Every month, members of our Roastmaster’s Select Club have the opportunity to sample fresh and unique micro lot coffees from all around the world. In 2018 we were proud to showcase a diversity of coffee flavors from Ecuador, Mexico, Malawi, Sulawesi, Tanzania, and more. Now, for a limited time, join the members of the Roastmaster’s Club in exploring the taste of Indonesia’s Flores Green Dragon coffee.
Here there be Dragons
In the Indochina sea, south of the equator, lies the Malay Archipelago island chain. Rich volcanic soils and dense rain forests host a variety of life, including the largest lizards on the Earth: the famous Dragons of Komodo. It is no wonder why the islanders of Flores would name their unique style of coffee “Flores Green Dragon”.
On the upland plateau of Flores Island, nestled against the Mt. Inerie volcano, Green Dragon coffee is harvested and processed in the town of Bajawa, home to the Ngada people. Flores Island coffee is often sold in local Jakarta markets as commercial grade ‘Sumatra’, but the traceable supply of branded Flores Green Dragon ensures more value finds its way to the growers of this exotic coffee, playing a vital role in the local economy.
Coffee from Indonesia
The species of coffee that make up Green Dragon are Typica, Tim Tim, and Linie S 795 (locally known as Jember). Jember is a cross between Kent, a typical mutation, and S288, a naturally occurring C. arabica and C. liberica hybrid. Developed in India, it is known for being one of the first varieties to be highly resistant to coffee leaf rust. Harvested between June and September, the coffee is pulped with minimal water, dried to roughly 35 to 40% and then wet hulled in a process called “Giling Basah.”
Altitude Grown: 1200-1700 meters
Processing: Semi-washed (pulped natural, wet hulled and unpolished)
Cooperative: Bajawa smallholders
Region: Ngada Regency, Flores Island, Indonesia
Milk chocolate, heavy body, herbal notes.
Now for a limited time, you can order a package of Flores Green Dragon and taste it for yourself. This special micro lot coffee will only be available until March.
Don’t miss out on a chance to try amazing flavors from all over the world. Join the Roastmaster’s Select Coffee Club, and get first access to exclusive micro lots and rare coffees.
It’s the biggest event in coffee, sponsored by the biggest names in coffee, held in what is probably America’s most coffee-obsessed city. It’s every coffee nerd’s dream, and seven of our team from Thanksgiving Coffee Company had the opportunity to attend this year. The Global Coffee Expo is a three day event with all the players in the coffee industry, put on by the Specialty Coffee Association. Roasting, importing, producing, farming, equipment, ideas, publications – there is so much to see and do at this convention.
Above: The SCA logo on cupping mugs at the Global Coffee Expo
Stepping into the launch party on night one was an experience all in itself. At the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle, thousands of coffee professionals from all over the world flooded the floors. There was a virtual reality farm tour, a video from the board of the SCA, cold brew samples from Starbucks, a latte art throwdown, and networking with some of the most prominent people in coffee. It was overwhelming and spectacular — and a great way to kick off an exciting weekend.
Above: The Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle hosts the SCA Global Coffee Expo launch party
The Specialty Coffee Association turns 35 this year. The years that have gone by have changed the association in many ways, but it remains at its core, a place for people to come together and fight for the greater good of everyone involved in the coffee industry. Thanksgiving Coffee’s Co-Founder and CEO Paul Katzeff was part of the team that founded the SCAA back in 1982, and has been an integral part of the association (and its president twice) through the decades.
Above: Paul Katzeff at the Global Coffee Expo launch party
The weekend was of course a whirlwind, full of lectures, meetings, walking the Expo floor, and naturally, lots of coffee breaks! We tasted coffee from Kenya, Colombia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nicaragua, India, and many more origins. We met old friends and new, listened to lectures from coffee professionals, and visited our Fairtrade certification.
