Coffee Suppliers

Winston: A Day in the Life

My daughter is only 4 years old, but all of a sudden she's very interested in what I do at work. She knows I work at GMCR, though she says "the coffee place". When she sees one of the tractor trailers around town or on the highway, covered with our logos, she says, "there's Daddy's work!"


It's funny when you distill your job down for a 4 year old when you come home at night:


Daughter: "Daddy, what did you do today?"

Me: "Oh the usual"

Daughter: "I know, but tell me"

Me: "Ok, I drank coffee [yes occupationally, as a cupper!], I wrote some emails, I answered some emails, I went to a few meetings, and here I am."

Daughter: "But you do that everyday! Why don't you do something different?!"

Me: "Because that's my job"



And then thankfully it's time for dinner or there's some other distraction.


My work isn't always the same, however. 3 weeks ago I was in Costa Rica with 11 fellow employees visiting our coffee suppliers on an Origin Trip. I'm one of the co-leaders and aside from being a chaperone, translator, cat herder, time manager, and "bottled-water-orderer", the main job is to connect our employees with coffee farmers in our supply chain and vice-versa. Introducing folks, translating for them, helping with small talk. It's fun, but it's hard to describe to my daughter. So I show her pictures (and I'm showing them to you as well) and say, look dear, here's Daddy doing his job!" 



Finca dos Marias and the New York dairy farm

Most employees and coffee fans know that Finca dos Marias in Guatemala is one of our oldest suppliers. But what you might not know is that there are some dairy farmers in New York state who have invested in that very coffee farm. They found out about Finca dos Marias through some of their own employees who were from the town in Guatemala where the farm is located (La Reforma). Some were even part time workers at the coffee farm at one time.  As it goes, one thing led to another and a group of dairy farmers invested in the coffee farm. Lindsay Young, a daughter of one of those dairy farmers, made an excellent short video about the coffee farm that is well worth watching.


Brewing the "Millennium Challenge Macchiato"

Below is a Guest Post by Jonathan Bloom from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). On April 29th, MCC awarded GMCR with its 2013 Corporate Award. 

"At the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), we work with partners across the world. By the time I arrive at the office, there are often emails from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America that need a quick response.

That’s why the coffee pot is my first stop each morning. And that’s why a coffee addict like me was thrilled to hear that we are honoring Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) with our Corporate Award for its sustainability work to improve the lives of the world’s vulnerable populations.

The award got me thinking on a recipe for a great new drink using the products of both Green Mountain Coffee and MCC’s beneficiaries from across the world. So prepare to treat your taste buds with the Millennium Challenge Macchiato.

Millennium Challenge Macchiato

1)      Start with Green Mountain's Sumatran Lake Tawar whole-bean coffee from Indonesia and grind as fine as possible. As you brew the perfect shot of espresso, take delight in knowing that one of the suppliers of this dark roast, the Gayo Organic Farmers Association, has started a project to bring safe drinking water to more than 1,500 people. The cooperative has also saved funds to help farmers with the reconstruction of their homes, many of which were destroyed in recent fighting, and to aid in the construction of two new schools.

2)      Steam milk sold by dairy farmers in El Salvador’s Northern Zone. As the steam rises, take a moment to read how many dairy farmers are now enjoying a higher income because MCC helped about 17,500 people by providing training, seeds, equipment, and technical assistance. The agency also built or rehabilitated more than 220 kilometers of road and 23 bridges as part of a five-year, $461 million compact.

3)      Pour the milk into the espresso and top with foam.

4)      Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon from the legendary spice island of Zanzibar on top to give it a pleasing kick. As you enjoy that first sip, read a bit about how MCC is strengthening the island’s electrical grid with the aim of increasing investment and reducing poverty.  Or if you have a sweet tooth, add a bit of cocoa from Ghanaian farmers who are more effectively receiving payment on their harvest, thanks to the computerization of rural banks as part of MCC’s five-year, $547 million compact."

Jonathan Bloom is the acting vice president for compact operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. On April 29, GMCR CEO Brian Kelley accepted the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Corporate Award—recognition for the work that GMCR does to create a sustainable future for its farmer partners.


The Cafe Goes to The Specialty Coffee Association of America

Tom Berry learning to cup!
Thomas Amelott cupping at the Guatemala country booth!

By Kiley - our famous latte arist at the Visitors Center!

The Special Coffee Association of America threw a fantastic gathering and exposition this year – and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) was the sponsor! Our little Café was lucky to be able to have five of our employees go to bring experiences and stories home in addition to the over 200 GMCR team members that made the journey to the exposition.

