The Boss Barista Takeover — Dispatches from Colombia, Part Two

Listen to the second part of our interview series with farmers in Colombia

  
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Welcome to the Boss Barista takeover!

A few weeks ago, I put a call out to coffee folks, fans, and drinkers across the globe to pitch ideas about the podcast they’ve been dreaming of making—and today we’re turning the mic over to the fourth in our series of guest creators. 

This episode is a little different than what you’ve heard so far. This is the second of a two-part episode, so if you haven’t listened to the first part, I encourage you to go back. We heard from Deiro García, a farmer in Colombia, and now we’re going to hear from Alejandra Hoyos, who is part of a women’s cooperative in southern Colombia. 

As Sebastián notes, Alejandra is direct and curious, and her insights are poignant. We sent her the same set of questions we sent Deiro, and her answers are eye-opening and might change your perspective on how you buy and consume coffee. Like the last episode with Deiro, you’ll hear me and Sebastián talk, then a clip from Alejandra in Spanish, and then Sebastián comes in to explain what we’ve just heard.

Anyone who buys coffee should tune in—as I record this introduction, there are demonstrations in Colombia to protest corruption and inequality, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, so I hope this encourages anyone who buys coffee from Colombia to think critically about their purchasing decisions and listen to farmers. Let’s listen to part two of this episode. 


Ashley: So I'm back with Sebastián. The last time we got together, we talked about Deiro, who is a farmer in Huila, and he shared a ton of different perspectives about coffee-growing. We talked a lot about coffee-growing management, about maximizing profits, and how the cost of a coffee maybe doesn't even matter as much if the cost of production is a number you don't know, or a number that you don't understand. 

We're gonna shift gears a little bit. So we're going to talk to a different coffee farmer. So Sebastián, I was hoping that you could tell me a little bit about who we're going to hear from next. 

Sebastián: This one is Alejandra Hoyos. She's a young coffee grower from Pitalito, Huila. I met her one year ago buying her coffees. She has this crazy energy and she's super interested in the coffee business. Why do certain coffees pay [this amount]? Or why are other coffees [bought like this]? She's super curious, so I became a friend of hers. For this, with Ashley, we asked her some questions about her insights as a young coffee grower and also as a woman in the coffee-growing business. 

Ashley: So let's hear her. We asked her the same questions that we asked Deiro, so we're going to hear some similar responses, but we're also going to hear some very different perspectives, too. So let's jump in with Alejandra.

Alejandra: Bueno, creo que sería muy importante hacer énfasis en la importancia que tiene consumir un café de calidad y sobre todo el apoyo que se está haciendo no solamente a una familia, sino a una economía completa, no? Resulta que cuando una persona consume una taza de café que es exportada eeh por Colombia, no solamente se apoya a la pequeña familia caficultora que depende del café, sino que también se apoya la economía colombiana, digamos, en este caso específico se apoyaría la economía Huilense porque es en cosechas cuando el café que la economía se mueve entonces y siento que es como hacer énfasis en la importancia que tiene la producción bueno del consumo de del café dentro de una economía nacional.

Ashley: So what did Alejandra talk about in that first part? 

Sebastián: She talks about the consumption inside the country. Alejandra works with their mom in their farm—her mom is part of an association of growers that are, I think, mostly women. So besides selling their coffee to exporters outside of Colombia, they roast coffee as an association and they sell the coffee. 

Sometimes the percentage of profit is bigger [than exporting their coffee]. But as I told you the last time, good coffee doesn't have a big consumption here in Colombia. So that's why she talks about that—that it’s really important to improve that part of coffee here in the country. 

Ashley: That's a really interesting point. I've heard other coffee farmers in different countries talk about the importance of improving in-country consumption and how by shortening the supply stream, they're able to not only keep more of the money for themselves, but also to reinvest in their own country. So all the money stays within the country. 

Sebastián: Yeah, that's true. Besides that, they also do a marmalade jam made out of a coffee skin. 

Ashley: Oh, like cascara jam? 

