San Lucas Tolimán coffee is a compilation of 77 small farms located around the base of the Volcán Tolimán. The majority of these shareholder farmers live and work in the town of San Lucas Tolimán located on Lake Atitlán, 1,677 meters above sea level. This diverse group of Kaqchikel coffee producers acquired their land in many different ways; most by being passed down through generations. Between 1960 and 1996 this region was plagued with extreme violence due to the thirty-year-long civil war in Guatemala. The atrocities of this war caused distrust among people in the region, communities and even neighbors. For years, these farmers were dubious of each other and to this day are wary of outsiders. In 2001, with the crash of the coffee market to an all time low of 0.41 USD per pound and the 2013 rust outbreak, farms were being abandoned and locals sought work elsewhere. However, not all hope was lost among these farmers. Having high quality ancient Bourbon varieties scattered about the region, along with other common Caturra, Catimor, Typica, and Sarchimor varieties found in Guatemala, these farms have the ability to produce excellent coffees, and support producer livelihoods. Three years ago, Andrés Fahsen, owner of the neighboring Finca Pachuj, made the decision to help organize his small farm holding neighbors. At that time, these farms were separate, sometimes conflicting entities with small plots of land, whose owners had little or no access to wet mills or the global coffee market. After establishing trust amongst each other, these farms began working together. The members began to organize an efficient method of compiling and sending their coffee cherries for processing and exportation. This group of small producers have now organized into Cooperative Tinamit Tolimán. They have seen how the cherries they harvest are processed and marketed globally and even have their own roasted coffee that can be found in stores and hotels around Lake Atitlán. The enthusiasm for the cultivation of coffee has been reignited in San Lucas Tolimán. Today they continue to improve their methods of cultivation and harvesting techniques as well as striving to improve their quality of life through harvesting specialty coffees.
Los Volcanes Coffee - Three years ago, Andres Fahsen and Josué Morales had the idea to support the organization of smallholder coffee farms around the base of Volcán Tolimán. After organizing the collection and transportation of these separate farms’ cherries, Los Volcanes began to buy and cup the coffee of San Lucas Tolimán. This was the beginning of their connection with the global specialty coffee market. The first task was to organize a designated spot for the Tolimán farmers to bring their daily harvest. From there the cherries would make the long, treacherous journey to Beneficio La Esperanza to be processed and cupped. Through feedback from the lab, the Tolimán farmers were able to adjust their cultivation techniques to meet the qualifications for specialty coffee. In October 2018, the Tinamit Tolimán Cooperative made their first trip to Beneficio La Esperanza to see where their cherries are processed. In November 2018, members from the cooperative as well as other farmers from the region took part in the first meeting with one of Los Volcanes long-time roaster clients. They presented their brightly packaged, marketed coffee, and in large letters across the front of the product it read: ‘San Lucas Tolimán’. The pride and gratitude shown on the faces of the Tolimán farmers in that moment was moving beyond words. Along with feedback from the Los Volcanes Lab, head agronomist Luis Barrios is working with the farmers to help improve their cultivation and harvesting techniques. Los Volcanes plans to help renovate many of the small farms through a system of pruning coffee plants in order to increase production. Through the assessment of the soil and other cultivars on the small farms they can determine how much fertilizer is needed, as well as suggest the proper use of shading in accordance with the Atitlán climate. The farmers, who previously had little to no knowledge of what happened to their cherries after being sold, are now able to see the processing, roasting, and cupping of their coffees.
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