Farm Update: Off the Mountain

This year's crop was a bit of a hassle, but then again, every year presents its new set of challenges. We like it. It keeps us on our toes and it keeps us humble. #HumbleHustle

2016

Last year's issue was farm output. Due to coffee rust, we had a lower yield than in 2015.

2017

But this year, it wasn't output. It was transportation. 

Roads were blocked due to political protests, so hauling the coffee from farms down to accesible roads was a bit harder. Plus, we had a larger amount of coffee. Due to the work we've been putting in through our financing and the family working hard, the yield was more than double last year's. Along with the coffee from El Carmen, we purchased a little over half a ton of green coffee from two producers, Gustavo Pinacho and Bernardino Martinez, in a neighboring village. So as you can probably imagine, that's a whole lotta coffee needing to be transported.

Considering that most coffee regions are already super remote and have little access to roads large enough for trucks to get through, cutting off roads is like blocking an artery. So, ALL the coffee transportation from the farms to a road had to be done on horseback. Three round trips with multiple horses and mules had to be made to get the coffee down to a town with an accessible road. Once in that town, the coffee was loaded onto a truck and then finally driven down to Oaxaca City for milling and export. 

We're super stoked to share this year's crop with you as soon as it lands, which may be as early as May or as late as July. Special thanks to Uncle Anselmo Diaz for the amazing hustle from the mountainside. Also, special thanks to Royal Coffee for helping facilitate the dry milling and export/import. Don't forget, taking a sip of coffee is a simple and satisfying task, but getting it to your table is a different story that sometimes requires a horse. 

 

A most arduous Journey

Ever wonder what goes into your daily brew? Here's a quick breakdown of the not-so-quick process:

1. Seed and Planting: A baby coffee seed is planted by a farmer, becomes a seedling shrubby and then gets planted again. D'aww, precious. It's ideally planted under other trees for shading, protection, and biodiversity.

2. Maturity: Three years and a lot of tender love by the farmer later, it becomes a mature shrub and is ready for harvest! Woohoo!

3. Harvest: Coffee is harvested at origin. Most regions have a yearly harvest, while others have two (i.e. Colombia and Kenya). Various villagers neighboring the farms are employed to help with the harvest. This is when most farms come fully alive. #WerkIt

4. Processing: After the coffee is harvested, it's milled/cleaned from its outer fruit by one of three common methods: washed, natural, or semi-natural (AKA honey process). Once the outer fruit is gone, the coffee seed is left in a husk-like casing called parchment (pergamino in Spanish). It's left to dry a little, and then the parchment is removed. Defects are then sorted out by hand or machine, and the coffee beans may also be sorted by size using meshed screens. Remember, for smallholding farmers, most of these processes are done by hand. [More on process]

5. Export and Import: Once the coffee is fully processed and deemed pretty enough for export, it's bagged up in jute bags typically weighing 69kg (152lbs). All coffee bags are put into large shipping containers, loaded onto huge barges, and...bon voyage! From this point, it will take about two months for the coffee to arrive at its destination. [More on harvest schedule]

6. Roasting: The shipment of the coffee arrives at our warehouse, and we cut open the bag and get started. Each coffee has its own unique temperament dependent on different variables like elevation or process. We sample roast, listen to what the coffee wants from us, make adjustments, and then roast to bring out the unique character of that coffee. It's then—finally—ready to get packaged and delivered to you. 

So, on your next home brew or cafe visit, remember to take a little moment to reflect on all the hard work that went into making your few ounces of coffee happen. From farmer to barista, it takes a village. 

And here's a link to our process illustration wallpaper for your laptop [download]. 

2016 Recap

It’s only January but so much has already happened that it feels like we’re late to the recap game. But hey, better late than never, right!? 

Before we get going, we’re super grateful for everything 2016 brought us—all the coffee slinging, caffeinated high fives, coffee happenings, and YOU.

Our 2016 goal was to "Double Down." We planned to get a roaster, serve more customers, and make a bigger impact on our project farm. We knew we had lofty goals—slightly intimidating—but we thought, "Go big or go home!" 

KICKSTARTER #FTW

With a big leap of faith, we launched a Kickstarter, and if you don't know how Kickstarter works, it's pretty scary. If your project gets funded, you keep everything. But if you miss the mark, you lose every penny. We definitely had some doubts. "How the heck are we going to tell our story? What if we don't reach our goal? Do we know enough people to help kickstart our dreams?" But we launched, told the masses, harassed all of our friends, crossed our fingers, and prayed hard. With four days to go, we weren't even to 50% of what we needed to raise, and at this point we weren't sure we were gonna make it. And then it happened—various homies from near and far came together, rallied for us, and pushed us to a successful campaign!