Sebastián: Yeah, cascara jam. I think they make a dulce de leche—maybe people understand that, I don't have the word in English—made out of cascara as well. So this association is full of women, I think. They make all these things and then they go and sell it. That's why I think the first thing that Alejandra had to say is that we have to support these kinds of projects or businesses—we can't live only by selling coffee to exporters. We have to sell our things here inside the country. 

Ashley: I imagine that is important obviously in terms of keeping money within the country, but also in terms of just relying on your own systems and your own structures, being able to say, “We support us and not being dependent on trade,” essentially. 

Sebastián: Exactly. 

Ashley: In this second part we asked Alejandra if she's had experience with roasters and buyers asking for things that aren't feasible and she says no, so you'll hear her say that, but then she'll jump into the third question where she talks a little bit about if she was ever worried about her crop or anything like that. So we're going to hear that part.

Alejandra: No, digamos que la segunda pregunta, cuántas veces los tostadores y compradores de café piden cosas que no son factibles? No, digamos que nosotros hemos tenido experiencias con compras, pero no, no, no, hasta ese punto, si? Entonces no, no podría responder esa pregunta como con exactitud.

Hmm Claro que sí. Yo siento que uno siempre se ha preocupado por la cosecha, por varios factores, empezando porque dependemos mucho del clima, no? dependemos mucho del clima, de que haga un buen verano, pero también haya un balance entre la lluvia y la época de verano, porque resulta que necesitamos el verano para que pegue la flor y bueno para que, por decirlo así, el proceso sea más, más productivo, pero también necesitamos el invierno, porque pues es el que le da la estabilidad al cultivo. Entonces esa es una problemática.

Eeeh y también es una problemática cuando nosotros invertimos dinero y usualmente los caficultores pues nos endeudamos para lograr una cosecha, pero pues resulta que nadie nos garantiza el precio del producto final, porque a pesar de que nosotros producimos un café de calidad, pues el mercado es muy competitivo, los precios son muy fluctuantes, no hay garantías que nos diga : a este precio ustedes lo van a vender, sino que simplemente es como lo que quiere el mercado y a lo que ellos nos ofrezcan, porque pues cuando llega cosecha no hay otra opción sino vender el producto al precio que estén; entonces eso es una preocupación.

Ashley: I was wondering if you can explain a little bit what Alejandra's concerns are in terms of weather and growing her crops? 

Sebastián: So for example, Deiro talked about processing and the risk of processing. Alejandra talks about the risks of coffee-growing as a whole, because growers sometimes go into debt to buy the products to make their harvest—all the chemicals, fertilizers, everything—and those prices, they're always steady. [Sometimes] they go higher, but that's really tricky because you are making an investment, but you don't know for how much you are going to sell your coffee because you have no idea the price of coffee at the time you sell it—we move with the market. 

So they are making a big investment. If, at the end, after the harvest, they go and sell and the price is not that good—that's the biggest risk because it's really difficult to find someone that can guarantee you a price. Because … that investment, they must do it—if they don't do that investment, the harvest is not going to be good. 

She talks about that there's no guarantees—when she offers something that maybe is not what the market is looking for. And sometimes there is no other option but to sell the product at whatever price. So it's a big concern for her. 

Ashley: Interesting. I didn't even consider that as a farmer, you have to be in some ways a salesperson. I mean, obviously you're selling coffee, you're selling coffee to potential buyers, but you also almost have to sell—not you, but you have to make that extra step. It's never, I don't know. I'm not confused per se, I guess I'm trying to put it into words, but it is a very interesting way to think about how we make transactions. 

So the next part we're going to hear is about coffee buyers and risks. And then she also will go into that idea of photography and the portrayal of relationships. So that's the next part we're going to hear from Alejandra.

Alejandra: No realmente los compradores de café no asumen ningún riesgo, ni ofrecen algún tipo de ayuda. Lo que sí se conoce a veces son los seguros que ofrecen las cooperativas, eh pero bueno, los seguros no, sino las ventas, por decirlo así, como los avances que uno hace, por igual el número de kilos es restringido, no? No es que uno pueda asegurar toda la cosecha.

