? Get in touch with us as sales@dlgcoffee.org

We also have good news for coffee drinkers! Roasted coffee of “los jovenes” will be available in our online shop later this year.