The educational lectures brought up points concerning every angle of the coffee business and family from roasting and the science behind it to customer service to the new generation of social media. Our speakers were experienced and deeply involved and embedded in their specific specialties. We were able to see the reach of the business and family. It was incredible!

The people we were able to meet were amazing too. I met people from Kenya, Guatemala, El Salvador, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia and, of course, from all across the United States. It was quite the experience to meet our large and expansive coffee family. 

We also had the chance to watch the Barista Competitions and the skills shown there were phenomenal. Not only were they producing beautiful latte art but listening to them explain their coffee roasts and blends really brought you into their cup of coffee. The passion seen there was inspiring.

Even working the GMCR booth was fantastic. So many people came up to our booth and so many walked away with a smile. The interest in our coffee left our team with a good feeling too. Having the opportunity to meet and talk with our suppliers, producers, and happy customers really enforced the strong feeling of family and the relationships we so cherish. 

This year has left us with so many memories, new found skills, and inspiration. I hope we will have the chance to meet back up with our Coffee Family and friends again next year!  Back to our Café and Visitor Center we go.  


20,000 Coffee Farming Families Receive Food Security Support


Coffee Farming Family

We often talk about our financial support of projects within our coffee growing communities. Those communities are just one of the communities throughout our supply chain. Our other supply chains include apple growing communities and manufacturing communities to name just a few. We are working to build a Resilient Supply Chain - helping the producers and manufacturers in our supply chain, as well as their employees and wider communities, to adapt to the many challenges they face and to prosper over the short term and the long term.

Resilence, at its most basic level, refers to an ability to adapt quickly to, or recover from, changes. We also strive to address more complex social and environmental challenges. We commit to long-term relationships that sustain healthier communities and create the highest-quality products — whether we are helping our suppliers keep pace with our Company’s continued growth or financially assisting partner organizations to develop new programs for coffee farmers to better support their families.

Focus Areas for Supply Chain Projects

Highlights from our Fiscal 2012 Report include:

-Over $10 million in funding to projects in over 12 countries within our Supply Chain Communities.

-An estimated 20,000 families have received food security support from GMCR-funded programs

-Funding of our first U.S.-based non-coffee supply chain project in apple-growing communities in Yakima, Wash.

To explore the full Fiscal 2012 Sustainability Report, visit


Food from Source: Peru and Cuy

We’re quickly approaching cooking season here in the United States.  Between turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, we thought you'd like to hear about what some of our countries of origin for coffee eat to celebrate together.  Let's start with: Guinea Pigs in Peru, also known as cuy.

Jose Espiritu Pintado, President of Frontera de San Ignacio

Jose Espiritu Pintado, President of Frontera de San Ignacio

It’s estimated that 65 million cuy are eaten every year in Peru. High in protein and low in fat, they can be fried, grilled, or roasted. They don’t take up much space.  They taste like rabbit and/or chicken and reproduce like the former. They’re so important to the diet of small coffee farmers in remote areas in Peru (which is most of Peru) that we’re funding a food security project to help raise more cuy. In the picture is my first experience with cuy in the town of San Ignacio, Cajamarca, Peru, near the border with Ecuador. We were visiting one of our best suppliers of Fair Trade Organic Peru, Frontera de San Ignacio. Like any good meat, it goes great with potatoes.

What do you cook to celebrate time with your family and friends?



Welcome to Honduras - Honduran Coffee Coop Visit

Jose Danilo with a bunch of Lenca school kids, who are children of farmers

Jose Danilo with a bunch of Lenca school kids, who are children of farmers

You might think of Honduras as the country next to Nicaragua in Central America or where the great diving on Roatan Island is. But it is also the 8th largest grower of coffee in the world and grows more coffee than Guatemala. 

Honduras is one of our larger suppliers of Fair Trade Organic coffee and we were long overdue for a visit to see some of our suppliers down there. Last week we hosted 6 different coops for 2 days of cupping, meetings, plant tours, some tourism, and plenty of good food. 

One of the guests named Jose Danilo Mejia is the president of CARSBIL. His coop is based in the department of Intibuca, and the offices are in “The City of Hope” (Ciudad de la Esperanza). When I picked them up at the hotel, he and I hit it right off as he heard that I raise animals and do a lot of gardening. He was impressed, though he might be less impressed if he saw how non-profit my small farm in Vermont is. 

It turns out Jose Danilo is Lenca, a sub category of the Mayan races that populated (and still do) Mesoamerica. It’s amazing how many different indigenous groups there are who grow coffee that ends up in my cup of coffee. He shared a bunch of pictures from his community that I thought were very interesting:

He said that this school bus is actually run by the community for local transportation, where it’s mostly used by coffee farmers to get around. It was stuck in the mud… And in the second picture you can see why!


