Journey to Origin - Guatemala
Earlier this year I had the privilege of travelling with the team from First Crop Coffee to visit a number of farms in Central & South America. The purpose of the trip was to develop stronger ties to the farms we support, build relationships with the farmers, their families and workers, and to search for exciting new coffees to roast and serve at Commonfolk.
The final leg of our journey took us to Guatemala to visit some small scale farmers working with the not-for-profit coffee processor, FECCEG. FECCEG woare the company behind one of our favourite ever coffees, El Vergel. FECCEG’s headquarters was in Quetzaltenango, the commercial capital of north eastern Guatemala but our journey would take us even further into the highlands. We travelled for most of the day to arrive at El Vergel and were greeted by a group of local families that ran the farm. The farm is fully biodynamic and organic and all of the fertilisers and pesticides are made onsite from locally sourced, natural ingredients. We were privileged enough to taste the same crop of El Vergel that we had purchased for Commonfolk.
It was a special moment drinking a familiar coffee in the farm house overlooking the next year’s harvest. It was one of the best coffees I’ve had the opportunity to drink. After some encouragement from the locals we trekked to a waterfall at the bottom of the farm. We were assured that it was an easy hike - but after an hour walking along a narrow path with a sheer 100 foot drop in torrential rain, we were just glad to be alive. Nevertheless, the waterfall was the cherry on top of one of the most memorable farm visits of the trip.
We ended our stay in Guatemala by visiting the FECCEG roastery and offices in Quetzaltenango. We had the opportunity to cup a number of other small producer coffees that FECCEG was working with alongside the fresh crop El Vergel. El Vergel was definitely a stand out but we also unearthed El Jardin from the San Marcos. We organised with First Crop to buy El Jardin for Commonfolk. FECCEG also showed us other projects they were working on including producing honey from local bees that had a unique, spritzy characteristic due to natural fermentation. They also produced regular honey from traditional honey bees, and their own panela sugar. Creating alternative revenue streams was key to the success of the small farming co-ops in some of Guatemala’s most vulnerable communities.
The opportunity to visit Guatemala and foster genuine relationships with the people we buy coffee from is important, not only for Commonfolk’s long term sustainability but also for theirs. Developing trust and learning about the unique challenges facing each region and country is invaluable. We’re incredibly lucky to work with some amazing producers who are leading the way in coffee farming and production - and the fact that we get to travel to some of the most beautiful places on Earth is a bonus.