Chances are, you’ve admired the talent or friendly smile of your neighborhood barista. But where does your morning cup of coffee actually begin? There is a fascinating and important tale to every sip you enjoy – and it’s the first in our three-part series highlighting the story behind our coffee at The Glass Knife.
Last week, The Glass Knife team traveled along with our partners at Onyx Coffee Lab about 1,700 miles south to the eastern range of the Colombian Andes. This region is known for its long coffee growing tradition and ideal climate for producing specialty coffees.
Our destination farm was La Palma y El Tucan – the origin of several coffees we have offered at The Glass Knife. Through their “Neighbors & Crops” program, they have identified more than 200 coffee-growing families located within a 10km radius with relatively small farms that range from about 4 to 7 acres. To put into perspective, that’s about 3,000 – 5,000 coffee trees per farm. Each tree stands around six feet tall and looks a bit more like a bush than a tree. The fruit from each tree ultimately yields approximately a half-pound of roasted coffee beans or enough for 25 single espresso shots. It takes a LOT of coffee trees to satisfy the java craving population around the world!
On our journey, we had the opportunity to meet Hermelinda Diaz, who’s coffee we have proudly served at The Glass Knife. Her heart-warming smile, open arms and tight hugs were inspiring. Her coffee is some of the highest quality in the region. We spent time with this strong woman, wandering around her modest farm immersing ourselves in her daily life.
Venturing several kilometers down the mountainside, we spent time with Hernando Cruz, who’s been growing coffee trees for nearly five decades. He is a farmer at heart and is clearly proud of what he does. Guiding us through his beautiful farm – the dense trees, stony streams and uneven hillside – he was beyond content to point out the trees he had personally planted and cultivated for the past 45+ years.
What matters here? Most growers are over 60 years of age. With a coffee tree’s slow maturation and the limited income for smaller farms, younger generations are discouraged from maintaining legacy family farms. Individual farmers like Hernando and Hermelinda seek to increase their farm’s profitability through sustainability programs and by improving their yields through training and tips provided by agronomists. The hope is to boost profitability and increase the appeal of coffee farming to younger generations. Today, the Colombian coffee industry is producing some of the highest quality coffee in the world. But in reality, it’s somewhat in jeopardy for small-scale growers.
We will never drink another cup of coffee without remembering the many faces of the Colombian farmers we met and the time and energy that goes into producing the labor-intensive drink that millions of us enjoy each day. Choosing shops, roasters and producers who support Relationship Model coffee does make a difference not only in sustaining, but revitalizing the coffee-growing culture throughout the world. We are proud to partner with Onyx Coffee Lab as they support the sustainability and welfare of the proud faces behind some of the best coffee we have ever tasted – and that we are pleased to serve to you at The Glass Knife.