La Voz was founded in 1979 and has been producing organic coffee for more than 23 years. Their cooperative currently has around 150 members, and they are hoping to grow, especially in female membership, in the coming years. About five years ago, the cooperative went through some tough financial times. With new leadership in place, however, they bounced back and have continued to be on the right track.
The predominant indigenous group that makes up the cooperative is called the Tz'utuhil. Many cooperative members call each other by their indigenous names and speak the indigenous languages as well as Spanish. Maintaining elements of their culture is very important to them and to their future generations.
In the last three years, the cooperative put a lot of energy into bringing people who were previously unfamiliar with coffee to see their cooperative. Their ecotourism effort is one that very few other coffee cooperatives are involved in at this point. They have their own café where they use their own green coffee roasted on the premises and place an emphasis on taking tourists through the entire coffee experience—from the coffee tree all the way to the coffee in your cup.
In terms of coffee quality, the conversations we've had over the last few years led to some concrete changes for La Voz this year. In particular, they focused on hiring more people to sort the cherry by color when it is received; they are drying coffee on nylon, so it is easier to protect when the inevitable rains come; and, this year, for the first time they even focused on keeping coffee from specific communities separate for us.
Explanation of the Name
“La Voz que Clama en el Desierto," the full name of their cooperative, translates as "The voice crying out in the desert." During the civil war in Guatemala, they wanted to be seen as a group that had the best interest of its members in mind—those who supported them through tough times. Locally they are known simply as "La Voz."
La Voz's coffee comes from San Juan La Laguna, in the state of Solola—one of the most beautiful places coffee could originate, in our humble opinion. Seated high in the mountains, you can still see the water's edge of Lake Atitlán, the lake created by three centuries old dormant volcanoes. The coffee trees in this region are still benefiting from the volcanic soils.
La Voz is incredibly lucky to have the type of leadership team that is currently in place. Andrés Isaías Cotuc Méndez, the c-op manager, has really turned the cooperative around in the last few years that he has been in charge. He is incredibly dedicated to the success of the group and telling their story to all who meet him.
Lucas Bizarro Yojcóm is a member of the board, as well as the head operator of the café and coffee tours where they sell coffee roasted on the premises. He continues to push their quality forward and to share the gifts of the cooperative with others.
Lastly, the three women who run the roaster—Antonia Tzurek, Juana Leticia Hernandez Mendoza, and Clara Tzaj—are key to helping the cooperative understand the quality of their coffee.
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, and Catuai
Elevation: 1,400–1,850 meters
Post-Harvest Process: Washed then dried on patios at the central mill
Harvest Time: December 2014–February 2015