It’s a sunny and warm December morning at Finca Medina, southwest of Antigua Guatemala City. Farm staff go about their daily business in the shadow of the 11,500ft colossus Volcán de Agua, a gruelling full-day hike from the nearby village of Santa María de Jesús.
Soft beams of sunlight break through a canopy of gravilea and inga trees, reflecting off the waxy leaves of the coffee plants beneath. Their plump red bourbon cherries are approaching ripeness, ready to be carefully hand-picked by the vast temporary workforce soon to arrive.
Meanwhile in frozen Surrey, an intrepid coffee professional named Dan searches Google for “guatemala coffee farms”, setting off an 8,000km chain reaction that would eventually see more than a metric tonne of coffee from this beautiful region of Central America arrive at our roastery on Denbies Wine Estate.
We’re proud to introduce our latest commitment to direct and transparent coffee purchasing, from this tranquil and yet progressively sustainable 70 hectare farm.
So what did it take to bring it over here? Read on to find out, in Dan’s words, what it took to source and import this fantastic addition to our core range, and why he thinks buying like this is the best way to do business.
As with any coffee we source, we do lots of research. We looked at a handful of Guatemalan producers with whom we were interested in working, and adopted a biocultural approach in order to understand their farming practices.
The goal was to see if we could create a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership. This included having a few key criteria ourselves, such as size and ownership, environmental standards (including testing for mycotoxins), and quality (graded by speciality coffee standards).
With our questionable Spanish speaking, communication was occasionally challenging, but through a combination of translations via Google and our Head Roaster Elizabeth we were usually able to understand each other!
We enjoyed building a relationship with Antonia & Jorge of Finca Medina to develop the style of coffee we wanted, and managing the farm-to-roastery importing process ourselves.
Although there is likely to be a farm visit in the not too distant future, the wonders of modern technology meant that we didn’t need to fly 8000km for a meeting - saving approximately 2000kg CO2 in the process. There were several video calls, then came the coffee samples and tastings, and finally an agreement on what coffee we were taking for the ‘23/’24 season.
The result was two delicious lots arriving at our roastery – a dark chocolatey, orangey, washed coffee that will sit as part of our core range and a funky yellow honey for one of our Discovery Coffees early next year.
We paid on average 93% above the latest Fairtrade price for both coffees.
Developing the Relationship
This process involved multiple members of both teams. Our Head Roaster Elizabeth and our Community Manager Sam were in regular communication with Antonia to capture every detail from the farm, and ensure we were getting the best out of the coffee during the roasting process.
We even discussed sack design – I can confirm these are pretty cool, so please pop in to our roastery shop in a couple of weeks if you’d like to get your hands on one!
Why Buy This Way?
Buying coffee upfront provides a source of funds to the farm prior to harvest, but we also have other external factors to consider. Currency implications and how we move it from A to B can be particularly challenging with smaller lots, due to the need to consolidate shipping containers.
Handling our own logistics involves coordinating with multiple shipping and haulage companies, and is usually within the realm of our super organised Operations Manager, Row.
We’re pleased to say the coffee has safely arrived, and we have really enjoyed roasting and tasting the final product. We can’t wait to hear what our customers think of it.
I hope this has given a small insight into why we’re excited to introduce this coffee that will hopefully be part of our range for years to come!