Last year they used their Fair Trade social premiums to build 14 kilometers of road to one of their remote communities. Here’s an example of an improved road in the third picture. 


Building Demand for Certified Coffees

Increasing demand for high-quality products that are sustainably produced is core to our business strategy. In fiscal 2011, we expanded our efforts to offer and promote products such as Fair Trade Certified™, Rainforest Alliance Certified™, and organic coffees, helping to widen adoption of socially and environmentally responsible business practices.

In fiscal 2011 we:
- increased the volume of sustainably certified coffees we sold from 25% to 28% - a significant gain considering that overall coffee sales increased by 52%
-continued to educate consumers, suppliers, and employees about the value and benefits of sustainable products, through the support of community outreach programs run by organizations such as Fair Trade USA

Certified Coffee Shipped Infographic

We also continued our commitment to our Farm Identified (Farm ID) program - a cornerstone of our sourcing strategy. Our Farm ID program is an alternative to conventional sourcing through the anonymous commodity market. It represents our overall commitment to working together with our supply-chain partners, and not simply buying from them. In fiscal 2011, 34% of the coffee we purchased was Farm Identified. A portion of this is also certified coffee; other Farm Identified suppliers are at the beginning of their journey to sustainable coffee production.


Let's Talk Coffee 2012

This past weekend was the 10th Annual Let’s Talk Coffee, an annual event hosted by our friends at Sustainable Harvest (a coffee importer based in Portland, OR).  Every year, Sustainable Harvest brings together its own farmers, exporters, roasters (like us!), banks, non-profits, and other interested people for four days of coffee talk -- presentations, panels, round tables, business meetings, lots of coffee, and field trips to coffee farms. We were excited to finally meet some of the Arhuaco Indians from northern Colombia who are part of ASOANEI, one of our Fair Trade Organic suppliers.


Pictured are (me), Aurora Maria Izquierdo, her son Jorge, and Lindsey Bolger. They were as excited as we were that we were buying their coffee as they didn’t initially know who their buyer was. As a gift, Aurora gave Lindsey and me “assurance” bracelets – two small white cloth wrist bands with a little bead in each one (one white and one black). They were made in their community and blessed by their shaman (for lack of a better word) to make sure that we didn’t forget them nor stop buying coffee from them. Rest assured, I won’t forget: it was the highlight of my visit.


More than 200,000 Individuals Impacted through Food-Security Support

GMCR Supply-Chain Project by Outreach Area Fiscal 2011

We have a long history of working with our supply-chain communities, which now expands beyond coffee-growing communities. We are proud to report that in fiscal 2011 we allocated over $8 million in resources to help suppliers receive a fair price for their products, make business decisions that support their families, and build healthy, environmentally sound communities through monetary grants.

Since the research that led to the production of the documentary “After The Harvest: Fighting Hunger in the Coffeelands”, we’ve focused much of our outreach in coffee-growing communities to food-security projects. In fact, in fiscal 2011 we started or expanded 20 food-security projects that reached approximately 19,000 families in our supply chain. And since 2008 our support of of food-security projects have impacted more than 200,000 individuals within our supply chain.  

We continued that focus but also funded other supply-chain projects in the areas of water, environmental stewardship, education, economic development, and health.

You can read more about our supply-chain community outreach and our other sustainbility programs by downloading our full fiscal 2011 CSR Report.




Ugandan Mountains of The Moon Special Reserve Coffee



Uganda Coffee Beans

We’re over the moon with our latest Special Reserve coffee! This one, a natural process treasure from Uganda, has a fittingly royal back story. In 2011, our chief coffee buyer Lindsey Bolger went to Uganda in search of new sources for the fine, washed Arabica coffee that east Africa is famous for. While cupping with a local supplier in Kampala, her spoon kept drifting to a particular coffee sample that was set apart from the others. It turned out to be a natural process coffee from the Rwenzururu Kingdom of western Uganda. (With natural processing, the coffee cherries are spread out in the sun and turned regularly to ensure even drying. Coffee processed this way tends to be fruity and heavy-bodied, because the fruit is left on the bean longer.)

Ugandan Mountains Of THe Moon Coffee Beans

Lindsey quickly scheduled a return trip, and was connected with Queen Agnes Ithungu of the Rwenzururu Kingdom. After a quick course in royal protocol (bow your head, never turn your back on the queen, etc.) Lindsey and Queen Agnes took off to explore the communities of the Kingdom that were producing this extraordinary coffee. This unique Special Reserve coffee has flavors of plump, juicy fruits and hints of sweet caramel and vanilla. We call it Mountains of the Moon because that is the nickname of the Rwenzori mountain range, which is permanently snowcapped Learn more about this incredible coffee, fit for a queen. 




