Changes at FVH

November 30, 2011

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Almost a year and a half.  Tempted to say it’s been too long, but  it’s not been long enough.  While technology has many great values it can also be a huge waste of time.  With over 1400 contacts in my phone and an email inbox that is evidence of how poorly I manage time, it is hard to justify spending time adding a new post.  However I find it does have it’s place.  It can build brand, establish history and take up space on servers.  It was Jen and Chris the founders of Victrola that convinced me blogging was quite easy to do, this was back when the then  (now at  sort of…) was one of the first blogs in specialty coffee with pictures and interesting content.  Interesting to me anyway.   Tony happened to work at Victrola as their roaster.  At the time the only roaster I knew that blogged.  And now it’s hard to think of one that does not at least tweet.

So I decided to dive in since it seemed no one else was doing it.  I’m fascinated with the advantages and risks of being an early adopter.  This was when Myspace was much bigger than Facebook and Twitter was barely an idea in Jack Dorsey’s head.  I soon realized there was no end to how many people had seemingly infinite time to post on their blogs.. that kept popping up left and right.  It became hard to keep up on 65 different blogs and tools emerged to make this easier.  And that’s about when I felt less compelled by what I was reading.  Not because there wasn’t compelling content out there.  It was the amounts of noise and babble that drowned out the nuggets of information that were worth digging for.  As the audience grew so did the disconnect.  SO WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH F.V.H.?  Well we’ve been fortunate to get quite connected in record time for a farm that is MUCH smaller than most imagine.  Shockingly so to anyone who visits.  For a farm that is 7 hours away from Guatemala City.  Half our customers can fly to Guatemala faster than we can get Guatemala city to the farm!  So it is nothing short of a miracle that anyone knows about FVH today.  One could speculate it is a collision of luck and strategy with really good timing.

For several years now we have been working hard to get less connected.  Simply to sell more of our coffee to less people.  To bring less people to the farm but be much more intentional regarding who and why.  And this comes around to defining clarity and purpose in what we are working towards.  We want to produce some of the finest coffee in the world and then we want people to enjoy it.  And really this is what every producer wants.  This is a lot of work though.  Two months ago we went with out our manager for a full week as Eliseo cupped hundreds of defective coffees each day as part of an intensive cupping course for producers taught by an old colleague and Q grader.  We are going to be doing a lot of cupping on the farm in 2012.  Something we’ve not done before because I’m simply not motivated to try and do something if it can’t be done really well.  We have not been equipped to do this well in the past.   This is changing.  We will get our patio crew cupping in between turning and drying coffee on the patios.  We have dozens of neighboring farms bringing their coffee for feedback and now we’ll equip them to create their own feedback.  We are surrounded by farms that have been in the Cup of Excellence and have been awarded high marks for quality by many private organizations such as exporters, importers, roasters, retailers as well as by Anacafe.  Simply talking about the difference and showing pictures of what a ripe cherry looks like is not as big an impact as being able to taste the difference and BE the consumer.

Over the last 10 years the single most frustrating thing as a producer and as a consultant to roasters is seeing value added that goes unappreciated.  (the only thing worse of course is to under deliver) I picture getting a perfect haircut and then having the barber tell me, “you know Edwin I did such a great job cutting your hair, I’m going to go through the motions once again if you don’t mind”  Well, that’s pointless and yet we do this in coffee all the time.  If the end consumer does not perceive the same added value you do, then it is not there.  For example, bad coffee in fine dining is not a problem to be solved.  The problem is the consumer does not know the difference so how can they be expected to care?  So we are getting our hands dirty with the end goal of continuous education and ever improving quality.  Starting on the farm.!  We hope you are able to enjoy the fruit of our labor!  Stay tuned as there are more changes to come in the next few months.  Nothing big really, but a lot of little things that we think make a difference.

-Edwin Martinez

President Colom has declared Guatemala in a state of “national calamity”  after an earthquake, an errupting volcano, the capital being covered in raining black sand and a tropical depression hitting the northwest coast.

After more phone calls and emails than usual and over 1000 views just this morning to a blog I’ve only posted on once this year… I thought I should give an update with a quick summary of some links.


The Guatemala Times is not the best place for news, but does pick up big events and offers dramatic perspective

I am adding this link in later in the day as this report is both in English and more updated that much of the content I put up this morning.  This is currently on the home page for THE GUATEMALA TIMES website

Fox News covers TROPICAL STORM AGATHA.  I was disappointed that most of the comments on this were wether or not the photo was fake.


Every few hours these numbers seem to go up, but it’s currently over 115,000 who have been evacuated or are stranded due to over 100 landslides, 18 major bridges destroyed and over 100 bridges including minor bridges on dirt roads and footpaths that hinder daily life and commerce. 152 have died 90 missing.

22,000 homes damaged or destroyed

Largest highways in the country shut down

Another sinkhole.  100 ft deep in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.  This is in addition to the one I posted 3  years ago here

Food shortage in northwest region in and around Huehue due to damage from heavy waters

If you get on you tube and search “lluvia de arena guatemala” or “lluvia de cenisa guatemala” you’ll find lots of raw live footage from last Thursday night May 27, 2010 where it rained black sand.  Click on this link to see a clip I came across where someone simply walked around a neighborhood the next morning.

