November is hot coffee season. It’s the season of gloomy skies and murky mornings and pouring rain.
But if you look on the bright side (we know it’s hard, but do try), it’s also the season of thanksgiving!
And what a beautiful time that is.
If you've been following along on our socials, you’ll know that we’ve kicked off a new Gratitude series this November. Our farmer friends are finally getting the opportunity to thank everyone who has purchased and loved their specialty coffee beans!
We were really busy on our ‘Back to Origin’ trip to Colombia last month, hunting for new coffees and compiling our famers’ stories to bring back to you.
As Santiago Gamboa, one third of Hermanos, says, we’ve got “so many tales to tell, and so little time”.
In light of this, we’ve decided to highlight four very special stories below. Fair warning though - some are tearjerkers!
Starting off with the Alvear Family, producers of our Christmas bean - Finca Las Brisas. Javier Alvear had suffered huge losses economically, and in a last ditch effort to turn his fortunes around, he decided to combine farms with his father and brother.
They pooled their remaining resources together, set up a common processing facility and focused all their efforts on cultivating a single varietal of specialty coffee - Bourbon Aji.
Thanks to the combined family effort in producing superior quality beans, that gamble paid off when the Hermanos team bought Alvear’s entire lot earlier this year. The family has re-invested that money in their farm, expanding their coffee varietals and improving their on-site processing facilities.
Another incredibly touching story of how blood is thicker than water is that of Oscar Hernandez and his family.
In the early 2000s, his father, Don Ricaurte, was a trailblazer among local coffee farmers in Huila, Colombia. In 2005, he won the coveted Cup of Excellence, an internationally recognised award for specialty coffees.
Sadly, this award was both a blessing and a curse. It brought the family onto the radar of the social revolutionary guerrilla organisation - Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). In 2013, after repeated refusals by Don to pay “protection money” to FARC, the militants gunned him down in his home, right in front of his wife.
For most, such a senseless act of brutality would have spelled the end of an era.
Not for Oscar Hernandez and his siblings.
Upon receiving the awful news, they rushed home and found their mother frantically packing, determined to leave the coffee farm and its now terrible memories behind.
Determined to not let their father’s efforts and sacrifice be in vain, Oscar and his siblings assured their mother that they would step in and take over the farm.
Fast forward to 2023, the Hernandez family has grown, and their third and fourth generations are heavily involved in helping the farm continue to grow and thrive.
Everything is done to preserve Don’s legacy, and his philosophy of “quality without compromise” in coffee-production has prevailed through the years.
We visited them at their farm, Finca Los Nogales, tasted their coffee and heard this inspiring account. Their coffee truly speaks for itself, and their tales of willpower and perseverance makes it even sweeter.
And for those of you interested in tasting their coffee, we haven’t forgotten you - Hernandez’s coffee will be launched in stores early next year.
Now, a farmer you may be familiar with - Felix Torres - producer of our fan-favourite Maria Torres.
You may know him from our socials, back in July when we flew him in to see his coffee and beans being served in our stores. But what of his story?
Felix bumped into our co-founder, Santiago, by chance and they were quick to bond over all things coffee. Later on, the Hermanos team visited him on his farm in Colombia for a mega-tasting of his beans.
We really liked what we tasted and saw, and decided to buy his entire lot. This was a huge deal for Felix and his family.
For the first time, they had a stable income.
For the first time, his uncle could buy a car.
For the first time, they were finally able to sell their coffee internationally.
As Felix tearfully told us later, the fact that his coffee is sold overseas is still so unbelievable to him - it has never happened in the past three generations of his family.
Speaking of firsts, this past week, Felix just welcomed his firstborn son! The baby is terribly cute, you can trust us on this!
And last but not least, we have Andres Pinzon from the La India Farm.
His journey is one of incredible resilience, with lots of sweat and blood (literally) involved.
Andres was, as he so eloquently puts it, “at rock bottom”, when he met one of the pioneers of coffee fermentation processes in Colombia. After chatting with him, the man offered him one, and soon Andres became his mentee, learning and absorbing all he could about coffee growing and production.
Andres later left and decided to start his own farm. Money was tight, so he purchased an abandoned farm on a hill in the wilderness. He hacked away at shrubbery with a machete, creating a road to his hilltop farm, before painstakingly clearing the farmland and making it habitable for his coffee plants.
Unfortunately, it was this same trusty machete that betrayed him. One day while he was working in his plantation, he accidentally hacked at his foot, leaving himself with a horrendous wound that left him incapacitated for seven months.
Thankfully, his three daughters, young as they were, helped him hold the fort. Along with his wife’s assistance, the girls ran the farm as best they could while their father recovered.
Despite having only the most basic of equipment, the Pinzon family managed to maximise their limited resources, focusing on producing only the most high quality beans. When we visited them, we had the firsthand experience of observing Andres’ production and quality processes that he set up from scratch on his own.
The family’s hard work eventually paid off when one of their beans that used kiwi fermentation was rated very highly, and eventually purchased by us this year. We’re really excited to bring these incredible beans in, and you should be too - believe us when we say that they taste amazing.
The family is now working on new types of special fermentations, and we can't wait to see their next innovation!
This isn’t even half of the stories we were told but since time and space are limited, we’ll end it off here. Despite being oceans apart, we’ve definitely learned a thing or two from these families.
The world of coffee production is challenging and infinite amounts of hard work have to be poured in for a chance at success. Thanks to your constant support and love for their coffee, our farmer friends are able to continue their pursuit of producing quality beans.
They embody the true meaning of perseverance, of striving for the best and of always standing up for what you believe in. And most of all, they are the perfect representation of how family always sticks together, regardless of the outcome.