My Trip to Costa Rica

Every year we send employees on what we call “Origin Trips” so they can meet farmers, learn about coffee, and have some fun together. Each year we go to Costa Rica and I have the good fortune to lead that group since the trip began. 

The Group In Costa Rica!

This year we visited a new supplier for us called Coopedota based in Tarrazu. A very well-run coop that sells us Fair Trade coffee, they also happen to be the only coffee cooperative in the world that is carbon neutral. They have a famous coffee shop in the front of their mill, and you can bet we got to sample their drinks more than once. Most of their baristas have competed in barista competitions and their skill and knowledge was obvious. 

Victor Romera Madrigal

Pictured above is Victor Romera Madrigal, who owns Finca San Pedro, a 4-hectare coffee farm (about 10 acres). He sells Fair Trade coffee and employs pickers from Panama, who happen to be from an indigenous group called the Guaymi.

Guyami Coffee Pickers

I asked the Guyami who we met at Victor’s farm to say a few words in their native language called Ngabere. It’s impossible to describe how mystifying it sounded to us. It’s obviously not a Romance based language (European), so we were all flummoxed but thrilled to hear a language so different from English or Spanish. It was beautiful. I've lead many Origin Trips and been to many different countries, but somehow, someway I always manage to find something new and special to share and remember. The world's filled with wonders.


Transforming Business as Usual Along a Supply Chain

Colleen Bramhall, who works in our Supply-Chain Outreach department, wrote this blog post for a 4 part series called Business+ on 3BL Media.

Colleen Bramhall at Let's Talk Coffee

At Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, our purpose is to create the ultimate coffee experience in every life we touch, from tree to cup – transforming the way the world understands business.  We live this creed in every part of our business, and perhaps the most authentic demonstration of this commitment is in our supply chain outreach work.

Five percent of GMCR’s pre-tax earnings is channeled into social and environmental programs, and I am responsible for that portion allocated to coffee-producing communities.  We make targeted grants to non-profit organizations and coffee cooperatives in our supply chain for programs that reduce poverty and hunger, and support health and environmental sustainability.  Currently, we are funding over 85 projects in coffee growing communities with 45 grantee organizations in 15 countries – all with a common goal of improving the quality of life of coffee farmers and their families at the household level.  Based on the findings from some unsettling research in Central America, a key area of programming focus is improving food security during the “thin months” after the coffee harvest (for more information, visit

The first time I met the team at Sustainable Harvest, I recognized in them a kindred spirit in this “business +” community; and I was not alone: Sustainable Harvest has been a key partner

Drip Irrigation Project with Sustainable Harvest in Tanzania

of GMCR’s on both the commercial side of our business and the social responsibility side for several years.  Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee Model means they have an intimate understanding of the coffee producers in their network, and thus can provide critical insight into the needs and opportunities of producers within our shared supply chain.  Cooperatives that have received funding from GMCR for social programs have often benefited from Sustainable Harvest’s expertise in and passion for development initiatives. We have engaged Sustainable staff to support several of our suppliers with building organic fertilizer plants that incorporate waste from the coffee harvesting process into a nourishing compost that greatly increase yields for farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Sustainable has also led an innovative drip irrigation project in Tanzania that serves thriving vegetable gardens, reinforcing food security in these remote communities.

Sustainable Harvest’s annual “Let’s Talk Coffee” conference provides a unique space for both GMCR’s coffee buyers and corporate social responsibility team to connect with our suppliers and is exemplary of putting the Relationship Model into practice. I attended Let’s Talk Coffee for the first time this year and felt that I had entered a business utopia – where all members of a supply chain had come together to do business in a spirit of mutual respect, shared advantage, and lasting friendship.  This meeting enabled me to connect with representatives from several social projects we are funding, and facilitated conversations with new contacts about opportunities for the future.  An air of excitement permeated the conference center as business partners collaborated to build a robust, inclusive, and prosperous relationship that goes beyond business-as-usual and on to creating a bright, interconnected future together.


Abuzz about the Coffee Industry

This is a guest post written by Colleen Bramhall. Colleen works in our Corporate Social Responsibility Department, managing our Supply Chain Community Outreach programs.

