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Growers in Ethiopia at our compost workshop in March 2013.At the end of March, coffee buyers Kim Elena Ionescu and Tim Hill traveled together – which they almost never get to do; with so much Coffee Department travel, they usually travel separately – to Ethiopia for a compost workshop funded by our $1-per-pound allocation from our 2012 Holiday Blend and attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya.

"I was really excited about this trip!" acknowledged Kim Elena. "I was also really nervous, however, because I had committed Counter Culture to hosting a workshop in a place I had never been, in a language I didn't speak, on a subject outside my area of expertise."

Read Kim Elena's full trip report on Flickr offering annotated photos offer an overview of the two-day workshop, as well as a few glimpses into the activities at these cooperatives this time of year.

Hannah with Calixto, the go-to guy for receiving coffee and quality control with Triunfo Verde co-op in Guatemala, weighing coffee for cupping.Coffee Buyer's Agent Hannah Popish was in Mexico and Guatemala at the end of March and filed a trip report from her visit with three separate cooperatives – one in Mexico from which we do not currently purchase coffee and two in Guatemala that are active partners.
 
Hannah reported on efforts to address "leaf rust," the implementation of Seeds projects, and some of the goals that the cooperatives are working toward to improve the coffee and quality of life of their members.
 
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
Jagong has been around continually for longer than just about any coffee we offer. We're preparing to bid it farewell, at least for a while.
Coffee Buyer & Quality Manager Tim Hill went to El Salvador in January with Head Roaster Jeff McArthur to visit Aida Batlle. Last week, Tim filed a compelling trip report on flickr that includes lots of information about both the challenges facing Central American coffee producers and the exciting experiments being done with Aida that may eventually surface in our Fall 2013 Work in Progress. Check out Tim's annotated photo set on flickr.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
Our Coffee Department visits a lot of growing regions each year, and they keep up with cooperatives and individual farmers throughout the year between visits through a variety of digital communications – from email to video conferencing. It's always great to hear updates along the way to feel connected to the producers of the coffees we love.
 
Coffee Buyer's Agent Hannah Popish got an email this week from Jorge Recinos. Jorge and his twin brother Javier run their family's Finca Nueva Armenia in Huehuetenango, Guatemala – from which we've been buying coffee for 10 years and are always happy to welcome back! The photos Jorge sent can be seen in the flickr set included here. And, here's Hannah's translated summary:
 
They started picking on December 14 and feel confident the quality this year will be even higher. We will likely get three containers from them, including Grotto or Gemelos microlots and 2-3 bags of Maragojipe. Leaf rust has definitely hit Guatemala, but, with the help of a lot of hard workers, they feel confident they have it controlled at FNA with organic pesticides. And, they continue to hope for more rain! And, Happy New Year from Finca Nueva Armenia!
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
Traditional coffee with Tena adam (rue) from Tim's stop in Coche in Ethiopia.
Coffee Buyer & Quality Manager Tim Hill, visited Ethiopia at the end of November and recently posted two sets of photos from his trip. The first part of the trip, Tim spent several days with coffee researchers in and around Jimma, followed by a trip to southern Ethiopia where he spent time at cooperatives under the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union – the group that includes the producers of Haru, Idido, and Beloya.
 
Read Tim's trip report from the research-focused portion of his visit to Ethiopia on Flickr. And, from his visit with some of our producer partners in southern Ethiopia, Tim posted a second Flickr set that includes a fairly comprehensive account of the work that's being done to improve coffees we get from Ethiopia and a detailed list of lots in progress. Enjoy!
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
Quality Relationships in Coffee & Tea
Coffee Buyer and Sustainability Manager Kim Elena Ioenscu and Coffee Buyer's Agent Hannah Popish just returned from a week in Northern Peru with Cenfrocafe, our cooperative partners who bring us Valle de Santuario and La Frontera coffees. The visit included the usual community meetings and talks with agronomists and cooperative leadership, but Kim Elena and Hannah were also there to celebrate the cooperative's 13th anniversary!
 
 
Thanks,
Nathan

Hello again!

So, Kim and I just returned from a week in Northern Peru with Cenfrocafe, our cooperative partners who bring us Valle de Santuario and La Frontera coffees. Though this visit included the usual community meetings and talks with agronomists and cooperative leadership, we were also there for a unique reason – celebrating the cooperative's 13th anniversary! So, the end of the week found us inaugurating a new storage center for the cooperative's coffee and dancing to some live cumbia music.

The nerd in me was overjoyed to see a work flow chart (pictured above) on the wall of the community center when we arrived for the meeting earlier in the week.

As you can faintly make out, taped below the plan they also have a printed biography of Valle del Santuario and a letter Kim sent in 2008 telling them what we particularly appreciated about their coffee. The subtitles on the chart read: type of work, what needs to be done, what is the goal, by when, with whom, and how much will it cost?" Topics of interest included maintaining quality coffee, strengthening the primary cooperative, and making home repairs for quality of life improvements.

It appears that it is, at least in part, organization and inspiration like this – naming the needs and making a work plan – that fuels the staying power of the cooperative. We were overjoyed to join in their celebration, and hope you'll enjoy some more notes about this trip.

Abrazos,
Hannah
Preparing coffee seedlings in Ecuador.
This was Kim's second trip to Ecuador, and my first visit to the cooperative that brings us the coffee El Gavilán. After arriving in balmy, coastal Guayaquil on a Monday, we made the trek to the cool and mountainous Loja in the south. With Loja as our home base, we then visited producer communities in Quilanga and Palanda.
 
On this visit, we had the opportunity to spend time with two farmer cooperatives that our partner Fapecafes (the exporting cooperative) supports – Procafeq and Apecap. I also had the chance to travel for a second time with the incredibly knowledgeable Alejandro Cadena who works for our export partner Virmax. Together we visited farms, attended a cooperative meeting, spent some time in Fapecafes' main cupping lab, and spent a day cupping with Apecap's cuppers to calibrate on 37 coffees for an internal competition celebrating the co-ops farmers.
 
Last year, we offered El Gavilán for the first time, and were pleased with their high yields and high cup quality. This harvest year was a tough one for Fapecafes for multiple reasons. Coffee plants were particularly hard hit by the rust disease, or "roya," that became so prevalent in Colombia in years past. This upset led to reduced yields, impacted cup quality, and decreased prices – all challenging news for farmers.
 
However, after a week with their members we feel confident that, because of their level of organization and initiative, there will be more good years to come. In the photo included above, Elfredín's family in Palanda is preparing bags for coffee seedlings – an apt metaphor for our growing relationship with Fapecafes in Ecuador.
 
We hope you enjoy these photos and stories!
 
Un abrazo,
Hannah
Coffee Buyer's Agent

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