Umm has tenido alguna vez una relación con un comprador de café que haya sido retratada de manera diferente en redes sociales de lo que realmente es? Sí. De hecho, siento que la mayoría de las relaciones que salen ha sido con con compras de café. Son relaciones muy como Jerarquizadas si? Y entonces pues uno en redes sociales como que , eh estamos trabajando de la mano del caficutlor, estamos haciendo esto por el caficultores y muestran pues muchas cosas que realmente uno va a la práctica y dice pues hay barreras muy grandes, no? Entonces resulta que es una fachada. Siento yo que para vender ese, esa idea al mercado externo, pero pues a los caficultores nunca los tratan, a veces ni siquiera con el respeto que se merecen por todo el trabajo que han hecho, sino como venga, quioero comprar eso, pero pues de ahí no me importa sus necesidades, eeh y de hecho aveces ni siquiera es el trato digno y humano que uno requiere no? Que uno espera. Porque pues, es un, es una relación en la que ambas partes ganan. Yo gano porque estoy vendiendo el café, pero usted también gana porque pues está eeeh trabajando con mi café, exporta mi café y debería hacer un trato como más, por decirlo así, parejo. Pero pues eso no se ve sino como solamente la fachada.

Ashley: So in this part, Alejandra is talking about risk a little bit, but she's also talking about the way that coffee farmers are portrayed on social media, and the way that roasters portray the relationships with farmers. And she talks a little bit about the hierarchy of it all too, which is really interesting. She talks about how power dynamics work. So I was wondering if you could explain a little bit what she's talking about in this section. 

Sebastián: Yeah. Alejandra, she's really straightforward—always. And I like that about her. She doesn't speak English, but she always speaks her mind to any roasters. So that's really nice. She says in the audio that a lot of roasters come and are like, “I’m the roaster and I came here to maybe be a savior.” 

She gets that feeling when roasters come and visit them. And she doesn't like that because it's not fair. They are producing something and [the roaster] is buying something—period, that's it. They're working hard, they're selling, and the roaster is buying, and that's the whole transaction. 

For her it’s like, it's not fair because sometimes [the roasters] show on social media something that is not true. As we talked about the last time, maybe they just came here for the picture. It’s tricky because [a grower might] want to have the picture because free PR for the grower. But also they don't like that [sometimes the roaster doesn’t] buy anything. Or if they buy and it’s not the price that they're hoping for. If a roaster comes, they hope, “Oh I’m going to sell my coffee [at a good price],” but when the roaster gives the price to the grower, they're like, “Oh, hey, it's not that good.” 

Sometimes you feel like you have to take the picture and be like, “Okay, let's take this picture and hear what this roaster has to say or offer” this year. She feels like roasters don’t care. And one time, she told me it feels silly to do all these huge parades when someone comes and everything—here’s your lunch, come here and everything, and at the end, it’s like, “Oh, it's for nothing—this is a not-so-good price,” so all of this for nothing. 

Ashley: I think that's a good point. You mentioned that it's almost like a show. It's like, “Here's the farm. And we're going to have lunch for you. And you get to take these photos,” and you almost feel obligated to do it because you don't really have another option because maybe they will buy the coffee. Maybe they won't buy the coffee. And there's this expectation that this is how this goes. But it seems like what Alejandra is saying is that, “No, this is fake. This is a business transaction.” Either you're buying this coffee or you're not buying this coffee. Either way, I don't care, but let's not pretend that this is something different. 

Sebastián: Exactly. I'm going to say exactly what she said. “I win because I'm selling you the coffee, but you are also winning because you are working with my coffee, exporting my coffee. And you should treat me like an equal.” And that’s true. We should be like that. That’s basic human decency. 

Ashley: It seems like we sometimes treat these relationships between coffee farmers and roasters as something else. I think you even said so yourself—it's just like a very white saviorism mentality. 

