Try a free sample of our Sulawesi Kalossi Blackbird at the bar all May.
Try a free sample of our Sulawesi Kalossi Blackbird at the bar all May.
Peter’s mother, Rose Longo, passed away early Thursday morning, peacefully in her sleep. She lived to be 100 years old. Our retail stores will be closed on Monday, Jan. 28th in her honor.
We will be participating in the Holiday Event on Grand Street in Williamsburg tonight, December 13. Stop in and see us, we will be open till 9:00!
Caramel Apple Latte only $3.25 this October.
All September, a muffin and medium drip coffee just $3.00!
Yesterday we traveled to Alegria. The site of the volcano and the small farms that dot the mountain side inside the crater.
Our first stop was at a women named Esperanzsas Cafe and Home. Her Café is the local watering hole and is located on the hillside overlooking the Laguna that occupies the crater of the volcano. She is interested in selling her coffee and because she runs the café is familiar with the other farms who might be interested also. Everyone goes to her place for food ,drinks, and snacks throughout the day. She led us on a tour of her finca. The terrain was very steep and the views just extraordinary. Her land are is small about 1.7 acres, her production will be between 400 and 800 lbs. She raises Bourbon variety and her trees are abundant with coffee berries. While traveling through her trees I came upon all manner of flying, buzzing, and crawling insects. It was disgusting but I soldiered on. She was hysterical at my fright and I became the butt of good natured ribbing for the rest of the day. I had made the mistake of telling them about my incident with the spider legs under my door and on our walk we saw that kind of spider. Actually at one point I saw half a dozen webs all manned by very large(at least for me) spiders either spinning silk around their latest victim or waiting stock still for their next victim to walk into their web and be trapped and doomed to have their vital lives liquid sucked out while they lay helplessly trapped in the bondage of the silk. Their legs(the spiders I mean) are very long with points on the end so when they walk they are walking on these sharp points. It’s very mean looking. I don’t think they have a sympathetic bone in their bodies, come to think of it they don’t have bones but rather exoskeletons. All their vitals held in side by this hard shell like body. That makes it even worse.
Anyway after the walk we settled down for some soda and chips at the café. Stephanie had a serious discussion with Esperanza about her coffee and the logistics of picking and transporting the coffee to Finca Los Angeles where it will be processed. Normally Esperanza would sell her coffee to Unex. They are a large coffee accumulator. The price paid by them for her coffee is not the best and if she borrows money to buy fertilizer or to pay her pickers the interest rate is high. So the idea of each small farm selling their coffee as a micro lot to roasted and sold at Porto Rico is a better plan for everyone concerned. The coffee produced by sporrans and her neighbors is very high quality due to the volcanic soil, altitude, and water from the crater Laguna. Unex being a big firm pays the same to everyone big farm or small, mixing all the coffee together and shipping it to their customers as U.G.Q. coffee (Usual Good Quality), a type of coffee used by big commercial roasters.
Here are a few photos of our visit with Esperanza.
Esperanza amongst her coffee
The edge of the crater
The laguna in the crater
It’s me and Esperanza
Enjoying chips and a soda after walking the farm
Going down hill
A great deal is made of Shade Grown Coffee. Shade grown means more then just under the shade of other trees. Here is what I mean.
The trees used for shade are fruit trees. Mango, Papaya, Cocoa and Banana are often used for this purpose.
They can be sold as well as the coffee for added income. This sometimes protects the farmer from the boom and bust cycle that can develop when coffee is grown alone. Coffee takes a few years to begin producing.
As far as coffee production is concerned coffee trees need a certain amount of shade but not too much.
This photo shows a mango tree that has grown out of control.
It is blocking a large amount of sun.
These skinny coffee trees are reaching for the sun through a dark canopy.
They have little if any fruit. They are not happy.
These tress have just the right amount of shade. You can tell by being able to see an almost continuous sky
above them. The rule is 40% shade 60% sun. They are very happy. See their abundant fruit in the next photo.
These ripening beans are abundant and the leaves are nice and shiny. Very happy trees!
So shade protects the coffee trees. The shade trees produce fruit. The birds and other beasts who live in this
neck of the farm are happy including that very big spider that tried to slip under my door last night(it‘s legs alone where 2 to 3 inches long, I saw one in a tree today.).
And we get to eat the fruit and drink really really excellent coffee. Very nice indeed!
Now I’m very happy.
The interdependency of the people around Finca Los Angeles is a constant marvel to me. The more I learn about how things work here the more amazing it becomes. And it’s all very natural.
Seven years ago Stephanie was asked by her mother to go to the family farm and bring it back to a workable state. The farm had been taken over by the fighters during the revolution and some of the fields had been used to plant corn and beans. The house had been occupied and shot up. After the truce and land reforms where instituted Stephanie began the work of getting the farm back into shape.
In this the east side of El Salvador it is very rural country far from the capital and the better known coffee producing area of the Santa Ana Department in the west . Having said all this let me get back to the interdependency part.
When Stephanie came to Santiago De Maria and began resurrecting her grandmother’s and mother’s farm she began a cycle that has beneficially affected a large number of residents in the area. It’s not enough to say that she brought employment to the area, although this is true, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
See this guy in the corn? This plot is his. He grows the corn in cooperation with other guys who have adjacent plots and they sell the produce at a profit. The plot and the right to cultivate it is part of their compensation package from the finca. Salvadorian law is very strict when it comes to employment with rules and protections that rival our own. However, it is the spirit of cooperation that allows these folks as well as Stephanie who owns Finca Los Angeles to be able to make a living from the land. Something they would not be able to do alone. So they pull together and each family, Stephanie and her family included, benefit from the yield of their respective land. Here it’s a system that works.
With all the lip service paid to fair trade this is an example of true fair trade. Without some corporate
accrediting agency putting themselves between the farmers and the purchasers to extract a fee and to be put on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine.
We arrived last evening on a very special trip to visit Finca Los Angeles.
Stephanie Andersen and Lenny Lind have been working hard to organize the small farmers of the
Alegria Region and have invited us to come meet with them. On Thursday we will attend a get together, the purpose of which is to import the coffee from each of 5 family owned and operated.
farms. These farms are very small, no more that 5 acres each on average. The Alegria is a little north of Finca los Angeles.
This year I was able to successfully import the full production of Stephanie’s Finca los
Angeles as well as coffee from Eto’s Finca in the crater of the volcano. It is my hope that this recommendation will be enough to cause this group of farmers to allow me to bring their individual micro lots to New York where I can offer it to you. Unfortunately some of these folks have been taken advantage of in the past and are hesitant to be involved in anything but selling their coffee to the local accumulator Exo.
Exo is a big company that offers credit for fertilizers and the cost of farming which is later deducted from the proceeds of the farms sale of unprocessed coffee. This help comes at a high price sometimes as much a .50 per lb after buying the coffee for 1.50 per lb. So it really isn’t any help at all.
Catherine in the nursery
Catherine and Stephanie
Dinner on the finca
P.S. Tonight I saw the legs of a bug sticking out from under my door. The legs stuck out 2 inches. No sign of the body. It was yet to arrive. When I tapped the floor nearby it ran away back under the door. I stuck a towel under the crack of the door. I am now cowering in bed.
This is a direct trade coffee grown inside the crater of a volcano by a (very courageous!) man named Eto. He was introduced to us by our friends at Finca Los Angeles in El Salvador. Luckily for him and us, the volcano is no longer active but the unique soil makes for a real powerhouse of a coffee. But be quick, there is not much grown and it won’t last long!