“Made by Humans” is a phrase we keep coming back to. It’s on the bottom of our coffee bags, and is something that constantly reminds us what effort goes into this amazing product we call coffee. We consider the craft that goes into your cappuccino, the time and consideration put into the roasting process, and everything we do over at 2021 West Fulton a part of that phrase. But it is in going to origin, meeting and eating with local producers, and witnessing part of the long and hard harvest that we can truly gain the full impact of what “Made by Humans” really means. This week, we wanted to share some of Xavier Alexander’s recent experience in Honduras.
It is impossible to describe the many wonderful people that impacted this experience, or the countless others who made the trip possible. The key players in this journey include Ryan Lodge, a local Chicago filmmaker who took on the project of documenting the experience, and Benjamin Paz, a local producer and acquaintance that ran cuppings and traveled to the farms with Xavier and Ryan.
The week started out in Peña Blanca. In Honduras, a traditional start to the day involves baleadas, a flour tortilla piled with black beans, cheese, and scrambled eggs. Two (or three or four) baleadas later, the crew was ready to start cupping. Tables were stacked with coffees brought from local lots. Along the way, Xavier and Ryan interviewed and filmed the experience. Without an agenda or strict shooting schedule, the two simply worked together to capture organic moments.
“We cannot plan life. Life happens, and then we’re there,” said Xavier. “It’s just part of exposing the humanity of traveling to another country and learning about their customs, about who they are, and what makes them them. That’s what he wanted to highlight, and I believe he’ll do that successfully.”
When buyers visit the coffeelands, it is common that the metaphorical red carpet to roll out. Large, labor-intensive meals of freshly gathered veggies and all-too-fresh meats are presented with a humble grace, and many thanks can only partially express the gratitude we feel at being at the table. Gathering and enjoying good company wraps up the day, with tomorrow following a similar trajectory of cupping, farm visits, and conversation. Truly, we are honored to be there just as equally as they feel honored to have us.
Wonderful coffee, good food, and beautiful landscapes are elements of what make origin trips exciting, but it is people who make the most lasting impression and who so often broaden or perspective.
“Last year was our first year working with Denis Enamorado Moreno. Through Benjamin, we connected with Denis who had just produced his first exportable microlot. So coming back around to revisit Denis this year, getting to know him in a more personal light and to know the man behind the coffee was a high honor for me,” said Xavier.
It is remarkably easy to romanticize the coffeelands—and there is a true sense of wholesome beauty to look forward to when going to origin. Yet by talking to locals and coffee farmers in person, a glimpse of the reality of day to day life is visible. From legal and illegal deforestation practices, to unsustainable hunting habits locals turn to out of desperate poverty, to nearby tilapia farms introducing damaging chemicals into local water supplies, there are hosts upon hosts of problems.
“It seems easy to set aside because you’re in the middle of all this beauty and splendor. But those guys live there, they know what’s ugly, what’s underneath.”
Many of these issues seem too large to take on, but it’s still worth trying. Some issues, like illegal deforestation and hunting practices that interrupt the ecosystem (an ecosystem that coffee relies on), can be directly addressed by people like us. By making coffee production profitable to local humans, we can not only protect a crop that we depend on and enjoy, but we can actually improve the quality of life of potentially hundreds of people. That’s why Xavier is not determined to beat people down to the bare minimum dollar amount they’ll accept for their coffee and labor—instead he is focused on paying fair, often above-market prices directly to the farmers.
“Right now we have direct relationships with these guys, and we pay top dollar for their coffee. That’s the dream, where we can pay even more for it. For us, six hundred dollars extra in the pocket is great, but it’s not changing your life, it’s not making your year. For them, it makes their year,” said Xavier
He is referring not only to a single person or family who runs the farm, but also the people and families who pick, wash, and dry the coffee, too. Six hundred bucks goes a long way in Honduras. We are excited to be connecting directly with farmers in Honduras this year—it means more money in their pockets, and also translates into great coffee for us.
“It’s building a relationship. The more we go, the more we show up, the more they will see that I care about what they’re doing and I want to support their business. And I know that if they know that I value that relationship, they will always treat me with respect. And not just me but Metric Coffee. That’s the nirvana of doing business,” said Xavier.
Coffee passes through an incredible number of hands. Each and every person makes that final cup possible, but here, at origin, is where it all starts. This is our second year visiting Honduras, and we are more thrilled than ever to have partners in this immensely beautiful and promising region. We will be sure to share Ryan’s film project when it is complete. To be able to share this experience visually will be something rare and truly special. In the meantime, stop by to talk about this recent trip, stay tuned for the next part where we delve into the Guatemalan leg of this trip, and, as always, keep enjoying amazing coffee.