Sebastián: Yeah. She feels like that. I understand her point, but as I told you, and as I told Alejandra once, “Look, a lot of people come here and I know how you feel, but trust me that a lot of roasters, a lot of customers, they have their heart in the right place. But sometimes they don't know how to share it.”

Someone hasn’t shared with them how it should be—how these kinds of things should be. Sometimes I'm there for that reason, me, Sebastián, I'm there for that. When I bought the coffee from Alejandra I told her that. “I know how you feel, and I understand your point, but there are people who want to do really good work with you.”  

That's why, sometimes, the middleman is needed—so these transactions can be just a business transaction, nothing else. What Alejandra says is true, and that's why it's really important for a coffee buyer, as I told you the first time, to sit and listen, because this is a real concern from a real grower and it is valid. A coffee buyer shouldn’t say, “Oh, she’s a kid, she doesn’t know.” No—she knows. We should listen to her. Or we should sit with her and explain my point of view as well and to try to get to a part where we will agree. 

I'm not going to tell her, “Hey, just go with it.” No, of course not, because it’s her farm, it’s her life, and she's right. I really like what she said. She should be treated like an equal—period. If you are a buyer, if you're a roaster that’s listening to this, just listen to people. Listen not just to be nice, listen to really listen, because a lot of people have concerns. If you want to have a really good and healthy relationship with that grower, you should take into mind everything that they say. 

Ashley: So in the next part, we're going to talk about price again, and what I like about Alejandra's responses is that she gets really specific with numbers. So we're going to hear her talk about that.

Alejandra: Gran parte del café se comercializa hablando de relaciones,que los compradores construyen con los caficultores y producen

Cuál es un buen precio para el café? No tiene porque ser una cifra exacta, pero cuando habla con un comprador de café, qué le parece justo y que busca? Bueno. Cuáles son? Un buen precio para el café.

Pero cuando hablo con un comprador de café, qué le parece justo y que busca? Bueno, yo siento que hablándolo en términos, en términos económicos y es sobre y para sobrevivir, el precio por millón 300 es bien, si? Digamos, es un precio estable, que es una ganancia y puede ser sostenible.

Pero cuando habla con un comprador de café, qué le parece justo y qué busca? Bueno, yo siento que cuando hablamos con un comprador de café, o cuando ofrecemos nuestro producto más allá de la misma comprar del mismo, lo que queremos primero es que nos explique cómo está funcionando el mercado y que nos digan qué podría ser más viable y cómo a qué apuntarle, no? Porque como todo el mercado cambia entonces yo siento que el hecho de que uno compra el café nos ayude a mejorar procesos, nos diga como mejorar el, a veces dentro del mismo manejo de una finca pues es de gran ayuda e impacto. Y siento que lo que más buscamos los caficultores es acompañamiento, no? Dentro de todo el proceso. Porque pues nosotros producimos y metemos como toda la ficha durante el año, pero pues a fin de cuentas nadie nos garantiza nada.

Ashley: So in this section, Alejandra talks about pricing and money really specifically. I was hoping that you could break down a little bit some of the numbers that she's using, and what exactly a carga is.

Sebastián: Okay. Alejandra talks about cargas. So one carga is 125 kilos of parchment coffee. Parchment coffee is coffee that is directly from the farm. A carga is roughly 90 kilos of green coffee, ready to be exported. So 1.3 million pesos is roughly $358 [U.S. dollars] that she's getting per carga. That's her numbers. And that's what she thinks will be a fair price for her coffee to be sustainable. 

But she also says that what she thinks is good. But also she says it's really good to speak with the buyer to see what is fair to the buyer or what he or she is looking for. She wants mostly explanations on why the coffee buyer pays this or that. So I think it's really varied because she knows how much is a fair price at the beginning, but maybe the buyer can pay a higher price, but she wants to understand where this price comes from.