Houston was abuzz last week, in a caffeinated craze for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Annual Conference.  Coffee roasters, baristas, importers,

Brewing coffee using the Chemex method

exporters, coffee farmers, gadget manufacturers, and anyone else even tangentially related to the coffee industry converged on a city typically associated with the other black gold to discover the newest trends, make business connections, taste coffees from various origins, and collaborate on issues impacting the industry.

It was my first time attending the SCAA and it was obvious since I was the only one in a hall of 5000+ people looking for milk and sugar to add to my coffee (a true faux-pas when you are tasting brews of the highest quality!).  Fear not, drinkers of Green Mountain Coffee, I’m not a buyer!  I was there to connect with GMCR’s partners and cooperatives that are grantees of our Supply Chain Outreach program.  When your supply chain wraps around the world from Sumatra to Kenya to Colombia and many places in between, this event is a terrific opportunity to meet just about everyone you need to in the same place at the same time.

The conference kicked off with our friends and neighbors from Grounds for Health winning the 2011 Sustainability Award for their

Merling Preza and Michael Sheridan presenting at SCAA (photo by Bryan Clifton, Heifer)

programs to treat and prevent cervical cancer in the coffeelands – an incredible honor in an industry with so many worthy projects focusing on the long term social, economic, and environmental viability of coffee  production.  And there was much excitement to do even more, with the premiere of After the Harvest, a film underwritten by GMCR, which described the problem of seasonal hunger and featured the work we are funding with Save the Children and Heifer International to improve food security for coffee farmers.  We overheard enthusiastic conversations between our Nicaraguan suppliers about getting together to share ideas on confronting the “thin months” within their communities.

Producer cooperatives shared with us their new ideas for projects that will improve quality of life for farmers, such as building co-op management capacity in Honduras and hosting medical missions to Ethiopia.  I sat in on a meeting organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to introduce new cooperatives to our GMCR coffee buyer team, the first step in opening new markets and opportunities for them.  We met with Coffee Lifeline which provides agronomy and social radio programming targeting coffee farmers in Rwanda and we learned more about the ambitious plans of Coffee Kids, Food for Farmers, Pueblo a Pueblo, Café Femenino, and many others.

I left on a high – not just because of all the extraordinary java I had consumed – but also because I am part of such a fantastic industry where there is so much potential and interest in collaborating for sustainability.

Coffee Lifeline Radio


ASOCAMPO: Growing Coffee and Putting Food on the Table

Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy Coffee-Community Outreach is currently traveling in Guatemala. Rick works and travels around the globe, visiting coffee farms where have outreach programs. Rick's work specifically addresses poverty and hunger in the coffee-growing regions where we source our coffee.

Here is an update from the ground in Guatemala:

San Miguel Pochutla is separated by one volcano from the communities along Guatemala's picturesque Lake Atitlan.  Nestled in the mountains above Pochutla is a small hamlet known as Candelaria, that is home to ASOCAMPO, a Fair Trade cooperative that produces high quality coffee for GMCR.
The co-op was founded in 2002, on what was a large coffee estate known as Finca La Florida.  The owner abandoned the farm following the coffee price crisis in 2001.  Many of the farm's workers purchased the farm with the help of the Guatemalan government. Today over 100 families produce just over one container of coffee.  This is double their production from last year, and the co-op is planning on serious growth, hoping to produce 5 containers within the coming years.

The photo shows a coffee plant nursery that currently is home to 40,000 young coffee plants that will be used to renovate and expand current coffee parcels.  In the coming months this nursery will be expanded to support 100,000 young plants.

Thanks to the support GMCR is providing through Catholic Relief Services, the farmers and their families are now diversifying the use of their land, and in addition to growing coffee are growing food to eat and to sell, as an additional source of income.
The co-op has recently built a green bean packing plant, with the assistance of the Guatemalan government.  Green beans grown by the farmers will be sorted and packed by 37 employees (new jobs!) in the community starting before Easter this year. The project is being facilitated by Cuatro Pinos, supplier of French green beans to COSTCO.
ASOCAMPO is developing rapidly, yet is on a path that is supporting sustainable livelihoods for its family members.

Try some of our coffee that might contain ASOCAMPO's beans.


With great partners comes great coffee

One of the importers that helps us buy a lot of our Fair Trade Organic coffees is called Sustainable Harvest, based in Portland, Oregon. We all do a lot of quality training with our supply chain and the results are higher quality coffees. That’s great for producer groups because they can charge more for their coffee and it’s great for us because, well, we like great coffee.


We just got in a report from them about some of the training activities. Our Coffee Department’s own Stacy Bocskor was in Nicaragua this past spring working with a bunch of our Nicaraguan supply chain. You can read all about it below. Text and picture courtesy of our friends at Sustainable Harvest.

