After a quick yet full trip to La Suiza, the DLG team and Chet Sadler from the Sanibel Captiva Rotary traveled to the Ija’tz Cooperative in San Lucas Toliman. Carol, DLG’s Tour Manager and I (Director of Development), traveled early that morning to make it to Ija’tz around lunch time. We spent the afternoon picking Arnulfo’s brain about tourism in San Lucas Toliman. Considering San Lucas is on the shores of Lake Atitlan and is such a beautiful community rich in history and tradition, we wanted to learn more about how we can support the cooperative through Community Tourism.
On Thursday, May 2nd, four members of the DLG team (Juan - Executive Director, Timo - Technical Assistance Coordinator, Ceci – Marketing and Sales Coordinator and Elisandro – our best driver and member of the Youth Group from San Miguel Escobar Coop) departed from Antigua at 5:45 am in the DLG's good old pick-up truck to visit La Suiza Cooperative.
Before De la Gente, the organization’s name was, As Green as it Gets, which was created in 2005. It is incredible that this April we will celebrate our 5th Anniversary at De la Gente. After years of meeting and connecting with people throughout the world, sharing stories as well as great coffee, hitting the milestone of 5 years is a major reason for celebration and rejoice.
It all started with a regular coffee tour. In the summer 2017 a group of students from the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts and the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica participated in a De La Gente coffee tour. The dedication and hard-work of the farmers amazed them and inspired them to begin a fundraising campaign. The results of their efforts were astounding!
This is coffee of cunning and vitality, I thought. Coffee where coffee is needed, coffee without the glamour of the industry—wild coffee… And before I finished the thought, we were off: scurrying up towards the horizon, scavenging every crimson cherry we could find. Gentle. It’s important not to yank, the cherry must be deftly finagled off the branch. Pinch it between your fingers, twist, and flick—as if you are spinning a top. Stems must be cleaved off without tearing the delicate fruit, and make sure to perform this precise function at the speed of light. All the ripe beans must be discovered and harvested by the day’s end, if not, in the next pass the cherries will be garnet red, soggy with maturation, and useless.
“The Procafé staff went about setting up the strikingly scientific method of preparing a coffee cupping. Clusters of cups, grouped in threes, were placed around two circular tables; spittoons were set in each corner, as to permit the scientist to taste, but not swallow, the shimmering brown liquid of their experiment; silver, fine-handled spoons, as well as clipboards with scoring sheets, were handed out to all participants; and timers were placed in the center of each table – timing what? Each stage of the cupping process was allotted a precise space in which to exist… amidst ticking seconds commenced the coordinated ballet.”
En route to La Suiza, the Coffeebar team, accompanied by a few DLG staff members, stopped in Nuevo Eden for a coffee cupping. Read about our eye-opening experiences and look out for part 2, coming soon.
As part of a commitment to further develop relationships with all of our partner cooperatives, in July the DLG team hit the road to visit UPC and Ija'tz. The basic goal was to give a presentation that would better acquaint the farmers with the internal operations of DLG. However, these trips served as much more than formal meetings; they furnished a space in which everyone could socialize, brew coffee, tour coffee fields, and forge relationships beyond strictly formal business relationships.
For the 5th annual De la Gente Congress, two farmers from each of our five partner cooperatives joined us in San Miguel Escobar for a DLG-exclusive event. This allowed us to focus on topics and activities that will be extremely useful to our partner cooperatives and their farmer members. Additionally, the two day congress served as a space in which farmers from different groups, as well as the DLG staff, dinned together, laughed together, and built long-lasting relationships.
The De la Gente Microlot Competition was born out an idea to identify the best coffees produced by the members of cooperative in San Miguel Escobar and add them to our offering list, facilitating farmer-roaster connections on a personal level. It is also an opportunity for the producers to earn a premium price and an incentive to work toward quality of their coffee. This year we hosted the competition for the second time.
In March we spent three days in a beautiful and welcoming community of la Suiza in order to train a small group of dedicated farmers how to develop their own fetilizers. The project was facilitated by an external partner, Cooperativa Nahualá, and involved chopping onions, blending chili peppers and mixing virgin soil with sweet-scented molasses. The bio-fabrica - a self-sustaining system to develop organic fertilizers, which the training participants will use on their own crop and also sell to generate income for the cooperative - has been established!
Meet La Segunda Generación de Café Entre Volcanes - the second generation of coffee producers from San Miguel Escobar! The youth group was formed at the end of 2017 on the initiative of Café Artesanal San Miguel cooperative members who wanted to support their children who show interest in coffee production. De la Gente will be the first buyer of the La Segunda Generación coffee, and we would like to introduce the group and some of it's members to you.
Of all the many stages in producing a quality cup of coffee, fermentation may be one of the more lesser known processes, but it has a dramatic impact on the finished product. Recently one of our partner cooperatives requested support in building two fermentation tanks, so that quality of their coffee may be more readily controlled and the production process can move more quickly. And that's how Ija'tz got their new tanks, just in time to finish processing the 2018 harvest.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” a proverb says. Guatemala has a long way to go before its hard-working people reach decent living conditions. But there are some who make the positive change happen. Together with some of these amazing souls we offer you unique hand-crafted holiday gift bundles which create economic opportunities for local communities. Meet our partners, order today and let’s go together!
Gildardo Martinez, Senior Financial Advisor with Root Capital, has been working closely with the San Miguel Escobar and Ija’tz Cooperatives since June. Gildardo’s excitement, professionalism, and “chapin” (Guatemalan) demeanor invite participants in warmly. Always energetic and playful, attendance is high and engagement is higher. Since June, Gildardo has worked with each cooperative monthly on a variety of topics.