FARM UPDATE

Our project farm El Carmen, aka Grandpa's farm, got some solid momentum too. 2016 was our second "official" year of working with the farm, and we were able to pay 22% more for the green coffee than in 2015, which was a full 38% above the fair trade price (with added premium)

In addition:

  • 406 coffee shrubs were planted to help ensure a healthy crop in the following years. 
  • We were able to rebuild the farm's kitchen where all the seasonal workers eat during their time harvesting at the farm. 
  • Uncle Niceforo joined a community committee that assisted in securing solar panels for the surrounding small holder farmers. 

So, we paid more, planted more, and were a catalyst to help other community members.

YOUR PART IN THE STORY

Wondering which coffees our #CaffeinatedCommunity loved the most and how our coffees stacked up against each other?! Wonder no more.

El Carmen by the cup:

We had limited stock from our crown jewel this year, and it went fast. From all of the El Carmen coffee imported, 708 12oz baggies were taken home and about 15,408 8oz cups were brewed by various wholesale member establishments that support our hustle. 

The Most Popular Award goes to:

Esencia, Ocotepeque (Honduras), and Vigilante made up over 50% of our sales, in that order. Shout out to all our Esencia lovers on the blog,  we love it too, guys! 

 

MUCHOS ABRAZOS

For us, our 2016 achievements were priceless and HUGE. We believe that our small initial steps will eventually lead to larger impact. In 2013, Proyecto Diaz Coffee was just an idea on a piece of paper. There was no caffeinated community, and no coffee. In 2014, Proyecto Diaz Coffee was a supes cute baby. By 2015 we were learning how to walk, and by 2016, we were up and at ‘em. 

2017 is looking like its gonna be a pretty hectic year. There are still a bunch of unknowns, but we're pumped to see what the year throws at us and ready to run full steam ahead. 

 

With jittery hearts, 
Fernando Diaz and the Proyecto Crew

When Life Gives You Cold Brew

When life gives you cold brew, you make cocktails.

Living in the Bay Area where the heat is just beginning, we figured it wasn’t too late to start on a summer drink. So, we gathered in our friend’s kitchen with their newly adopted pup Cleo licking our toes, and embarked on our first cocktail journey. After a few failed (but buzzed) attempts, we created a winner...

The Cleo

Grab yo ish:

2.5 oz of cold brew coffee
1 oz of spiced rum
1 dash of orange bitters
1 teaspoon of milk
1 teaspoon of simple syrup
2-4 cubes of ice

And shake it baby.

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And in case you need to make your own cold brew:

Coffee blend: Esencia (grab it online here)
Ratio: 1:12 (coffee to water in grams)
Brew/steep time: 20 hrs.

Grab a fatty mason jar, grind your coffee coarse and put it into your jar. Next, add cold water and stir, stick it in the fridge and let it steep for 20hrs. Once it's steeped, strain it through a sieve and then through a piece of cloth or coffee filter. Don't have those thangs? Get creative.  And voila - you've got your cold brew.

 

Passion and Pain

There are two things that I believe are at the core of an artist: Passion and Pain. Passion being a burning, almost unstoppable, driving emotion that, in the case of the artist, manifests in the form of creating. Pain being a feeling or emotion of discomfort which causes us to appease, to quench, that pain—a pain brought about by injustice or a vision to create something of worth and beauty, or a combination of both with the pressure to aptly express the ache of the inner person and their passion. Both, when put together, bring forth an artist.

A coffee farmer is an artist. Really, any farmer that works and perseveres with a burning desire is. This, blended with an ache at the thought of ever losing that which has been part of their culture, history, and life, makes the farmer an artist.

My grandfather and my great grandfather were artists. There are others who share a similar (if not the same) story, but our team is fortunate enough to start by telling my family’s story through our coffee and one farm “El Carmen.”  

The farm, cradled between Oaxaca’s lush mountains, has been my great grandfather’s, and now my grandfather’s, canvas. It’s been one of their greatest treasures and masterpieces, but it needs restoration.

We have the opportunity to be artist’s ourselves and assistants to these masters of agriculture. Our first sponsored farm has become our own blank canvas in our effort to go back to the root of coffee: the farmer. El Carmen is a canvas of hope which we know can be transformed into a true work of art—a place where people can learn and grow, earn fair wages, and build their future.

Now imagine if were able to extend this vision to other farms in neighboring communities or countries. It may begin at this one family farm, it’s not an isolated event. The same passion to grow coffee is found in other countries like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, and Ethiopia, just to name a few. There are others farmers, farms, and families that have a passion and a need to maintain their craft and livelihoods through farming.

With our passion to see lives flourish and our own pain in knowing that there are those that lack access to that possibility to flourish, we continue to push forth in our efforts to rebuild one coffee farm at a time.

There is still much work to be done. We will remain hustling, roasting, and helping to rebuild farms and lives with our resources, with our sweat, with our community, and with the fuel of other passionate and aching people.

Abrazos (hugz),
Fernando Diaz
Founder/Captain of Caffeinated Chaos

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Photos taken May 2016:
Overhead view of El Carmen, coffee de-pulping machine and fermentation tank, coffee nursery, coffee shrubs in coffee nursery