Training Session 1 - Green Mountain HQ, Vermont The first part of the training series took place in at Green Mountain HQ in April. Eber Tocto (Chirinos Cooperative, Peru) and Astrid Bonilla (Federación Campesina del Cauca, Colombia) joined the Green Mountain team, along with Oscar Gonzales and Adam McClellan from Sustainable Harvest. While calibrating on coffees from around the world, the group discussed the criteria that GMCR uses to evaluate coffees, what exactly makes a coffee specialty grade, and strengthening the common language of taste between coffee grower and roaster.

Training Session 2 - UCPCO, Nicaragua For the second installation, the training program headed south to Nicaragua. Stacy Bocskor from Green Mountain was joined on this trip by four Sustainable Harvest staff: Debra Rosenthal, Fernando Seminario, Chabela Cerqueda Garcia, and Oscar Gonzales.

Sustainable Harvest imports more than 40 containers of Nicaraguan coffee for Green Mountain every year, and Green Mountain continues to expand its purchases of Fair Trade and organic certified coffees from Nicaragua. The commitment to these growers is based upon a shared dedication to specialty coffee, and this training session at origin was an opportunity Sustainable Harvest and Green Mountain to set the stage for consistent quality and manageable growth - shared priorities for the future of the Nicaraguan coffee sector for all business partners.

In attendance at the training were: Union of Organic Coffee Farmer Cooperatives (UCPCO), UCA Soppexcca, UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, Corcasan (a Honduran cooperative) and Prodecoop. To start off the day of training, Oscar Gonzales explained a tool he created - the 85 point pyramid. Once a coffee is classified as clean, the pyramid serves as a tool to grade the coffee from the initial 82 points it receives for cleanness, and to arrive at the desired 85 points. Stacy's participation reinforced these messages with her helpful suggestions based on the methodology used by the Green Mountain cupping team. When Stacy explained her role at Green Mountain and some facts about the company, UCPCO manager Heberto Rivas was incredulous at the amount of coffee processed each day, learning that Green Mountain runs through the equivalent volume of his co-op's entire harvest in less than one week.

The training culminated in a final cupping session of samples from each cooperative in attendance. Around the table were highly qualified cuppers, many of them Q certified, and this cupping session was a great opportunity to practice all they had learned during the morning session. Wilmer Estrada, a Q-Grader certified cupper from UCA Soppexcca, commented, "I want to thank you all for being here this week. Your presence shows us that you want to maintain a long-term partnership with us. Knowing that you value direct communication with us and are dedicated to helping us produce high-quality coffee motivates me to continue learning and working hard."

Session 3 - Sustainable Harvest Origin Office, Lima, Peru In June, Sustainable Harvest invited 25 cuppers and co-op managers from Peruvian cooperatives to the new "Center of Excellence" - Sustainable Harvest's coffee training classroom and laboratory. Understanding that training co-op staff in quality control is the best way to affect a positive change in coffee quality, the Center of Excellence is dedicated solely to training producers that provide coffee to Sustainable Harvest and Green Mountain to reach quality expectations, as well as to create stronger supplier groups and long-term relationships.

The course - which covered scoring, flavor descriptions, cupping vocabulary, and Oscar's quality pyramid, and Green Mountains quality expectations - emphasized quality calibration and creating well-rounded cuppers that speak a common language of taste. Manuel Rojas from the Perunor cooperative noted, "The course has helped me understand what the customer wants and what attributes they seek, and naturally this is going to help when we are putting together containers of coffee. I had general ideas, but now after this course, I have a better idea of what our coffee needs to achieve."

The next Center of Excellence training, planned for this August, will train another 25 Peruvian cuppers. This program will continue over the next three years, and will feature beginning, intermediate, and advanced cupping training.

Looking to the future of coffee quality The training courses in Vermont, Nicaragua, and Peru are part of an international, collaborative effort between Green Mountain, Sustainable Harvest, and Green Mountain suppliers. By approaching the path to consistent quality as an evolutionary process, one that must adapt to the changing needs of the farmer and the roaster alike, we are giving producers the tools they require to take the responsibility for coffee quality into their own hands. We look forward to continued success in this endeavor, as we work together to create the future of high-quality coffee.


Little things add up

When it comes to buying green coffee for roasting, we're sort of the ‘customer'. But it's also a relationship business too and we highly value our relationships with the groups and people who sell us coffee. There are some obvious things we can do to help maintain those relationships – things like paying for their coffee right away, hosting people from source up here in Vermont , visiting them, and increasing our purchases.

