'With a fixed-price contract we can invest in our farm': how Joe Coffee and the Guarnizo family work together to ensure everyone winsThe Guarnizos have always set an example of working together as an extended family, and the rewards this can bring.
10 Minutes Read
Deep in the Highlands of Tarqui in Huila, Colombia, you will find a small group of farms owned by ten siblings: the Guarnizo Family. Composed of nine brothers and one sister, each member of the family has his or her own farm, with they run together with families of their own. Some of them are neighbors, creating a village of just the family, and some have farms in the more remote areas of the municipality. But all of them have the same objective: to produce the best coffee in Tarqui.
The Guarnizos have always set an example of working together as an extended family, and the rewards this can bring. Wilmar, one of the Guarnizo brothers, inherited the “La Vega” farm from his father in 2002. At that time, the farm did not have a single coffee tree planted. Some of his brothers were already growing coffee, so he took advantage of their experience and hard-worn knowledge so that his own family could start growing coffee too. Today, coffee is the main source of income for all ten of the Guarnizo siblings.
“We no longer worry about the international market price; we don’t care if it increases or if it drops because we know that we have our sales assured. Before, I didn’t have any certainty of selling my coffee. With a fixed price contract, we know where we are with out money and can invest on the farm.”
Searching for Good Prices, Lacking Consistency
Before 2010, the Guarnizo Family used to have to travel from one buyer to the next, throughout the whole country, offering their coffee and selling to the highest bidder. Sometimes, they even decided to wait months with their coffee stored on the farms, waiting for prices to rise, so they could sell at a reasonable price.
One day in 2011, they decided to become members of one of the local coffee grower associations: ASOPROCAFÉ EL PARAISO. El Paraiso had just set up a warehouse in town and was paying better prices for quality coffee because the association was working directly with a specialty coffee exporter. This was when Wilmar Guarnizo met Caravela. Wilmar told his brothers that he might have found the perfect place to sell their coffee, but it had to be specialty coffee, and they were not sure if theirs would qualify.
However, as soon asthey started delivering to the warehouse, we soon realised that not only did their coffee have great potential, but that they were a family business, where all the siblings worked together to produce good quality coffee and who were willing to each other out, so they all would succeed.
Their coffee was sometimes amazing, other times it was okay but most often we had to reject it because it had some sort of problem or it was just not good enough. The potential was there – otherwise they would not be producing amazing coffee, but clearly they didn’t have the consistency to produce good quality coffee. We visited the farms to try and understand the root of the problem and encountered a number of issues: the facilities were not very clean and were disorganized; the family were not keeping records of fermentation nor drying times and they were not selectively harvesting their cherries. In summary, their processes weren’t standardized, and so there was no consistency. On a positive note, they all had traditional varieties and most importantly, they had the will and passion to learn and to improve.
From this moment, we started working directly with the Guarnizo Family, implementing better practices on their farm and post-harvest processes and training them so they could manage their farms more efficiently. They started to work as a team, sharing their knowledge and involving the whole family. Those who learnt more, would visit the other siblings and advise them based on what they had learned. With every delivery we noticed how the quality was dramatically improving on all ten farms. As Ed noticed, it was like a “domino effect!”
Joe Coffee Company Meets the Guarnizos
Three years ago, Wilmar Guarnizo and Ed Kaufmann, Director of Sourcing of Joe Coffee Company, met for the first time to start a prosperous and long-lasting relationship. Ed reflects on how it all started: “We bought our first Guarnizo coffee about 5 years ago from Wilmar. It was a lovely little microlot that we featured on our single origin menu. From there, I expressed my satisfaction with the coffee to Badi (in the US sales office) and he kept sending me more coffees from the family. […] In 2014, I visited Tarqui to familiarize myself with El Paraiso and meet the Guarnizos. It was shortly after that visit that we came up with the fixed-price contract that we just signed for 3 years.” Ed loved the profile of this coffee, and immediately felt at home in the region, and with the Guarnizo family. “We consider the Guarnizo family to be part of the extended Joe family, featuring their wonderful coffees throughout the year and paying them a visit when we can.” Ed continues, “We loved this coffee because it was sweet and syrupy. It is a coffee that has something for many different coffee drinkers as the flavor profile has a nice sugary foundation but also features big, round acidity reminiscent of mango and grapefruit. The balance of these is key for the success of this coffee. It is very consistent from harvest to harvest too, which is important to our customers”. On reflecting on their relationship over the years, he adds: “at first, I knew that they produced great coffee and that we were looking for great producers to align with as we established and strengthened our supply chains, early on as a roasting company. It was a bit risky for both of us to go into this fixed price contract but we all went along with it. The second year I visited them and every year since, I have seen the way that they reinvest the profits of their business with the planting of more prized cultivars like Geisha and Yellow Caturra. They have purchased more land to grow their volume capacity. It’s very refreshing to see small improvements each year. They are very smart producers and are constantly trying to improve.”
