January 29, 2020
5 Minute Read
Alejandro CadenaThe start of a new year is always the best time to reflect on the year that ended and to establish goals for the year that is beginning. So, today I’d like to steal from you a few minutes of your time to talk about a few very exciting projects that we accomplished at Caravela during 2019 and a couple of initiatives that we will be working on in 2020.
Co-Founder and CEO
For us, 2019 was primarily a year of gradual improvement but there were a few substantial changes which addressed areas where we were not performing as we wanted to. For instance, at the end of 2018 we changed leadership in our Guatemala and El Salvador export operations, which paid off in 2019 with a substantial turnaround of both our operational performance and the quality of the coffee we exported from those two origins. We still have much to improve, so we continued investing in Guatemala, opening in late 2019 a new headquarters, main cupping lab and central warehouse near Guatemala City, where we aim to have better control of the coffee sourced. We also decided to make changes in Mexico, appointing Fernando Gomez as the new country manager, moving our headquarters and main cupping lab to Oaxaca City, and opening a central warehouse to store all the coffee sourced in this exciting origin. We hope to continue to see the results of these changes in 2020 and beyond. But the two initiatives of 2019 that I’m most proud of were the development of our own organic, Rainforest Alliance and Café Practices supply chains in several countries and the renovation of our dry mill in Colombia.
Our New Mexico headquarters/warehouse in Oaxaca City
Our second major initiative of 2019 was the upgrade of our Colombian dry mill, located in Armenia (Quindio). This upgrade involved not only installing brand new, state-of-the-art processing equipment, and the installation of a separate micro-lot line (which will begin operating in February 2020), but also included the complete renovation of our offices and cupping lab there, plus a new employee break room (which, BTW, is pretty cool), as well as the installation of a solar roof with 240 solar panels. This initiative has been a win-win for all: better coffee quality coffee for our customers, a substantial improvement in the working conditions and quality of life of the more than 20 employees who work there, lower air pollution during the milling process, and a whopping 32% reduction in our energy consumption per bag milled. Another win for our planet!
The new break room at our Colombia dry mill
Looking forward into 2020, as the specialty coffee industry continues to evolve and mature, and thanks to the continued support from our grower and roaster partners and other key stakeholders, we have ambitious plans to continue doing what we love to do: make coffee better! We have plenty of plans on our plate, but today I want to talk about the two initiatives that most excite me for this year.
As the specialty coffee market continues to grow in Asia, during the first days of the new year we opened a sales and import operation in Taiwan. This office will not only have a dedicated Mandarin-speaking sales team, but also a cupping lab and education center right in the center of Taipei – a city that I really enjoy visiting! There we will organize frequent classes and workshops to educate the whole coffee community in Asia.
But perhaps the biggest initiative we will be working on in 2020 – besides sourcing great coffee – will be the opening of the Caravela Coffee University. This is an idea we have been developing over the past few years that is finally coming to fruition. This university will be located at Belgravia, our experimental farm located in Popayan, Cauca (Colombia). The facilities will include several classrooms, a cupping and brewing lab, a break room and dormitories for up to 10 students, all in the middle of a coffee farm! The vast majority of the teachers will be our leadership team, but we also plan on inviting guest teachers from time to time. This university will become our main training facility for all our employees, and coffee farmers worldwide. We also plan to open it to coffee geeks, consumers and pros alike, from all over the world. As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about it as it will be a game changer.
Personally, I’m looking forward to taking our Cost of Production Tour to Asia, Australia and Europe, as well as continuing to volunteer time to support great industry causes, in particular ASECC, the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide and World Coffee Research1. In addition, this year we will be cheering on a team of employees and friends running in the 2020 London Marathon in support of the UK charity Children with Cancer. Please consider supporting this great charity and our participants.
Last, but definitely not least, 2020 marks our twentieth year of existence; two decades of making the coffee world a better place. I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished over the course of these twenty years. It has not been easy, but thanks to a lot of patience and perseverance, a great team of co-workers (which now surpasses more than 200 people in 12 countries), and the support of our customers and stakeholders, we have come a long way. And we are ready to take on the next twenty years!
I am looking forward to celebrating this great milestone for our company with our employees, friends, suppliers, customers and colleagues. Stay tuned for more information about the various celebrations we have planned during the year. And next month we’re publishing our 2019 Impact Report, where you will find out more details about what we achieved in 2019 and how we plan to continue working hard to continue making coffee better!
Thank you for your continued support and I wish all of you the very best in 2020. Cheers!
1 If you haven’t already contributed data to the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide or have not yet signed up for World Coffee Research’s Checkoff Program, please consider supporting them this year.***
After graduating as an Economist from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, he worked as an investment banker in New York and London before co-founding Caravela with the mission of making an impact in coffee communities in Latin America by helping build sustainable, long-term relationships between quality-minded smallholder coffee farmers and roasters around the world.