CAFÉ ARTESANAL SAN MIGUEL
This is where it all began! Café Artesanal San Miguel Entre Volcanes de Antigua was De la Gente’s first partner cooperative. This tight-knit group of farmers are undoubtedly pioneers in the Guatemalan coffee sector, and since the beginning they have dedicated their efforts towards growth, innovation and constant improvement of their product’s quality.
The town of San Miguel Escobar, founded in 1527 as Guatemala's second colonial capital, is located just
outside of Antigua. The history of coffee production in the region dates back to mid 19th century, but it had been the domain of large fincas. Only about 25 years ago did small-holder farmers with experience working at those fincas start planting their own coffee trees. Yet nobody had enough knowledge to process the beans themselves, and most farmers would sell their fruit on the street at whatever prices the big players set.
In 2005 a volunteer from the U.S. with an engineering background met farmers from San Miguel and saw the potential to improve the quality of life of small producers. Together with 7 farmers they started processing their coffee, adding more value to the product, and looking for buyers for this excellent high altitude coffee. Out of that partnership came both the Café Artesanal San Miguel cooperative and De la Gente.
Antigua Guatemala is one of the most popular coffee regions throughout the world. The valley is encircled by three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Its climate is temperate all year with steady moisture that makes this a suitable and perfect place for coffee to be slowly nurtured. Cool nights finalize the process of stabilization, preventing extreme climate variations between the dry and wet seasons of Guatemala. Antigua's coffee is often characterized for being outstanding in the cup, and its complexity varies, normally exhibiting a floral acidity that is often spicy or chocolaty.
Since then the cooperative has grown significantly and now consists of 28 members, including 3 women. The standards are set high within the group, so everybody pays exceptional attention to detail in every step of cultivation, harvest and processing. The farmers are generally smallholders - with a range of landholdings, from just a few cuerdas (a traditional unit of land area equivalent to 1089 sq. m) up to almost 40 - and most of it stretches up the slopes of Volcán de Agua. Each producer wet mills and dries their own beans, while the cooperative takes care of dry milling with the solar-powered mill financed by De la Gente and partners. The co-op also owns machinery to roast coffee to specialty standards (for local sales). Moreover, Café Artesanal San Miguel manages the entire export process of De la Gente’s coffee, including milling other cooperatives’ crop. Some members also produce natural and honey processed coffees, as well as cascara tea. A few have earned individual contracts with international buyers for their outstanding microlots.
Over the years members have learned that the extra effort put into processing pays off, as they have seen the anticipated improvement of their standard of living become reality. Many were able to afford their children’s continued education, improve the size and quality of their houses, and invest in better healthcare for their families. What is more, many farmers have taken advantage of micro-financing opportunities offered through De la Gente and have expanded their businesses. The collaboration with DLG also gives the co-op members a chance to earn additional income thanks to engagement in our community tourism program - they guide coffee tours, lead volunteers and offer homestays to visitors.
In 2017, out of concern about the future of coffee in the region, the forward-thinking co-op created a youth group made up of farmers under 30 who already own some coffee-producing land. The goal was to support and motivate their children who show interest in agriculture, and in most cases have been helping out in the fields since early childhood. De la Gente is the first buyer of the coffee grown and processed by the group.
We are proud to work alongside the members of Café Artesanal San Miguel who continue to inspire us to build a more equitable and inclusive coffee industry.
Timoteo Minas, better known as "Timo" to his friends and colleagues, is a coffee production pro with a million-dollar smile. He is one of the founders of Café Artesanal San Miguel and an indispensable member of the De la Gente's team. Owning more than 20 cuerdas of coffee-producing land, Timo is always looking for innovation and better practices. He is always happy to share his extensive knowledge and experience with other DLG's partner cooperatives as a respected peer-to-peer trainer. With his wife Amalia they are parents to 6 children, and have 5 grandchildren.