Some of the less obvious things however can be very rewarding:

One of our suppliers in Nicaragua accidentally shipped a container (37,500 pounds of green coffee) to Oakland, CA, instead of New Jersey . Oops. Oakland 's kind of farther away than New Jersey and they would have been obligated to pay for the trucking from Oakland to New Jersey – to the tune of about $3,000. New Jersey 's where we keep a lot of our coffee before it makes the 7 hour journey up north to Vermont .

Lucky us Tully's in Seattle, WA., is now in our family, so we sent the coffee up north from Oakland to Seattle and it can used in one of Tully's fine coffees. Needless to say, the coop was thankful for our flexibility and for saving them that much money. They sent us a nice thank you note and it made folks here in the Coffee Department very happy.


Visit some coffee farms and the farmers who supply us coffee.

Sometimes our customers call us and ask if they can visit some of our coffee suppliers. We've generally declined the requests since we're not really in the travel and tourism business. (Except when we bring employees to visit coffee farms; in my case, I get to bring employees to Mexico every January). But there are some farms and farmers you can visit in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and these are folks who sell us coffee. You can do all the arranging directly, have a nice vacation down south, drink some great coffee and learn a little more about the coffee business.


1) Costa Rica . We buy coffee from a place called La Hilda Estate. It's north of San Jose, it's owned by our good friends the Vargas family, and they have delicious coffee. You can do a coffee tour and stay in a B and B on the sister farm called Doka Estate. Try some of our coffee that has some of their coffee in it. Info about their coffee tours.

GMCR employees meeting coffee farmer's kids. Photo Will Billings

2) Nicaragua . There's a tourism project called The Coffee Route where you can visit fair trade farmers near Matagalpa , Nicaragua . You can visit the following communities - La Pita, La Corona, La Reina, El Roblar - all of whom have farmers who belong to a 1 st level coop called UCA San Ramón, that makes up part of CECOCAFEN, who sells us some of the coffee we use in some of our Newman's Own Organics blends. Apparently you can even visit their dry mill, Solcafé, and their offices. While we travel quite a bit in this area, we haven't actually done this tour, but imagine it's a fascinating experience. I think this would be a better trip for perhaps a ‘young-at-heart' type traveler who can speak some Spanish. Learn more.
Here's where CECOCAFEN is - it's based in Matagalpa, but is a very large coop.

2) Nicaragua . Selva Negra is a famous coffee farm and estate just outside of Matagalpa. Beautiful, inspirational and very comfortable is how I would describe it.  Of these three places – this is the one place I've stayed and can highly recommend it. In addition, it's where our employees stay when they are on their Nicaragua source trip every winter. We haven't actually started selling their coffee yet – but it's in the works. One of the owners – Mausi – was just here in Waterbury cupping coffee with Lindsey. Here's where they are and here's their website.

Mausi Kuhl cupping with Lindsey Bolger in Waterbury

If you do any of these trips, please let us know how it went and send pictures!


Economic Opportunities for Children of Coffee Farmers through Fundacion Ixil


Last week I traveled to San Gaspar Chajul, home of Asocacion Chajulense, a small scale coffee growing community in Guatemala. 

San Gaspar Chajul, is one of 21 municipalities in the Department of El Quiche.  It is also one of the 10 poorest municipalities in Guatemala.  Like small scale coffee farmers in other regions and countries, the coffee farmers in Chajul pass their most valuable possession, their land, on to their children.  With each successive generation, the land holdings shrink in size to the point when they are no longer economically sustainable.  Families in Chajul and surrounding communities are facing this challenge today.  This situation leaves little opportunity or incentive for young people who wish to stay in the area.  Many migrate seasonally to do other agricultural work within Guatemala.  Others move to nearby urban centers or to the U.S. in search of better economic opportunities. The average daily income in the area is less than $2 per day.


In Chajul, 56% of the population has had no schooling, and only 14% have reached the 6th grade.  In 2002 the illiteracy rate was 65%. 


In 1997, Chajul, with the support of Asociacion Chajulense, opened the Batzul Center of Development (Centro de Desarrollo Batzul), in a facility about 4 miles outside of  the center of Chajul, that provided elementary education.  The school gave priority to the sons and daughters of small scale coffee farmers, with the goal of helping them complete the primary grades. In 2004 there was an effort to establish a private secondary school at the site.  In 2005, this was approved by the Ministry of Education, and it continued operation until 2007.