One of the main highlights of these conventions is the opportunity to meet with our producers – the human beings behind the coffee farms. Throughout the year, we speak with these folks over email and telephone, but at rare moments like these, we’re able to spend time with them face to face. We get to catch up on life and family and learn how their farms and co-ops are doing. We got some fun shots with a few of our friends:
Above: the SOPACDI co-op team from the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Thanksgiving Coffee team from Fort Bragg, California
Above: Jacob Long, Roastmaster and Director of Coffee at Thanksgiving Coffee, and Lucas Silvestre of the Guayab Co-op in Guatemala
Above: Fatima Ismael of SOPPEXCCA in Nicaragua, Joan Katzeff of Thanksgiving Coffee and Nicholas Hoskyns of Etico in Nicaragua
We here at Thanksgiving Coffee want to give a HUGE thank you to the volunteer team that worked so hard at the Global Coffee Expo. Conventions like these simply cannot happen without the help of volunteers, and we are all indebted to you!
Take a peek below at some of the fun we had while in Seattle at the Specialty Coffee Association convention. After the Roasters Guild mixers, morning presentations, photo booth fun, and walking tens of thousands of steps across the show floor, we are going to need the rest of the week to rest and catch up.
The Thanksgiving Coffee team at Global Coffee Expo, with Nicholas of Nicaragua, and Isak of Rwanda
Joshua Long, Jacob Long, Paul Katzeff, Joan Katzeff and Jen Lewis outside the Washington State Convention Center
The Seattle skyline from our Airbnb in Queen Anne
Marchelo Bresciani at the Fairtrade America booth
Jacob, Josh and Nathan inspecting new roasting equipment
Joan and Paul Katzeff, co-founders of Thanksgiving Coffee Company
Jen Lewis with Jennifer Pawlik of Amavida Coffee Roasters, a fellow B Corporation
At the International Women in Coffee Association (IWCA) breakfast
Thank you, volunteers
Jacob Long and Joshua Long with Kenyan dancers at the Global Coffee Expo launch party
Attending the Fairtrade America cupping
We’ll see you in 2018, Seattle!
Stay tuned for some individual posts from our team that attended the show!
We’ve been digging into the archives a little bit, and came across this article from June of 2004. As Earth Day rolls around, check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine featuring Thanksgiving Coffee Company and our work in Nicaragua.
On December 6, 2016 I got this text message from Laos,
“Hey Paul, I want to tell you about this Reward Program we started with the coffee farmers. We had an interesting development happen since I first e-mailed you. A village has split off, and is not sending any coffee to Japan, electing to only send coffee to America. Last year they cupped at 87 without picking fully red ripe cherries and without adding any compost to the soil. This year we have had them picking only red, eight compost bins were created in each farm this summer, organic fertilizer tea is being sprayed on every tree, and the micro lot will be about 14,000 pounds(54 sacks). Plus the processing area is impeccable now! And we have created a pick team so that the ten families rotate between farms ensuring they pick only soft ripe cherries and no over ripe beans. This system is so different from the traditional way that they do it in Laos where it is traditional to only pick your own farms trees. Last year, they only picked about 70% ripe . This year it will be 95%.
We spray painted the harvest baskets red so they have a constant reminder to pick ripe cherries.”
98% ripe cherries from last weeks picking.. Luscious looking and a hard days work!
“Michael(shown below) , being the coffee expert here with me, believes we could hit 89 or 90 points with this lot. The harvest is late(usually it starts in October) so we don’t have mid pick samples yet but will soon.”
This is a unique way to help pickers see the results of their picking. The paddle has 50 holes. Each hole represents 2% of the picking. Fifty random cherries are pulled from the basket and placed in the wholes. The number of green and over-ripe beans are counted and the calculation for percent of red ripe is made. For every not ripe cherry, a percent of money is lost as the flavor is corrupted by these beans. This is the best system I have seen for improving the motivation of coffee pickers in forty years.
