Guatemala

Fast Facts on San Marcos

  • Varieties: Arabica
  • Established in 1992
  • Membership: 400 families 
  • Region: Located in the southwestern highlands of San Marcos, on the slopes of volcano Tajmulco (the highest volcano in Central America) in Guatemala

APECAFORM (Asociación de Pequeños Caficultores Orgánicos Maya-Mames) is comprised of 350 members living in 17 communities. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making authority and is responsible of electing the Boards of Directors. The central one guides and executes the main activities of Apecaform and coordinates tasks with  five Local Boards of Directors, based in community centers. In addition, 21 local promoters coordinate and conduct technical trainings to improve organic agricultural practices, and to facilitate commercialization and a variety of social projects.

The coordinating community center was established in Pueblo Nuevo, because of its central location; it is only a two-hour drive to the city of San Marcos and on average a two and a half-hour walk from the remaining 17 APECAFORM communities!

APECAFORM is in its fifth harvest of organic certified production.  Now, between 80% and 85% of their production is organic and the rest is in transition. There are now 266 members under certification and 80 percent of their total production goes to the cooperative for sale to the Fair Trade market. Exporting through Manos Campesinas to Fair Trade markets has meant the difference between selling coffee at Q.250.00 (US$32.50) per QQ parchment to coyotes and Q.714.05 (US$92.75) per QQ now as APECAFORM members.  Cooperative Coffees has purchased coffee from Apecaform through its umbrella marketing organization, Manos Campesinas since our first year of operations. Through a strategic credit partnership between EcoLogic - Apecaform – Cooperative Coffees, producers have been able to increase direct Fair Trade sales by 50% annually for the last 3 years. Their actual average yield of organic coffee is 22 quintal an hectare.

Fast Facts on Rio Azul

  • Altitude: 1500 - 1800 meters
  • Varieties: Bourbon and Caturra, Márago caturra
  • Established in 1967
  • Membership: 200 - 46 are women
  • Region: Located in the Jacaltenango valley, in the Huehuetenango region

Founded in 1967, the cooperative has a long history of producing some of the best coffee exported under the famed “Huehuetenango” mark. 

The members of Rio Azul all live no more than a 1.5 hour walk to the wet mill in Jacaltenango. This allows the cooperative complete control over several stages of the quality process. Coffee is picked by members until early afternoon and then delivered in cherry form to the mill each day beginning around 3 pm. All coffee is depulped, fermented, washed and dried at the coop's mill. Adjacent to the mill is a warehouse and office - capable of storing about 500 sacks of pergamino. Once a container quantity of pergamino is accumulated, a transfer to the exporter's warehouse in the city of Huehuetenango is organized. This coffee is then transferred to Guatemala City for final processing and export preparation in an organic dry mill. All of the production is graded SHB (strictly hard bean), the best grade available, due to the careful attention given in the central processing facility and the excellent conditions for growing coffee in this area.

Until recently, Rio Azul was receiving assistance from Oxfam in the form of capacity building grants to provide technical processing and administrative training. An alternative income project to raise bees for improved pollination and honey production has been quite successful. Twenty eight farmers currently participate and each manages 10 boxes. They typically produce about 50 pounds of honey resulting in annual honey production for the coop of over 15,000 pounds. They also received a support from the organization AECI, to improve the infrastructure. Their are changing their wet mill, that is now transitional into a more ecologic one.

All members of the cooperative are of the Mayan group Jacaltec, also commonly called Pobp’ al Ti’ or Popti. About 40,000 people speak this language – most living in the Guatemala department of Huehuetenango with some living just across the border in Chiapas, Mexico. The cooperative's meetings are conducted in Popti as well as Spanish. The main priorities of the coop members are to become more financially sustainable and self-sufficient as an administration, to provide members with technical assistance to better manage the coffee fields and shade trees, to have more members certified, and to increase the productivity.

Fast Fact on Chajul

  • Altitude: 1100 - 1800 meters
  • Varieties: Typica, Caturra & Bourbon
  • Established in 1988
  • Membership: 1600 
  • Region: Located in the Chajul area, Triángulo Ixil, Quiché

The Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Qujol was founded by some 40 coffee farmers of the Chajul area Triángulo Ixil, Quiché. The organization obtained its legal status in 1990. At present, the organization has over 1600 active members, most of whom are coffee farmers. Its main goal is to promote a sustainable development model that is environmentally sound, economically feasible, fair from a social point of view and appropriate from a cultural standpoint. The organization is working in 56 communities of the Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal and Chiantla areas. 

