Our team traveled to Guatemala in the Spring of 2020, fortunately before air travel was nearly prohibited and COVID-19 had taken a stronghold on the global economy to visit our long-standing partners at the San Miguel mill. While sourcing and cupping new coffees on the origin trip, Ferris’ VP of Coffee Operations, Sam Mirto, had a chance to try this new crop from El Vergel. Not only did the cupping score and tasting notes alert Mirto to its potential but also the fact that it came from a coffee program, Café Femenino, designed to ethical sourcing model committed to ending the cycle of poverty affecting women coffee farmers across the world.
Women in remote and rural coffee communities face a host of challenges that keep them trapped in poverty. Many of these isolated women live in male- dominated societies and have very little financial control or decision-making power.
In 2004, 464 women farmers in northern Peru decided to change this dynamic by separating their coffee production from the men’s. In that moment, for the first time, this group of women created their own product and income. Their coffee cooperative CECANOR joined their commercial partner Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO) to create Café Femenino—a gender-focused program to support social justice and empowerment for women coffee producers worldwide.
“The need for [el Vergel] came about with our recent change to further implementing seasonal purchasing for our yearly coffee lineup,” Mirto explained. With our focus on bringing coffee at its peak freshness from harvest into the hands of our consumers, el Vergel filled an important gap in our availability. From January to June, we carry our Fair-Trade Café Femenino, which comes from the Peru. “Given that there will now be a portion of the year that we will not have Café Femenino Peru on the menu, we wanted to fill in the gap with a coffee that not only had certifications, but also had a similar mission to empower women in coffee growing countries.”
Purchased in 2015, el Vergel farm lies close to the Mexican border, north of Quetzaltenango. The farm is about 121 acres on the western slope of the Sierra Madre mountain range in San Marcos with a beautiful waterfall that runs through it. Led by two agronomists in charge of the farm, experimental plots are evaluated and analysis of their organic agronomic management systems help improve this coffee year after year. There are agreements with Word Coffee Research and the University of Texas to carry out different activities and support them. With continued projects such as ecotourism (Yes, you can stay on the farm!), introducing livestock, and infrastructure like roads, bridges, and restaurants, this farm is well on its way to becoming a dependable source of specialty coffee beans.
Expect a heavy body with this dark roast with “notes of toasted marshmallow, molasses, caramel, and some dark chocolate.” Mirto wanted to roast this coffee on the darker side to both bring a robust flavor to the menu but tone down the acidity to a great apple-like malic that will leave coffee drinkers enthralled in this new Guatemalan favorite.