John (pictured below right, Lao Farmer) with Michael (below left) with his compost in his hands. John has the cleanest washing tank ever. He even keeps plastic cover over it when he is not using it to keep the dust out.
The red baskets and Mr Sam Sung and his puppy. Note compost bin in background:
Note coffee trees in background. They are the dark green trees that rim the patio:
In the lower portion of this picture you can see one over-ripe cherry:
Here is Tyson Adams with a village friend who must be half his size and three times his age. I bet she cooks up some great Lao Cuisine!
Fifteen years ago I wanted to help Veterans For Peace make their peace with their Laos experience. They dropped bombs on the people of Laos and had deep feelings of guilt; they needed to do something positive for their souls.
Now in 2016, a different person from a different generation, (Lee Thorn was 65 in 2014, Tyson is 31 now) is picking up where we left off but he brings different and more pertinent skills to Laos. Both wound up working with the same Jhai Coffee cooperative and now, after fifteen years, we have reconnected with that coffee coop and look forward to being able to roast it so you can taste it.
The way coffee becomes great is with time and hard work in the fields.
There is one other aspect that is needed and that is love. If the trees provide enough income to pay for a family’s food, clothing, shelter, health care and education, then a farmer will love his trees. It is the love that the plant feels that creates the best flavors the tree knows how to produce. But it is as much the love as it is the soil, weather and variety that makes good coffee become great coffee.
Between 2004 and 2014, Tyson was in and out of my sights as he ferried back and forth between Laos and the United States. He was a very internet-savvy millennial and did a few fundraising events with Kickstarter to finance his now-evolving water well, sanitation and personal hygiene projects in his newly adopted mountain village in Laos. He was building water systems and evolving a Lao-centric life. We spent many hours talking about Laos coffee – the income source for the Lao people on the Plateau. To raise more funds, Tyson created a coffee program (this was in 2011, when he was just 24 years old).
Between 2011 and 2014, Tyson spent many hours at Thanksgiving Coffee in Fort Bragg – learning how to cup coffee and learning how to roast as well. He had this idea: he wanted to teach the Lao coffee farmers how to taste their coffee and bring it up to specialty quality. The Japanese buyers were not interested in flavor – they just wanted the volume. Tyson used his Kickstarter funds to build a coffee house in Laos, in the village he was living in. He called this coffee house The World’s First Philanthropic Coffee Roaster & Cafe. He spread the word digitally that a good cup of coffee could be had in Laos, and tourists, ex pats and the curious came to partake of a fresh-roasted and well-brewed cup of coffee… and they could meet the coffee farmers too. Customers also got to know that their purchases would go toward drilling more water wells in Laos.
By 2014, Tyson was hard at work helping the Jhai Coffee Cooperative get out from under the Japanese hold on their coffee. Having only one buyer (albeit their traditional buyer for three decades) was Tyson’s challenge. In order to get any coffee (and there was only 500 sacks), the Lao coffee co-op had to decide to short the Japanese. I had to bid up the price to make it attractive to the cooperative management.
Here is what the communication was like on February 7, 2014
On Feb 7, 2014, at 8:09 PM, Tyson Adams wrote:
Still in Thailand. Needed to get passport pages because I ran out. In two days I will be back in Laos with better Internet access. I do apologize for the lack of communication. There were some technology challenges via not having access to Internet on my phone.
Thanks for the emails as of late! Cool project in the US and very similar to ours. Only difference is that we are located at the source and our doing the work with our own farmers.
Spoke with Nick yesterday and it looks like there will be a container load of ATJ coffee available for Thanksgiving. They didn’t want to pay more than 38,000 kip so they are only taking one. You guys are offering 39,250. About $1.25 / kilo more.
We still have to discuss all this with the JCFC and of course ATJ (Japan) wants to know about other buyers (thanksgiving) but we are crossing our fingers that their expressed desire to only take one container instead of two is a positive thing for us. Plus that the JCFC and all the farmers will reserve this coffee for Thanksgiving.
