July 31, 2006
Well, they put food on my table for one. But it goes much deeper than that. Last year as the last phase of picking was coming to an end I was sitting on the ledge of one of our fermentation tanks watching some of the patio crew turning over the pergamino as the sun began to disappear over the high mountain ridges. I recall explaining to some of our managers what some of our customers look like. Not their hair color or how big their nose was, rather what their business looks like. You see when you’re in the highlands of Huehuetenango and you’ve only had electricity for 7 years it takes some time and creativity and a much larger vocabulary than I have in English, Spanish and French put together to explain what is common to others. For example, what a Barista is and why they would pour a single origin shot into a very small cup with some steamed milk creating a design and calling it a macchiato. Not to mention that it is all done with a contraption that costs about as much as an old but reliable Toyota truck. I’ve spend countless hours sharing not a lot of any one thing, but a little of everything. From the chemistry of 1st and 2nd crack to differences in growing, harvesting and storing practices around the world, What I’ve learned they enjoy hearing most is when there are credible industry experts that give favorable feedback on our coffee. This is like a performance review to confirm a job well done.
Some day I’ll share more (to the 3 of you who read this) about the coffee most coffee growers drink… you may be surprised…. as most growers know the expensive coffees come in a can. And I’m not referring to Illy.
At Finca Vista Hermosa I don’t want to change age old customs, but am excited to begin sharing with those who labor to produce this coffee some of the best of the fruit of their labor allowing them to meet our customers who tend to bring samples of their roast of our coffee. As I’ve spent the last 4 years being a conduit for information as my wife and I do every link in the chain from getting our family coffee from Finca Vista Hermosa direct to the roaster. The roaster wants to know more about origin and Carlos and the gang want to know more about the roasters. Well I’ve had enough of this.
So I shared with my wife earlier this year that I’d like to see every one of our customers come down and visit first hand. I’ve got tons of pictures I can share with you until I’m blue in the face. But let’s face it, the best marketing a roaster can do, will emerge when they do the leg work themselves. This way one can obtain all the info they want first hand and see what makes us different. No more explaining how we use organic growing practices but aren’t certified organic. No more explaining how we exceed the spirit of fair trade, or all the ins and outs on what we do to ensure consistency from year to year. So why do I love my customers? Because they care. They want to go beyond getting a certified coffee, they want to have a relationship that allows them to give their personal seal of approval. As much work as it is to produce coffee we desire our customers take great care of it in roasting and maintain the quality that is there passing it along to wholesale and retail hoping they take the same care. The best way to do this is for each link in a chain to do their part in understanding what the other links do. Education is expensive but well worth it. Just like great coffees don’t appear over night. Both require a large commitment and investment, but they yield a wonderful reward.
Edwin David Martinez