The story behind the seed.
MEET OUR COFFEE PRODUCERS.
MARIO VALIENTE at CAFÉ COLOMBA
Mario Valiente is a long time direct trade partner with West Oak. Also lovingly called by the nickname “Don Cigarrillo”, the Lord Cigarette and West Oak Coffee share a similar approach to life and career: we take work seriously, but don’t take ourselves seriously. At sundown, there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you worked hard–put forth the best fruit you had to offer. If you can say that, having a good time comes easy because there’s no greater critic than ourselves!
We’ve worked with the Valiente’s since 2015, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to bring their coffees in every year. Their farm, Finca Colomba, is in Santa Ana, and it really is a hidden gem. At 1500 MASL, they produce a wide array of coffees: Pacas, Bourbon, Pacamara, Gesha, and SL-28. A particular reason we enjoy working with the Valiente’s is due to their collaborative spirit. They’re always willing to find new ways to experiment in their processes for the sake of maximizing flavor. Ferment the coffee with pineapples? Sure, why not! Ferment the coffee at 35 degrees for a week? Let’s see what it does! Did somebody say wash the coffee with orange juice? Mario did! They’re constantly, and methodically, testing out new methods, and quite frankly, it always leads to success. We just hope they don’t forget about us little guys when they become famous.
FELIPE ARCILA at La Pradera Estate
Felipe Arcila with his family at La Pradera Estate push coffee to its maximum potential through innovative fermentation processes and extensive knowledge of coffee varietals. There is no other producer in our portfolio that works with more varieties and processes than La Pradera. In addition to washed, honey, and natural processes, they also use dry fermentation, anaerobic, carbonic maceration, and even ice fermentation! Varieties include: caturra, pink bourbon, tabi, gesha, and java to name a few.
La Pradera processes coffees from neighboring farms as well. Typically the transaction ends when the farmer sells his or her cherry to the mill, but not so here. They take time to educate their partners concerning processing and agricultural practices so as to create a movement in the industry toward innovation.
The pioneer spirit and heart for collaboration at La Pradera makes them kindred spirits. Truly desiring to see the specialty market grow, Felipe does not hoard his secrets, but is an open book to neighboring farms and aspiring producers who desire to increase their crop quality. It takes great humility and courage to see fellow industry professionals as collaborators, not competition. Felipe has both.
One of the keys to success is to find people who do their job well. The moment you assume that you can do everything yourself–well, best of luck to you! We pride ourselves on partnering directly with our producers. But when an importer goes above and beyond in maintaining contact, and facilitating kindness, quality, and accountability with the farmers, we have to ask ourselves: Why compete?
This is where Catalyst Trade comes in. Catalyst is a coffee importer that solely specializes in Ethiopian coffee. It’s a power team of Emily and Michael McIntyre and Zelalem Girma Bayou. They speak the native languages and spend months of the year in Ethiopia, engaging in operations and quality control. They make our jobs easy, because they do their jobs so well. We started working with them two years ago because they are truly some of the kindest and most honest folks we’ve met in the industry. And why wouldn’t you want to work with people like that? They understand our vision, our taste preferences, and what our guests enjoy. They don’t just deliver, they exceed our every expectation.
So when you see that we’re carrying an Ethiopian coffee, think of Catalyst Trade. Whatever is in your bag is directly due to their hard work, experiments, communication, exporting skills, trial and error, blood, sweat, and tears, and a sincere passion for deliciousness.
ANNY RUTH at LOMA LA GLORIA ESTATE
Anny Ruth owns and manages the Loma La Gloria Estate located in the El Boquerón crater of the San Salvador Volcano, just a few miles outside San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. Elevation ranges from 1200 to 1750 meters above sea level. Volcanic soil provides fertile ground and high yields for Anny’s coffee trees which consist of bourbon and pacamara varieties. At the Loma La Gloria Estate they process coffees using natural and honey drying processes.
We have partnered with Anny since we started operation in 2016. She is our first and longest running direct trade partner. Since partnering, we have visited each other on numerous occasions and consider her a true friend. Her coffees are produced with masterful execution and represent some of the sweetest, cleanest, and most consistent crops in our portfolio.
FELIPE SARDI of EQUATION COFFEE
Felipe oversees quality at each of the Equation farms: La Palma y El Tucán and DelAgua in Colombia; and Creativa in Panama. We first partnered with La Palma y El Tucán in 2017, lured by their impeccable coffee quality, only made sweeter by ethical practices, charitable hearts, and interests in sustainable farming.
Since we have expanded our offerings from Felipe as they have expanded their operations into other parts of Colombia as well as Panama. While La Palma y El Tucán in Cuninamarca produces exclusively washed coffees, Delagua in La Sierra Nevada, Colombia and Creativa in Chiriquí, Panama produce the juiciest natural processed coffee. All however push the flavors of their coffees with the implementation of highly regulated and tempered fermentations.
They also have partnered with their surrounding coffee producing neighbors to educate them on best practices, providing quality coffee trees, and purchasing their coffee from them at 2-4 times the price they were getting prior to partnering with Equation. In this way, the local farmers keep the family farms and their dignity as some of the best coffee producers in the world. Additionally, the Neighbors and Crops program provides education for their families and other community resources to keep families farming for generations.
Rodrigo Sanchez Valencia at Finca Monteblanco
Finca Monteblanco, located high along the winding mountain roads of Vereda La Tocora in the San Adolfo municipality above Pitalito, is a family farm managed by Rodrigo Sanchez Valencia in the tradition of coffee cultivation that began with his grandfather. Monteblanco’s 18 hectares sit on the crest of a hill, with the wet-mill and drying facilities at the top and slopes of coffee planted below.
We were connected to Rodrigo and his team by our friends at Ally Coffee Importers. While our relationship is still with Rodrigo, we were immediately intrigued by his series of fruit and spice fermented coffees. The consistency and quality of processing were immediately perceived as the coffees were exotic, yet extremely balanced. Eager to see this new relationship develop, keep a look out for Rodrigo’s coffees in our portfolio throughout the 2020-2021 season!
FUADI PITSUWAN of BEANSPIRE
Fuadi Pitsuwan of Beanspire is producing some of the first specialty grade coffees from Thailand to see United States soil. We are proud to be in our 3rd year of partnership, sharing in the unique experience of the Thai terroir.
Beanspire Coffee is a green coffee exporting company and cooperative. They assist Thai coffee farmers in developing and exporting high quality green coffees to the international specialty coffee market. You can view them as coffee community organizers, providing smallholder farms with the ability to produce innovative and delicious coffee at a higher price point. This is inherently important in Thailand. In Thailand, the coffee production market is suffering due to many young entrepreneurs having a desire to move to the inner city and find careers in tech and business. It, likely, pays better and provides a clearer path to success. Fuadi, however, has worked hard to communicate that specialty coffee is also an option for young men and women looking to start a career. By bucking the trend of low grade, commodity coffee, he has helped create new processing methods that help producers find a sustainable career in coffee.
Working with Friends
We look for more than just high scoring raw coffees. We look to partner in a deep way with our producers. We want honest lanes of communication and a desire to pioneer new processes with us. We look for meticulous growers, but also kind people who care for those in their employ. We partner with those who text us at midnight to share a laugh or an exciting new crop. They look out for us and know our tastes. They are friends. And because they are friends, they give us the best of what they got. Then we give it to you.