At the very moment we get back we will call a meeting with the JCFC to discuss and get back to you. ATJ will be in Laos shortly to pick up their container so the sooner we figure this put the better.
TYSON ADAMS I Founder
Jhai Coffee House
The World’s First Philanthropic Coffee Roaster & Cafe Located At The Source
On Feb 8, 2014, at 12:07 PM, Paul Katzeff <email@example.com> wrote:
It was not my intention to out bid the Japanese by 62 cents a pound. I followed your math and used 37 cents as the export costs which I deducted from what you said was the Japanese offer. I have actually distorted the price/value proposition for future dealings. This is not good, As Jacob said, $160-$2.00 was the value I came in higher to meet what you said the farmers would sell at. It is not good to piss off buyers by raising their price after they put up 70 % for pre finance. I would settle for half a container . Do not burn bridges. The Japanese are the historical loyal buyers and their efforts need to be respected .
I had copied my correspondence to Lee Thorn who originally contacted me back in 2004 about Veterans For Peace wanting to help the Laos people, and he joined in with this e mail the following day:
Dear Tyson (hi, Vorasone, Paul and everyone),
Congratulations on a great job, Tyson! This is wonderful work you are doing. Paul. I am particularly excited to see in emails that Paul Katzeff and Thanksgiving Coffee are planning to buy the co-op’s coffee and bring it to the U.S. As you may know, Paul is a leading light among coffee people and is an extremely experienced and renown coffee man. His son visited the co-op quite a few years ago. I cc Paul here.as well as some people on the Jhai side who helped start the cooperative.
I loved working on this! I had loaded bombs that in all probability landed in those fields. Many people who live in the coffee villages have told me they used to live along the Lao/Vietnam border. I know we heavily bombed that area, too. I was pleased to find out that many of the village elders and leaders were war veterans like me. They were from both sides of the Lao conflict. I know we all shared and share the hope of the coffee fields and the sorrow of the war. For me, this work was an amends and an amazing and illuminating chance to become friends with so many people who know how true community really works. It is humbling.
And, of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything in Laos without the great help and comradeship of Vorasone and Ariya Dengkayaphichith as well as Bounthanh Phommasathit and her great extended family. Many people from those days have passed on, now, and I mourn their passing.
Please give my best to everyone and tell them they all are still in the hearts of Jhai Foundation (which is chaired, now, by Eli Neiburger cc-ed above), my family and myself.
Yours in Peace,
Chairman Emeritus and Senior Advisor, Jhai Foundation
That was 3 years ago (2014) and much has happened in the 1,000 days since then. The coffee house has received visitors from many countries, foundation grants have enabled Tyson and The Jhai Coffee farmers Cooperative to build a warehouse to store coffee, farmers have been given agricultural training in organic farming and compost building, children have been taught western personal and dental hygiene, and coffee was exported last year into the United States. I was encouraging but having been burned a decade before, I figured I would wait out their first export coffee and jump in in their second year… which is 2017.
So now, after thirteen years of flirting with Laos as a coffee origin, I will get a second chance to present our loyal customers with coffee from Laos.
The History of Coffee in Laos
Laos has an interesting coffee history. The French, when they Colonized Laos, planted coffee trees and began the industry which lied dormant and was destroyed during the secret war in the 70’s. Most trees died but what was left became the basis for the revival which began with the Japanese buyers in the early 90’s.
The French knew what they were doing. The Bolivan plateau is prime.
The climate and the soils are a perfect match for the great varieties the French planted 75-100 years ago. Now, with a very sophisticated coffee world, with people who are dedicated to great coffee flavor, and with a young man with on a mission to help build a new and sustainable Lao Coffee Industry that improves the lives of the people in the villages who grow the coffee, I can’t wait to taste what comes next.