Testimonial of Wilmar, the Pilot of the Family
Today, the Guarnizo Family have become role models for the rest of the coffee growers in Tarqui. Now that they have fixed price contracts they can plan in advance and invest in their farms. They have improved not only the quality of their coffee but their farms and the infrastructure of their houses, and have planted new and exotic varietals. Perhaps most importantly as role models in the community, they have worked all together to achieve this success. “We no longer worry about the international market price; we don’t care if it increases or if it drops because we know that we have our sales assured. Before, I didn’t have any certainty of selling my coffee. With a fixed price contract, we know where we are with out money and can invest on the farm.” says Wilmar. “We have improved the quality of our coffee, and we are now growing different varietals such as Geisha, Bourbon and Laurina. I’ve noticed how I’ve improved my cup quality.”
While Wilmar is the head of the family and takes it upon himself to guide and educate his younger siblings, it is their mutual cooperation which has led to their success. They seek efficiencies wherever possible such as sharing fermentation and drying facilities. “We are ten siblings. When there’s only a few coffee trees to harvest, at the beginning or the end of the harvest, we all go to each other’s farms and help in the picking and post-harvest processes,” he says. In Wilmar’s home, everyone is involved. His wife Tania and his daughter take care of the fermentation, hand-sorting and selecting the cherries, as well as supervising the drying process. Wilmar, with the help of his brothers, takes care of the coffee trees, growing new varietals, and conserving the forests. Wilmar, Jose Javier and Yimi also like to roast their coffee and cup it before taking it to the warehouse to calibrate as much possible with the Caravela staff in the lab and to learn more about the positive characteristics in coffee.
Both Parts Benefit from the Relationship
The most beneficial thing about this relationship is that Joe Coffee Company gets to see the success and the progress of the Guarnizo family year after year. As Ed comments, “one of the things that I’m proud of in this relationship is that the family and Joe negotiated the prices on the contract together with Caravela helping. It is set up in a way that makes sure they can be paid a consistent amount that is high enough for them to run a successful coffee farming business while the prices on our end allow us to run a profitable coffee roasting business.”
For us at Caravela, this kind of long-term relationship makes us very proud. The relationship has not only benefited the Guarnizos, but also our customer, Joe Coffee Company, as well as us. As Ed observes, “we think that having a good amount of information and connection with the people that grow our coffee is important. Here in the US, there is a big push by the consumers to know the sources of what they eat and drink. We are so proud to be able to celebrate this relationship especially over the course of the years we have purchased coffee from the family. In a somewhat direct way, it enhances the customer experience when they work with us or come to our shops. We like to think of ourselves as hospitalitarians who are also coffee geeks.”
In the last 5 years, the volumes delivered by the Guarnizo Family to Caravela have increased by 193%. Today, the family not only has more land than five years ago, but they are more productive and efficient. They know how to take better care of their coffee trees and protect them from pests and diseases in a correct and sustainable way. And, just as we strive to at Caravela, they never cease to innovate: always identifying new opportunities and ways to grow and improve their farms.
We are very proud of how we have worked towards maintaining this relationship and to see how, three years later, this relationship is still fruitful. “Caravela has done tremendous work to facilitate and maintain this relationship by always giving us first look at microlots and being facilitators of the contracts between us and the Guarnizos. In 2014, when I visited the family for the first time, we were having breakfast before driving up the mountain and I had an idea to have a fixed price contract so we could all close our laptops and stop watching the market and do our jobs, growing coffee and roasting coffee. Most of the brothers were present and they agreed that it would be good to have a good, stable price. Caravela was integral in hammering out the details of the contract, gauging the necessary quality and quantities for the contracts. The whole system has worked beautifully”.
Was this interesting? Grab a coffee and pick another from the articles below