Benjamin grows Pacas, Bourbon, Catuaí, Lempira and Catimor. Although we would like to buy all his coffee varieties, the Lempira and Catimor are not up to our standards, so he sells those coffees to the commodity market for a fraction of the price. Thankfully for us, these two varieties represent less than 30% of his total production.
Benjamin’s farm is in a special part of Santa Barbara, called El Cielito. This region is responsible for some of the tastiest coffees in all of Central America. When we began working with Benjamin, it was the first year that he washed his coffee – using the traditional fermentation method – and dried it using solar driers. Although we enjoyed Benjamin’s coffee during this first year and we saw glimpses of what it could be with some hard work, it was inconsistent and showed some evidence of a lack of proper drying.
With the help of Ben Paz from San Vicente, I worked with Benjamin to build up his infrastructure and radically improve his drying. Between 2013 and 2017, we have invested over $1,400 into Benjamin’s drying infrastructure and financed the rest of the costs in order to facilitate these improvements. Benjamin now has 500% more drying capacity, all of which occurs under shade. The impact on the cup has been remarkable - his coffee is much more consistent and, thanks to the drying project, has greatly improved shelf life.
Over the past few years, Benjamin has struggled significantly with asthma, making it more difficult for him to spend considerable time at the farm. Thankfully, two of his sons, Erik and Saul, have been helping him with the farm care and maintenance. They have also been helping him at the wet mill, especially on the drying side. Last year, Benjamin gave Erik a small plot of land and his coffee is actually blended into this lot. Benjamin’s improvement is a testament to the kind of effect that quality coffee has had on Santa Barbara. This coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.