This photo is of the cherries now being harvested by the JHAI Coffee Cooperative. (all ripe means the flavor will be as good as the tree can do. The key to preserving the trees effort will be in the depulping, drying and grading yet to come)
How poor quality coffee becomes great: the time it takes
Back in 2004 I received a call from Lee Thorn, the president of the San Francisco chapter of Veterans for Peace (VPAT). Lee was a Vietnam veteran who dropped bombs on Laos and destroyed the lives and villages of innocent civilians – and forty years later he was still feeling guilty for having done so.
He said that VPAT was an organization that wanted to make amends to the Laotian people, and asked if I would help him and his group do so. He explained that while on a return visit to the Highlands of Laos he had seen the farmers growing coffee. His idea was to import their coffee to the states, have Thanksgiving Coffee roast and package it in a branded package (Jhai Coffee) and then have his veterans group sell it to other VPAT chapters around the country.
That was back in 2002, almost fifteen years ago!
I was all for it if Lee could develop the sales. We began with a single container – which we imported without even tasting it for quality. The price we paid was fully 50% higher than the world market price and that extra amount went to the farmers as a bonus for selling to us instead of their long-standing Japanese buyers. Even though the farmers were happy to get the bonus, they feared losing their long-standing buyers that didn’t care about quality.
Coffee Farms in Laos
Coffee was planted in Laos by the French. They had colonized the country in the early part of the twentieth century. That part of the world was eventually known as “French Indo China” and included Vietnam and Cambodia. The French knew their coffee varieties and carefully selected the Typica variety as most suitable for the Laos climate and soil conditions.
Knowing this, I was certain that if the farmers picked fully ripe cherries and processed the pulp and seeds properly, we could get some really great coffee. We could also become the first coffee roasters in the states to offer coffee from Laos. The story would be War Veterans Giving Back to Those They Harmed.
Moving Forward with VPAT
The first container arrived and the coffee was fair. The flavor was flat, acidity was low, sugars were not developed well and it was obvious the farmers needed greater supervision in their coffee farming practices. The coffee had hints of greatness and obvious potential. But it would take training in new systems for bringing the coffee to export grade.
I decided to continue with the project although I was finding the coffee hard to sell. Lee had also over-estimated the sales potential of the other VPAT chapters. I believe this “adventure” cost Thanksgiving Coffee $50,000 in advertising, marketing, labels and brochures. By the end of that first year we had roasted the coffee into many French Roasts (irony) and had sold 50,000 Jhai Foundation Coffee Packages.
Lee hired a “Development Director” to work in Laos with the farmers to improve their agricultural practices, to harvest only red ripe cherries and to reduce imperfections to 2%. The 2003 Crop was really sweet and filled with caramel and nutty flavor tones, and I was happy!
That year my son Jonah was living in Cambodia. I asked him to make a visit to the Jhai Farmers to reinforce our commitment to the program and to the Jhai Farmers Cooperative. There he met Will Thomlinson, the VPAT Development Director that Lee had hired. Together they mapped out a plan for Thanksgiving Coffee to purchase two Containers (75,000 pounds) in the following year.
Now, with really good coffee that I knew could only get better, new and better harvesting practices, and a guarantee of sale, I and The VPAT members went into full sales and marketing mode. We sold a lot of Jhai Coffee packages. We raised a lot of money for the Laos coffee farmers. The money was given to VPAT and they transferred the money to Laos. I was more interested in the coffee side and building a new market for Laos coffee in the USA. My plan was to bring in great amounts of raw coffee as it became available over the years and to resell the coffee to other artisan roasters. It all seemed to be falling into place.
The following year, in 2005, Mr Thomlinsonwent rogue, selling our contracted coffee from that years crop to a Japanese company.
The project died.
The VPAT members dispersed and we at Thanksgiving Coffee got stuck holding 20,000 empty Jhai Foundation packages, 50,000 brochures, and egg on our face.
We moved on, a bit wiser and a bit poorer for the effort.
