|Region||San Pedro Yepocapa, Chimaltenango|
|Farm||Jaime Zetino Collective|
|Variety||Caturra & Catuai|
|Proc. Method||Fully Washed, Dry Fermentation, Patio Dried|
This is our first year ever working with and buying coffee from Jaime Zetino and his collective group of 4-5 friends who have all recently taken up coffee farming after receiving land from their parents as an inheritance. There’s a lot to breakdown here about the dynamic of this group so I’ll do that in the following paragraphs!
Jaime is 25 years old and has been a car mechanic ever since he was young. His Dad emigrated out of Guatemala in 2015 and left behind a couple of acres of coffee parcels that eventually went abandoned. Soon after Jaime started to get inspired to take up farming and see it become a sustainable foundation.
Coffee farming historically hasn’t been profitable for the last 25 years. This means that much of the potential next generation of coffee farmers simply don’t want to farm because they’ve seen what the lack of profitability and the amount of work has done to their parents, grandparents, etc. It’s a really big concern not just in Guatemala but in all coffee producing countries. I went to a SCA Discussion series where farmers in Kenya were describing the same thing.
Despite this, Jaime recognized that there was a growing trend within the Speciality Coffee industry. He thought that if he could produce great coffee, then maybe he could see coffee farming be profitable again. So Jaime went to work. He began renovating his Dad’s land in 2015 which produced his first crop in 2018/2019. He formed an alliance/group alongside 4-5 friends with the aim to only produce their best coffee. Why is this significant…?
In Yepocapa, and/or anywhere there’s only C-market pricing and no access to export licensing, quality doesn’t matter in regard to the price farmers receive. This often incentivizes strip picking and plant health neglect. So why produce their best? Jaime asked a local wet mill to have this coffee processed and kept separate and paid the wet mill for their services so that he could remain in ownership over that particular lot in parchment. This allowed Jaime to then offer samples up to sale directly to exporters with the hope that after review and cupping, that they’d see their higher quality and offer a better price.
This is absolutely incredible! Most farmers sell their coffee at the cherry level and so all of these extra steps Jaime and his crew did show us a glimpse of their tenacity and their desire to build mutually beneficial relationships with the goal of obtaining a better price point.
When the next harvest came, 2019/2020, Yepocapa Coffee was hosting a cupping class at La Cooperativa San Pedrana where Jaime introduced himself to me (Ryan.) I was instantly surprised by his age since I only know of two other farmers below the age of 40 in Yepocapa. At the same time, I recognized the struggle to find market access where quality and genuine effort can be valued, honored, and appreciated. Since he didn’t have a wet mill and an export license, I referred him to talk with Don Timoteo Charuc of La San Pedrana which is where this relationship took off. (La San Pedrana bought his coffee on our behalf with transparent pricing so that we could buy it through La San Pedrana for export licensing reasons. Amazing collaboration effort here!)
We got a sample of his coffee and was absolutely amazed by its characteristics, especially being a 2nd year harvest, and by it’s parchment to green conversion rate. What’s that?!
It normally takes 130lbs of parchment coffee to make 100lbs of green coffee or a 1.3:1 ratio. There’s lots of math in coffee and conversions that take place from cherry to parchment to green coffee. Coffees that have less defects, overall higher density, and better bean development will have lower ratios around the 1.25-1.28:1 ratio versus coffees that are simply terrible that will score much closer to a 1.4:1 ratio. Jaime’s lot scored a 1.25:1 ratio. Alongside visiting his lands, talking with him, cupping his coffee, and evaluating it’s conversion ratio, it was super evident that they were going above and beyond from plant health and harvesting methods.
In ending, we strive to buy great coffees that are going to perform well, help roasters offer something really valuable, and tasty but I’ll be honest that quality is not our highest factor when deciding to buy. We place relationship first and oftentimes we see potential that’s just going to take a couple of years worth of investment. Although we loved his coffee and it’s been a great 1st year for Jaime, we bought from Jaime because we want to be supporting the next generation of young farmers in Yepocapa and particularly people like Jaime who are paving the way and inspiring others alongside him to put in the effort because there’s hope for change.
It’s people like Jaime that inspire us too. Selling coffee can sometimes feel mundane but when you recognize that you’re empowering and enabling young people like Jaime to make a difference in his community, it’s pretty exciting stuff!