March 04, 2020 Posted by

El Brujo's Destiny

With X currently in Guatemala and heading down to Honduras in the coming weeks, we thought it was timely to post a little op-ed he recently penned about an update from one of our closet producing partners and friend, Benjamin Paz.

"For the past few years, we've been fortunate enough to form a bond and friendship with Benjamin Paz from Beneficio San Vicente, our exporting partner for Honduras. For those who may not have been able to attend our Origin Talk with Benjamin in Seattle or here in Chicago, Benjamin is not only the relationship manager for Beneficio San Vicente but also the owner of several small farms. These farms have allowed him to pursue his dream of having his vision at every step of the coffee chain. 

Working with Elias Meza (his farm manager), they started producing a lot of Pacas, Catuai, and Paranimea varietals- the last being the coffee we've purchased for the past three harvests. This Paranimea lot, dubbed "El Brujo," has been stellar and a personal fave from Honduras. Our excitement for his craft has made Benjamin's latest update from origin all the more unfortunate.

I'm sad to report that the current crop at origin has been drastically affected by some global factors. And we will not be receiving another El Brujo delivery. While we have, on occasion, received word from our producing partners where yields are low, we have yet to encounter a situation with partners where the delivery was unable to be filled. The culprits here, unfortunately, are not unshared. The two foreboding factors are [1] a lack of available labor and [2] harvest beginning much earlier than usual. 

In Santa Barbara, we expect harvest to start sometime around February. This year, folks began to pick coffees around November due to a long dry period, followed by late showers, which could have triggered the flowering too soon. And because cherries mature at different stages and early, this necessitates a human variable: to hand-pick, to select only the ripe cherries. Unfortunately for Benjamin and Elias, quality pickers were simply unavailable. 

These factors, to me, are clear evidence of the effect that climate change has on coffee farming, more challenges for the already difficult job that most producers face– not just in Honduras, but literally everywhere coffee grows. The question, for me, becomes: What can we do on our end of the coffee chain? Does paying more for coffee help? Absolutely! A financial promise is the reason producers STILL plant and harvest coffee. There is a future for truly sustainable coffee, and we've witnessed clear examples from partners that being truly equitable is a path towards sustainability [both in economics and environment]. 

With all this on my mind, I felt that it would be a disservice not to write to you, our loyal consuming partners– if we didn't take this opportunity to share the challenges producers face through education and transparency. I am saddened that this next lot of El Brujo will not see the light of day, but I sip thankful, that our current lot of El Brujo did make it stateside and that it tastes radiant as ever. And I remain hopeful that down the road, El Brujo will triumphantly return to our menu better than ever!

In a few short weeks, we will be making our annual pilgrimage to Santa Barbra, visiting our producing partners. I hope to report back with more information and details about the future of El Brujo. As well as good news from our other partners in Santa Barbara. For now, please join me in enjoying the last bit of El Brujo that we have before it's gone."

-Xavier, Metric's Co-founder & Green Buyer