A Decade Later
Fast forward to 2014. Ten years pass and I get a call from a young man who was living in Seattle but traveling to Laos. He was so in love with the Lao people and obsessed with the fact that the children had no books in their schools. He started a program with a local coffee roaster, and called it “Coffee for Books.” One book was donated for each pound of coffee sold.
This young man wanted my advice and help to use Lao coffee beans for his project. He said he had met and made friends with coffee growers on the Bolivian Plain in Laos (The same region I had been dealing with a decade before) and was going back. Then asked if I would be his adviser, and implied that I would roast and package Lao coffee for his project, if he got the coffee exported to the USA.
I thought of the song lyric: “once burned, twice shy babe” and told him I would think about it – and get back to him before he left for Laos.
By Joan Katzeff, Co-Founder & Director of Operations
I first visited Nicaragua in the early 1990’s. The terrible years of the Iran Contra Civil War were still dominant in the memory of the people, and its effects had taken a huge toll on coffee farmers already enduring a difficult way of life.
At one of the beneficios (where coffee is processed), I watched an assembly line of women sitting on a motley collection of chairs on either side of a moving conveyor belt. Their job was to separate defective beans from those that made the grade for sale and export. It was noisy, hot and dusty, so the women also wore masks that covered their noses and mouths while working.
I left knowing that as soon as I returned home, I would figure out a way to raise money to purchase new ergonomic chairs for those women, and I did, in a gesture of solidarity. But, I knew it was just a drop in the bucket.
Thanksgiving Coffee staff with the women of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
On another small group trip in 2012, we visited the beneficio of Soppexcca, a cooperative composed predominantly of women.
We spent some time “helping” the women transfer coffee beans from the drying patio into sacks that were in process for export. I’m not sure how helpful we were, but it was an enjoyable cultural exchange. These women performed hard physical work on a daily basis. Many of them walked miles to and from work each day if transportation wasn’t available, preparing meals for their families before and after work at the beneficio, as well as doing the rest of the work required in the home, and child rearing responsibilities, as well.
We were invited to sit in on a Board of Directors meeting composed of some of the women we’d worked with, and others from the cooperative who had founded and were operating a small store at the beneficio that sold food and sundries, and was a source of additional income for them.
Women coffee workers of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
While there has been progress made in the recognition and fair and equal compensation for women who work in coffee, there is still a long way to go.
Women we’ve met on buying trips to Central America and Africa live in remote towns and villages without running, potable water or electricity. Homes are rustic, often with a dozen or more family members living in one or two rooms with dirt floors. Many women don’t have access to health care, marry young, and have children soon after. During the “thin months” when coffee income is low, they and their children often go hungry. They perform much of the physical labor required to grow and harvest coffee, but have almost no influence on decisions about how family income is spent. They are typically uneducated, impoverished and disconnected from resources.
Thanksgiving Coffee & ETICO staff meeting with the women of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
Thanksgiving Coffee began to address these issues in two ways.
First, by purchasing only from cooperatives that show a willingness to eradicate this kind of gender inequity. They do this through their actions in support of remedies to eliminate food insecurity, and promoting, providing and ensuring access to training and education for women. These actions will enable women to participate as equal partners in the industry.
The second way we, as a company, have supported women in coffee is through “The Recognition of the Unpaid Work of Women.” We began this work in 2014, in Nicaragua by adding $0.10 per pound to all coffees we purchase from the Prodecoop and Soppexcca Coopperatives. They have committed to using these funds to improve the lives of women in coffee. The next post will go into detail about what has been accomplished to date.
– Joan Katzeff
Joan Katzeff, Co-Founder, Thanksgiving Coffee and Fatima Ismail, General Manager, SOPPEXCCA, 2013
High in the lush mountains of northern Peru, two thousand family farmers produce coffee under the dense shade of guavas, acacias, orange, and banana trees. These farmers are members of CENFROCAFE, an association of over 80 small cooperatives working together to produce one of the finest coffees in Peru, while stewarding the surrounding mountain ecosystem.
