How One Roaster Can Impact a Whole CommunityLos Chelazos is a blend of coffees grown by small coffee producers in Citalá and La Palma, two districts in Chalatenango, northern El Salvador. Both districts ar part of the Montecristo Trifinio: a tri-border national park shared by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Designated as a biosphere reserve in 2011, the Trifinio area beneﬁts from incredibly rich bio-diversity of fauna and ﬂora. In this region, Caravela works with small-holder farmers who are willing to go the extra mile to produce outstanding coffees.
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The people from Chalatenango generally have a lighter skin tone and eye colour and are therefore colloquially referred to as ‘chelitos’, a reference to the colour of beer or “chela” as the locals call it.. Like the people from Chalatenango, their coffee has unique characteristics and is different from other coffees produced in El Salvador, with brighter acidity and greater complexity.
Barely getting by
Ten years ago, coffee growers in Chalatenango worked and produced coffee for their survival. They struggled to maintain production and with the prices they received, they barely had anything left over to invest in their farms. “Before, we had less opportunity to grow our businesses as there was nothing left over to invest. It was impossible to try new things on the farm and our production processes could not, therefore, develop,” says Santos Arnulfo Díaz, coffee grower from La Palma, Chalatenango. Due to this situation, small producers in Chalatenango used to sell their coffee cherries to large merchants at fluctuating and often very low prices.
The start of a beautiful friendship
Far away in the Czech Republic, a roastery called Doubleshot was seeking top quality coffee. This roastery started in 2010 after a full year of planning, meeting coffee farmers and learning from the best roasters. At that time, specialty coffee was a barely known term in the country. Today, Doubleshot are not just a roastery; they have three coffee shops and a training center. The Doubleshot team and Los Chelazos have been working together since the beginning. “We lived for some time in the Chalatenango area back in the days before we founded the Doubleshot Roastery. So, we knew the territory as well as some of the individual farmers really well”, says Doubleshot’s founder Yara. When they started their roastery in the Czech Republic, they were buying microlot coffees directly from several small producers. He continues, “At that time we had some logistical issues with our coffees which were always arriving late. One of Caravela’s founders, Giancarlo, told us about Caravela´s new operation in Metapan, in El Salvador, so we decided to give it a try. In the first year, we purchased all coffees based on pre-shipment samples that we had tested. In the years that followed, we would come personally every January to visit the farmers and cup the early harvest lots, deciding on purchases later in the year.”
Caravela started developing relationships with producers in this area in 2012 and opened a buying station and cupping lab in La Palma in December 2015, to be closer to producers and to better interact with them during the harvest. We receive and analyze each lot of coffee delivered, separating it by quality grade and providing immediate feedback to farmers. Today, we are working with more than 80 producers in this region, whose dedication and passion for coffee continue to inspire us six years on.
When that first harvest arrived in the Czech Republic, Doubleshot decided they wanted to begin a relationship with Caravela as a means of facilitating their imports from Los Chelazos. Over time, with our team on the ground and the frequent visits from the Doubleshot team, we have managed to provide these producers with education and technical assistance to improve their infrastructure and the quality of their coffee. Six years ago, when we arrived in the region to begin our expedition, visit farms, and find quality-minded producers, we noticed that a large proportion of these producers were still using bad practices to process their coffee. As a standard part of PECA, our educational programme, we recommend farmers build raised African beds, to enable slower, shade covered drying as well as providing education and guidance on the production of non-standard processes, such as honeys and naturals.
Education – The Passport to the Future
Now when we visit these coffee growers, we see every farm full of raised beds brimming with bright honey processed parchment. We know the farmers have good insight into the quality of their product and the prices they can expect. As Roberto Landaverde, a local producer, observed “Caravela has guided us to focus more on the production of specialty coffee in order to achieve better prices.” He continues: “Now I have a better quality of life, with more opportunities in my professional life.” Now that these producers have a long-term relationship with Doubleshot, they put more effort into their work. “I feel that there’s a commitment with the buyer, so I take better care of my farm and I put a tremendous effort into my coffee processes” says José Efraín Landaverde.
We are proud of how together, with Doubleshot, we have had a positive impact in this community. Today, the producers are able to invest not only in their farms, but also cover other personal necessities. They have been able to increase their production, plant more trees and improve their infrastructure. All these changes are reflected in the quality of the coffee. For us, the best thing is to know that both sides are happy and satisfied.
We are proud to say that Doubleshot is very happy with the product we are delivering, “its super consistent, available in big quantities (which is not that easy to find in Chalatenango) and obviously has all the flavour attributes that we expect from a washed Pacas from this region – chocolate, caramel, malic acidity, and great sweetness. It also roasts very easily and consistently” says Yara. “We had had some absolutely amazing coffees from Chalatenango before we started working there with Caravela. However, the biggest issue was always consistency, aging and slow logistics. Buying through Caravela really improved all three factors.” Thanks to that, we were able to build a long-term relationship between two groups of people who love coffee, and just happen to live on two different sides of the globe.