Ashley: That's an interesting point because I think what often happens in coffee when we have something like the C-market, or something like the New York Stock Exchange dictating price, there's this idea that there's an inherent value to coffee. But I think what Alejandra is saying is that the price of coffee comes from this negotiation—from this talking with the coffee buyer, seeing what they need, talking to the growers, seeing what their cost of production is, which is going to be very different. 

So she sets her price at 1.3 million Colombian pesos as something that's sustainable, but that doesn't necessarily translate to everybody. And I have to imagine that's not the price that everybody's getting, right?

Sebastian: Yeah. It's tricky, because every buyer has a different price and it depends on what they are looking for. So what Alejandra said is that she wants to understand that. “Okay, you have given me this price, but where does that price come from? Why are you giving me this price? She's really curious, and when we, as a company bought her coffee, she was like, “Okay, the price is good, but now I want to cup with you because I want to know what you are looking for. If I cup, and this is what you’re looking for, I'm going to try to replicate the same. So you keep buying from me.”

Ashley: I was just saying that's super helpful, because like we were saying, that there is no finite thing that makes a price a price. It's understanding between the two actors what is needed, which is really interesting that she picked that up—she's immediately on that, like, “Oh, you're paying me this much for this. I'm going to go cup with you and see what you’re looking for.” 

Sebastián: Exactly. That’s super good because when you are dealing with a grower like that, you know that they will keep delivering. She knows about what I'm looking for. For example, one day I might say, “Alejandra, I’m looking for another thing.” And she will understand. Maybe she will say, “Okay, so I'm going to talk to this other buyer [then].”  

And I think that's what I'm saying about healthy relationships. You can be honest in both good and bad. “I can't buy this coffee right now for this and this.” And she understands that. I think that this is one of the best relationships we have here in Colombia, because it's really mature and we can be honest with each other. And there is no tricky business or something like that. 

I cup with her, and she asks me, “Why did you give him that score?” Or, “Why didn't you like that note?” And it's my job to explain to her, “Look, maybe this note of, I don't know, sugarcane, right now from this customer is not super relevant.” And she will understand, and it's really good for her because I'm one of the buyers. And with other buyers, she will already know if the buyer, if it's not a good one and if they’re lying to her, she will know, and now she can make a decision and say, “I'm not going to sell to you.” That's really good.

Ashley: Yeah. That sounds incredible. And it seems like Deiro kind of talks a little bit about that in terms of farm management and just understanding how complex the entire system is. 

So let's talk a little bit about what a bad price is. Because we also asked Alejandra about that, which is what we're going to hear next. 

Alejandra: Cuando alguien plantea un mal precio, cómo responde usted? El tema del manejo de las fincas dentro de la organización que tienen los caficultores, pero resulta que hace un tiempo hablamos de unos tres años atrás, eh la carga de café estaba más o menos de 750 mil pesos y resulta que hablo por la experiencia de nosotros, eh hubo que vender a ese precio. No hubo opción. O sea, teníamos ese precio. Teníamos deudas encima, eh? No había mejor precio. Y era eso o que las deudas se incrementaran y quedar como sin aprovechar, lo que se produjo, o sea, lo que se sacó en cosecha. Pero igual yo siento que pues que eso es muy complejo, no?

Que el tema del precio está, no está regulado, porque a pesar de que hay momentos en que el precio es estable y puede considerarse sostenible, hay momentos en que el precio cae y nadie le ofrece las garantías al caficultor para que siga produciendo buen café, sino que simplemente el mercado cambia. Es muy versátil y todo está como a lo que quiere el mercado. No hay nada fijo dentro de la producción del café.

Así que yo diría que cuando hay un mal precio, el caficultor en general, lo vende. O sea como que toca hacerlo, porque no hay más opción.

Ashley: So in this part, Alejandra is talking about what a bad price could look like. But I think what she does is kind of says that, “Yes, we might get a bad price for a coffee, but there are no other options if that's the only offer you have on the table.” 