Members of CENFROCAFE
Delicate honey-toned sweetness, juicy citric acidity, subtle chocolate notes, and hints of ripe papaya.
The province of Cajamarca has long been the backbone of Peru’s economy due to its vast mineral wealth. Unfortunately, these days, modern mining techniques despoil the earth and surrounding rivers and forests. The cultivation of high quality organic coffee has become the key to Cajamarca’s economic and environmental sustainability, and the farmers of CENFROCAFE are leaders in this effort.
Photos from CENFROCAFE
The members of CENFROCAFE carefully pick ripe cherries, depulp, ferment, wash and dry their coffee on their small farms ranging in size from one to three acres. The result is a finely crafted coffee with hints of honey, papaya, and milk chocolate complimented by a soft citric acidity.
Roastmaster Jacob Long
Our roastmaster, Jacob Long, shared his thoughts about the 2015 crop:
“The Peruvian Coffee we received this year is nice and sweet. Right now the beans are fresh and vibrant. It’s one of our favorite single origins at the moment.
People who typically don’t appreciate light roasts might like this coffee more than others – the acidity is more smooth and juicy than bright. When I taste this coffee, the smooth milk chocolate notes really come through.”
Delicate honey-toned sweetness, juicy citric acidity, subtle chocolate notes, and hints of ripe papaya.
Carlos and his brother Fausto are both Members of the Solidaridad Cooperative in Aranjuez, Nicaragua. We have worked with them for over 20 years, and are proud to bring you their coffee in this special two-bag offering (only 100 available).
The Natural coffee Carlos has produced is richly fruity with an unforgettable finish. The washed process coffee Fausto has produced is delightful, with layers of honey and apricot that are followed by a soft, pleasant sparkle.
Enjoy these two coffees separately, but be sure to experiment with blends. We found that a ratio of 60% washed and 40% natural produced a cup that is somehow better then the sum of its already delicious parts.
Carlos Lanzas Gonzales
Carlos was born in Arenal, and his father built houses – he was a carpenter and wasn’t really involved in agriculture. “Like all children I played a lot, soccer, baseball. I studied up to 3rd grade then began to work. With my brothers we rented some land in Aranjuez and began to grow vegetables. Our main conditions were good soil, and accessibility to the city. We rented for a while then got land as a part of the agrarian reform- 120 manzanas (208 acres) between 12 of us, for about 10 manzanas (17.4 acres) per person. We formed a cooperative, at that time it was the only way to get loans or inputs.”
“I love to work in the countryside. I talk to the plants, ask them how they are. When the coffee trees have flowers they are happy, when the coffee is ripening they are gleeful, and when the coffee is ready to be harvested it’s in an even better mood.”
On changes in the community: “Now we have good roads, a school, a health post, electricity, we’ve been able to improve our homes, these changes are due to coffee. With vegetables you can’t get much income. Over 70 manzanas (121 acres) of land has been reforested, we’ve been conserving the soil. We’ve put trees on the land that is not planted in coffee, in order to protect the watershed. Most of the water that goes to the rest of Aranjues and to Matagalpa comes from our lands.”
“There’s always a risk that the seeds will be bad, the inputs too expensive, or that the sale price won’t cover the costs. We win and lose, it’s the rhythm of our lives. But we’ve been able to improve our lives with the buyer that we’ve found. The small producer usually doesn’t have access to the market- we’er always in the hands of the intermediaries and they get most of our earnings.”
On the meaning of well-being: “All the best things you desire. When the work we do is compensated, we can educate our children, have good food, live a just life. With a good price we have a better life, we have the right to that, don’t we? My favorite time of year is when I sell my coffee, in April or May.