How are we at FVH?  Well many roads are damaged and this will make transport challenging.  We are fine.  As a people the community is doing well.  I am in touch with Eliceo who is in charge at the finca.  And aside from not seeing the sun for 2 weeks straight all is o.k.  I look forward to sharing more Eliceo soon.  I just returned from Guatemala back to Bellingham 2 weeks ago and might have returned Friday morning to catch the final day of the Cup of Excellence and catch up with some producers however the airport has been shut down for four and a half days.  The airport only has about 3000 people going through it a day so today as it will likely open there will be over 12,000 people waiting to fly in or out of an already over crowded tiny airport.

We have coffee at Cofeco in Huehuetenango and at SUBE in Guatemala city with shipments ready to go, but we’re holding back at the moment until things clear up and we feel comfortable with the associated risks.  Most of my family lives in Guatemala city which is in some ways continues business as usual but for many life is in a state of chaos.  Guatemala is not a country where the physical needs of most are well met.  These additional hardships don’t make things any easier.  Much of the entrepreneurial spirit and optimism that emerges out of Guatemala comes out of necessity.  If you’ve read this far and you’re wondering how you can help.  You can visit, sometime when the airport is not shut down, and drink good coffee.  Tourism and coffee are the #1 and #2 sources of revenue for Guatemala.

Cupping the 2010 harvest

March 21, 2010

Last week I had the priviledge of cupping our microlots with Casper from the Coffee Collective in Denmark and Andy from Barefoot in the US at Anacafe. Thank you Marvin, Juan Antonio, and Eduardo. We came across something out of the ordinary, with a most intense fragrance. Wild natural berry aroma, yet a totally clean cup. Not sure how this happened but we’ll be cupping a lot more the comming days.

La Cosecha!!!

January 26, 2009

Officially the first day of harvest at FVH!!!

60 canastos given out.  A canasto is a basket for collecting coffee.

40 cartones issued:  A carton is literally a piece of custom printed carton that we use for tracking volume of red cherry picked.  Each person that holds a carton is on payroll and they may request additional baskets if they have help.  Help is usually immediate family that would rather tag along and be together than be apart both for the day as well as the harvest season.  What exactly does this look like?  Well this year it means half the people on payrol have a brother, cousin or possibly wife that is helping them.  If it is their wife, their kids often are tagging along sometimes being helpful, but mostly being together with family and goofing around among the coffee trees.


We are very fortunate that Lencho and his brother Juan are both with us this harvest to assist Diego.  They are very committed to supporting their extended family in the absence of Carlos and Edwin Garcia Martin.  They have also expressed continued commitment in ensuring FVH continues strong and they happen to have the financial need.  The icing on the cake for everyone is that they both enjoy what they do and they are VERY good at it.

Lencho and Diego went to La Messilla this weekend to buy a new corn mill that will assist Diego in supporting both his wife along with his mother and siblings for many years to come.

Thanks to all of you who have been supporting Juana and her family.  We have been diligent to ensure that a little bit goes a long way.  We are carefully considering how to best help them as needs arise.  We do have a small amount of money set aside remaining for this.  If you wish to support them financially you can make a donation through paypal on the top right of this blog, or email if you wish to donate some other form of gift.

If you’re in the Seattle area the interview I did on Wed will air today at 2:00 p.m.  If you’re not in Seattle or your catching this after the fact it will be a downloadable podcast at their site:

or go directly here


Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up


We calculate that we may begin the “pepena” as early as December 15 or 22.  Pepena is what we call an initial picking where we prep the plant as much as possible for a uniform maturation.  Not only on each coffee plant but uniformity from one coffee plant to another so harvest can be done in multiple efficient waves.  The activity of pepena is simply picking what is ripe early.

This activity helps send maximum nutrient to developing ripe fruit as opposed to maintaining an already ripe fruit on the tree that may otherwise naturally begin it’s course of fermentation.  Think of a large family where the oldest kids are ready to be financially independent and move out on their own allowing some more breathing space for those still at home.  In coffee this space is important.

There is a fine line between over feeding and starving.  There is a time for feasting, and in order for a slow and complex development there is also a time and season for pacing yourself at a slow and steady rate to get through the dry season.

This dry season coupled with soil type and elevation directly correlate with acidity.  Having unexpected rain towards the end of a dry season can begin to mute the intensity of the acidity.  As a result a more sporadic harvest doesn’t have to be, but often leads to more under and over ripes being harvested.  Then depending on the following steps of processing this will have a significant and negative impact either on quality and or quantity of exportable coffee.  Some choose high QC standards and realize a smaller yield towards export and others attempt to retain their volume, but are capped on the premium they may get based on quality.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Often the biggest factor in this decision is market conditions.  Lets say the C is over 150, than for many it is all about quantity, if the C is below 100 then it quality becomes a stronger consideration for some.  The logic is why spend more money on labor on a product that may have a cost to produce that may be above what it is worth.  This is a VERY REAL and common predicament.   As you can see if you’re striving for the best quality possible as a producer you have tough decisions in any market.  Coffee is the one commodity that tends to confusing to economists.  It sometimes SEEMS so simple, but it isn’t.  When the price is high, everybody seems to be buying it and it’s quickly scarce, when the price is low, no one wants it.  Go figure.

A large farm will produce enough through their pepena that it is actually moved all the way through processing and it is exported.  So if you are a broker, this is what you’re getting when your supplier tells you this first shipment is from the “first picking”.  Of course it’s not the tastiest coffee!  This is something we don’t even bother wet milling other than we do like to have a test run on the depulpers before entering the formal harvest which will begin mid end January 2009.  That being said, every coffee has a home, and home should be a place where you are content and comfortable.  This does not look the same for everyone.  So be careful not to judge another’s “home”.

This just came in the mail recently awarding us for our participation earlier this year as one of the selected coffees used in the World Cup Tasting Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark 2008.