Sebastián: Yeah. Sadly, I think that's what happened five years ago. The New York Stock Exchange price [for coffee] was really, really bad. And in Colombia, the price was really low everywhere for standard coffee. And sometimes for example, if you are a grower that usually sells to the local market and there is this price, sometimes you don't have another option, so you have to sell.

And that's what happened to them, sadly, five years ago, she told me, and it was less than the cost of production. And they made an investment, as I told you, at the beginning of harvest, they made an investment. They didn't know how much the price [of coffee] was going to be. So they lost money. If they knew about the price that it's going to be, they probably wouldn’t have made that investment or they would have made a lower one. 

So that's the most difficult part of being a coffee grower—that sometimes you don’t know. For example, when the growers sell specialty coffee, maybe you will get a better price, but not all the coffee that comes from the farm is specialty. Never, never—like maybe half of your production, you're going to sell it as a specialty. The other part is local markets. 

So for example, right now the prices are good. But when it comes at really low prices, that's when the problem comes. So it's not only paying for the good coffees, like everyone can pay and it's really easy to sell for the grower. The tricky part is like, “Who is going to buy my regular coffee?” 

Ashley: That's a really good point. I think that people often forget that when you look at a farm, no matter how big or how small—maybe very small farms are excluded from this—but when you look at a farm, only a certain percentage of that coffee is going to be the 87, 88, 89 [coffees] that are going to pay a premium. And then you have the rest of this coffee. And you're like, “What do I do with this?”

Sebastian: Exactly. That's tricky. It's really, really tricky, and sometimes maybe the roaster wants to, but maybe the coffee is going to be really hard to sell for the roaster? So there are other factors in there that right now I can’t tell you, “Okay. I think this is how we can solve it.” But I think as an industry, as a whole, we have to figure it out. 

Ashley: We have to make that investment, or at least take on some of that risk, because I think what you said was interesting that maybe the roaster can't sell that coffee. I kind of want to call bullshit on that because I think most roasters can sell those coffees. 

I think most roasters would be hard-pressed to say, “My consumers can tell the difference between 84 and 86.” So I think that argument that a roaster is like, “Oh, maybe I can't sell this coffee.” I'm like—I don't know that I believe a roaster who makes that argument, but that's me being pessimistic.

Sebastián: I don't know. I don't know either—maybe they can do a blend?

Ashley: Right. There's a place for that coffee to go. 

Sebastián: Yeah. I think the risk … but I can’t just tell someone how to run their business. I don't know their profits or their margins or—I have no idea, the job. My job should be, “Hey, you buy the good coffee. That's nice, but there's this good coffee [here] as well. Maybe you have a price and maybe we can work on a price. Of course it's a bit lower [for coffees that don’t score as high], but it can work for you and for the grower as well.” It’s also our job to maybe push those coffees also to say, “Hey, don't buy only the good ones. You can buy this standard coffee.” 

Ashley: I guess this is a hard question to answer because every situation is different, but when you're talking to potential buyers and let's say they want to buy, I don't know, 20% of a farmer's coffee, but [the farmer] has this other 80% that's still great, but is maybe not the same quality as the other 20%. How do you try to have those conversations with a potential buyer? Do you try to talk about investment? Do you try to talk about risk? 

I wonder what that conversation even looks like for you, because I imagine that part of your job is having that kind of conversation with buyers to say you're making an investment. The future of coffee depends on all of us taking on some of these risks. 

Sebastián: Yeah. I always have to be honest with the grower and the buyer. I won’t tell the buyer or the roaster to buy something that is not really good, that isn’t of quality. When I see that this coffee that this grower or this association has that maybe is left that is good, my job is to tell the roaster or roasters, “Hey, this coffee is good, let’s work on a price,” or, “It’s good so you can make a blend,” or, “It’s good, you can sell it as a regional [offering],” or, “It’s good, maybe you can put it in espresso and the price won’t be super high.”   

And if the roasters or the roaster agree, I have to go to the growers or the association and work with them to make a price. It has to be, of course, higher than the local market. 