On the meaning of coffee: “It’s our source of life. The most marvelous thing about her is that she gives progress to our family. She helped us to get what we have. Agriculture in general is not very profitable. 12 years ago we got help from Norway through UNAG, they helped us to get started in coffee. It was a good program because it helped us a lot, gave us the techniques. We didn’t know anything about coffee at the time. When the prices went up to $1.70 because of the frosts in Brazil, we thought of nothing but coffee. I have 25 manzanas (43.5 acres) of land in another place for growing beans and corn, and 2 manzanas (3.5 acres) in transition to organic. I have Caturra and Catimor that I’m planning to change for maracaturra.”
On the meaning of the cooperative: “The only way to have strength is through being united. The co-op gives us lots of advantages, helps us get credit, if we did;t have its it would be difficult to sell our coffee. Our successes have been building the cupping laboratory, getting credit, selling our coffee for a good price.”
Carlos’ hope for the future: “Maintain a good relationship with Paul, sell more coffee, give more work to nearby families. Have a coffee take us as far as it can. Continue to protect the environment around us. Unite and ask for more help, for housing, schools, a better life for poor people.”
“We put a lot of effort into sending the best coffee that we produce so that we can get a fair price. The harvest takes a lot of sacrifices and effort. Maybe someday the drinkers of our coffee will come and meet us to learn where coffee comes from.”
— — — — — —
Fausto Lanzas Gonzales
Family: 5 children; Karla Patricia 24 (teacher at El Quetzal, a hacienda down the road), Frank 23 (producer and member of the cooperative), Fabio 22 (producer, not a member of the cooperative), Wilmer 20 (7th grade), Sadia 17 (11th grade).
Fausto was born in Matagalpa and raised in El Arenal. 30 years ago he came to Aranjuez because the area was known for having good soil and they had to move because of all the agricultural burning where they used to live. There were very few small farmers here at the time. In 1990 he started to grow coffee.
“When I got here, there were no schools, people were poorer, life was more difficult. Now my five children have studied, they are professionals. Before, people grew vegetables on naked land, now with the coffee we have reforested and there are lots of birds. We don’t slash and burn and chemicals are used much less intensively. Agricultural chemicals used to be very risky and dangerous. The whole region has improved; the culture, the education.”
On the meaning of coffee: “It’s what I live in, the way I survive, my work. We were growing vegetables, they weren’t worth anything for a while. When the project from Norway came and gave us credit for coffee, we were looking for a different product. I like harvest time, knowing that I’m working for the good of the whole family, so we can get ahead…”
Fausto’s “I have 10.5 manzanas (18.2 acres) of land in total, 5 manzanas (8.7 acres) are planted in coffee, 2.5 (4.3 acres) of them are organic, and 4 manzanas (7 acres) are natural forest. The coffee varieties I have are Caturra, Maracaturra, and a little bit of Catimor.”
Meaning of quality: “If I have quality, I’ll get a good price and I will not have trouble selling my coffee.”
“Thinking that you have to live here and do this, that it’s an obligation. Thinking that if you don’t do it you won’t have any way to make a living. Also, the possibility of losing a harvest because of a natural disaster; the “El Nino” phenomenon, drought, or hurricane, A couple years ago I lost 30% of my coffee in a drought and I lost my wet mill during hurricane Mitch.”
On the meaning of the cooperative: “It’s very important, one of the necessities here in the in the countryside. We help each other, when we have problems we work it out between all of us. It helps us get credit, sales, we’ve learned a lot through the co-op. We’ve had good sales, made good friends, and received financing.”
On the future of the community: “The cooperative needs to support the community leaders to get the basic necessities here. We should petition the government. The cooperative should help with the school and health post when we have the resources, but we’re still small and just starting out.”
Fausto’s hopes for the future: “I want to improve my life and that of my children, help my kids build homes. By caring for the land, she will give us more.”
Fausto’s message to coffee buyers: “We try to produce the best quality for you, we’d like to be recognized for this work. We struggle a lot to achieve this quality and we’d like to be paid for it.”