Coffee is their main export market and the first exports began at the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, expanding the fair trade opportunities through the FLO registration, as well as organic certification. 90% of the members produce certificed organic coffee and the remaining 10% are internally certificed as producing transitional organic coffee.  The organization is not actively looking for new members, but accepts new ones if they are organic or if they have new, young plantations that have been run organically for at least one or two years. Their organic production now have an average yield of 22 quintals per hectares

In 2006, Cooperative Coffees purchased one of the first containers of fair trade, organic coffee shipped to the US market from Chajul.  The organization had attempted to diversify with other products such as cardamom, cheese, honey, and handicrafts but found that some projects were not be sustainable and cost the organization too much time and effort to be profitable. At present, the organization is further developing and working with four projects: coffee, cardamom, bee honey and The Posada, which is a lodge for tourists and visitors. Within Chajul's cooperative, Chajulense de Mujeres "Unidas por la vida" (United for Life) is a group made up of over 100 women who work together to benefit the lives of their coop sisters as well as their families. They are engaged in a number of projects but have been particularly successful in creating the weaving group.

Fast Facts on CCDA

  • Altitude: 1200 - 1800 meters
  • Varieties: Arbica - Bourbon, Catuai
  • Established in 1986
  • Memberhsip: 256
  • Region: Lake Atitlán, San Antonio and San Lucas Tolimán, Sololá

The CCDA (Comité Campesino del Altiplano) got its start in 1982, during some of the most turbulent years of the Guatemalan civil war. Originally named Campesino Committee in Defence of the Highlands, and headquartered in San Martin Jilotepeque, Chimaltenango, the organization was perceived by the military government as an armed opposition group – which ultimately led to the arrest, disappearance, assassination and exile of many of the CCDA directors. And while the organization continued to struggle for recognition of land rights for their Indigenous communities, the CCDA changed its name to the Campesino Committee of the Highlands in the hopes of establishing a more peaceful relationship with the military authorities. However, it had to continue working clandestinely until 1988, when the armed conflict slowly subsided. CCDA succeeded in becoming a legal organization by 2000, and CCDA members were finally able to participate more freely at regional, departmental, national and international levels in defense of Indigenous access to land and the agricultural situation, labour rights, human rights and the Mayan cultural situation.

Locally, CCDA has made huge strides in promoting organic agriculture amongst its members and in Sololá. They have 3 part-time organic técnicos and an agronomist on staff, advising members on best practices in organic agriculture. CCDA has four centers for organic fertilizer production, which produce bokashi, vermicompost and effective micro-organisms for members. Their worm composting project, which has been growing since its inception in 2008, now has each center producing about 1000 lbs of compost in a month, which is then sold to members at the subsidized price of 60 quetzales (about $8) per 100 lb sack. Meanwhile, bokashi and seedlings are offered free of charge to members, based on a system of coop loyalty and how much total coffee is sold to the coop versus to outside intermediaries.

Improved access to education is one important fruit of Cafe Justicia’s labour. From the profits of their coffee sales, CCDA has established a scholarship fund – from primary school through university. In 2012 alone, they had 32 students – the sons and daughters of CCDA members – enrolled in university thanks to this program. They also have established a 200,000 quetzal, rotating credit fund available to members. Cafe Justicia lends out a maximum credit line of 5000 quetzales (about $650) for investment in renovation, pruning and shade management in coffee plots, as well as micro-credit lending program available to members for non coffee-related investments. In the town of Quixayá, CCDA operates a local clinic and pharmacy which offers discounted health services to CCDA members as well as to the general community. Coop Coffees only began importing from CCDA in 2011, but have quickly developed a friendly and trusted relationship. We look forward to our long and mutually beneficial future to come!

Flavour profile

San Marcos
Sweet, well rounded with a hint of cocoa and a smooth full body. Dark chocolate overtones with vanilla and berry highlights

Rio Azul
This special small lot roast is very spicy and has highlights of caramel. It is clean and sweet, with a medium acidity.

Chajul
A crisp and very sweet coffee, with flavours of chocolate and caramel.

Cafe Justica
A sweet coffee with bright acidity, a full body and hints of cocoa and vanilla.

Please follow the links to purchase Guatemalan coffees:

Guatemalan - San Marcos

Guatemalan - Rio Azul

Guatamalan - Chajul

Guatemalan - Cafe Justica

* photos courtesy of Cooperative coffees - http://www.coopcoffees.com and fairtradewire.com

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Coffee of the Month

November's coffee of the month is Cafe Justica. This new coffee from Guatemala is sure to warm you up! It's a sweet coffee, with a bright acidity, a full body and hints of cocoa and vanilla flavours. A delicious coffee!

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