During restructuring of the organization, they decided to focus on primary education, withdrawing their support of the secondary school. Despite this, Asociacion Chajulense remained concerned about the educational opportunities available for youth and families in the area. It was critical that the Asociacion and the community invest in the education of future generations, because it could help families emerge from the extreme poverty in the area. The co-op decided to offer its support to the establishment of an organization that would promote social development, including education, in the Ixil Triangle, the area located between the communities of San Gaspar Chajul, Nebaj, and Cotzal. The Ixil Triangle suffered through a campaign of genocide in the 1980's and was one of the most heavily affected areas during the country's civil war. The organization that was conceived has been named Fundacion Ixil. 



Late last fall, Carlos Murillo, a friend and supplier to GMCR, asked me to serve on the Board of Founders for Fundacion Ixil.  Over the past few years, GMCR has made a commitment to the area in terms of coffee purchases, support for technical assistance to improve organic farmers' yields, and support of a weaving cooperative to provide the wives and daughters of coffee farmers with an alternative source of income.  Given our commitment to the area, I accepted the invitation from Carlos and went down for the founding meeting of Fundacion Ixil.  


During the meeting Carlos outlined the concept of Fundacion Ixil:  The Foundation will contribute to reducing the severe social problems reflected in the high indexes of poverty and extreme poverty, the high illiteracy rate, and the precarious access to healthcare.


The objectives of the Foundation are:

1. To support social development of the communities and families living in the Ixil Triangle, in the areas of education, health, culture, and generation of economic opportunities. 

2. To integrate the strengths and resources of the communities, local organizations, local governments, national government, churches, partner organizations, and volunteers that share the vision of the Foundation


The initial focus of the Foundation is the creation of a technical center for young people that will offer access to technical education to young people of both sexes in the Ixil region, via short courses designed to conform with the needs and opportunities that exist in the communities.


The initial courses will focus on:

1. Ecotourism:  This program will be oriented toward developing tourism in the region, and will include training of young people in different specialties (like hotel management, restaurant management, tourist guides, etc.).
2. Agricultural Businesses: Given the local agriculture-centered culture, it is proposed to train the new generations to further develop agriculture with a business perspective, with training on integrating themselves into regional, national, and international markets.
3. Curricular Fitness: Improving the training of primary educators, to promote the improvement in the quality of education that children of the Ixil region receive.


All of the courses should correspond to the needs and opportunities of the area, and should also promote social and environmental responsibility so that the students involve themselves in community development.


Write a Note to a Coffee Farmer

Juan Francisco is a small coffee farmer in Nicaragua who is a member of UCPCO, one of our larger suppliers of Fair Trade Organic Coffee. He wrote a nice letter (below) about how his life has changed since he started selling his coffee at Fair Trade prices. The blue sheets below are his scanned letter with a translation courtesy of Sustainable Harvest, the folks who import this coffee from UCPCO and then sell it to us. We buy hundreds of thousands of fair trade organic pounds from UCPCO – great coffees destined for McDonalds restaurants in New England and Newman's Own Coffees in 10/12 bags and Newman's Own K Cups. If you buy some of this coffee, you might be drinking Juan's very own coffee. Or, at the very least, you'll be supporting a coop that's making a huge difference in people's lives. Do you have something to say to Juan? Post a comment below and we'll translate it and pile it up with letters from our own employees and mail to Juan via UCPCO.

Page 1 from Juan

Page 3 from Juan

The Story of Juan Francisco Valladarez

In the year 2000, I first harvested coffee from land that I owned. I was not organized as a member of any cooperative and I had no resources. At that time, there was a lot of robbery of coffee parchment, so every night after depulping my coffee, I slept in the field under the cover of a few pieces of plastic to protect me from the rain. I woke early, when it was still dark, to harvest the little coffee that I could each day. Then, I would carry the bags of parchment out on my shoulder up the hill and to the nearest town to sell them.

In 2004, an extension agent from the co-op UCPCO came to my farm to ask me if I wanted to join the cooperative. He invited me to a two-day training session. I went and I liked what the cooperative offered. I told him that I wanted to be organized, to become a member... Thanks to the team of field workers at the cooperative, my yield has improved with the organic fertilizers that they taught me to make. With their support, I have built a small wet milling area on my farm equipped with a hand depulper, a tube for pumping water to the washing tank, a drying area, a barrel, a large bucket, and a spray pump.

I also have a fair, international market that pays me a good price for my coffee, which is what helps me improve the lives of my family. With UCPCO and the umbrella organization Café Nica, I have also had the chance to cup samples of my own coffee.

I write to you,

Juan Francisco Valladarez Gonzales, and my wife Maria Luisa Landero, and children Francisco, Karla, Marvin, Milton, Karen, Melva, Nelson, and Lilian.