I always try to sell all the coffee I can from a grower, because it’s going to be good for everyone because the [grower] is going to have a better relationship with me, the roaster, maybe they didn’t know that coffee was available, and everyone is happy. 

Ashley: So the last part we're going to hear is Alejandra responding to the question, “What do you want people to know about growing coffee in Colombia?”

Alejandra: Hay algo específico del cultivo y la venta de café en Colombia que quieras destacar?

Si yo siento que pues podrá sonar como muy idealista, no sé. Pues no sé cómo suene, pero yo siento que es importante destacar todo el proceso que hay detrás de la producción de de una taza de café y sobre sobre todo cómo enfocarse en las personas que lo producen, no? En las familias que lo producen, en la importancia que tiene este cultivo para las generaciones. El amor que sienten los caficultores por su café, por el proceso que hacen, en lo que las expectativas de vida, que un cultivo de café puede brindar, brindarle a una familia y cómo, a pesar de lo difícil que es cultivar café y sostenerse, ese cultivo ha ayudado a que muchas familias pues en Colombia salgan adelante, le brinden educación a sus hijos e tengan mejor calidad de vida. Entonces yo siento que sería ideal que detrás de una taza de café haya una historia, una historia que contar, una historia que nos motive a seguir apoyando ese tipo de mercado. Y sobre todo siento que la historia que los caficultores crean más en lo que hacen y no sientan que solamente con ir y dejar el café en la compra, el proceso que hay, o sea como que finaliza, sino que realmente de allá hacia allá hay un mundo extenso, al que ellos también pueden acceder y un mundo lleno de oportunidades para sus hijos también, no?

Porque resulta que hay muchos caficultores que creen que voy entrego el café y ahí se acaba todo, no conocen como la escala. Entonces yo creo que resaltar la labor del caficultor y enseñarle al caficultor a la vez bueno, trabajar de la mano con el caficultor y decirle como "vea lo que hace su cultivo o vea lo que hace su calidad de producción en el exterior" es también importante para que ellos se apropien y pues cojan amor a lo que hacen. Porque pues, si produce un buen café en las condiciones en las que actualmente están, pues no me quiero imaginar, quiero imaginar lo que puede llegar a producir si pueden conocer el proceso que sigue su producto.

Ashley: What do you want to highlight in this part? What do you think is important of what Alejandra said that you want to highlight right now? 

Sebastián: Alejandra, she’s a really down-to-earth woman, and she's really [family-oriented]. She really cares about her family. She really wants to highlight that all the coffee that is sold should have the name on it. Like this coffee [should have] at least the name from this association in Huila. And this association is made up of women. And the names of these women are this, this, this, this … because coffee growers are really passionate and they get really excited when they see their name on a bag, because it’s the reward of their hard work.

I love when we can give them that—to give them that gift of a bag with their name and their association. That’s the part that makes people really happy. Besides that, it’s always a fair price or a fair profit so they can live. 

People forget that this is a business. This is not a hobby. This is not something that people just do on the weekends. No, this is a business. People that grow coffee have families, they have to sustain themselves. They want to send their children to school, to university like you, they want to go on vacation like you, they want to go out on a weekend and eat someplace fancy, like you, they want the best for their family. 

We should, as an industry, pay attention to that. That it’s a business. If you are asking for something that is not profitable for the grower, don’t ask for it. Or if you don't think that you are doing your best so the growers make a profit and they can live a good life with their family, well, try harder. 

At the end, I think Alejandra says that—think about the families, think about that they are people too. Let’s say you’re a roaster living in San Francisco, and you go out with your friends and family on the weekend—growers want to do the same, period, that's it. Try to be more involved in that. Try to ask more questions. Try to investigate more. 

I don't think anyone will get mad if you ask more. If you happen to buy from us, for example, ask me, I will be more than happy to answer. We're more than happy to share everything, like I'm doing here with you, because I'm lucky enough to work for an international company, but also to be in the region and also to be with the growers and also to know their staff and their concerns. I can show it to the world. 

That's the message that Alejandra wants to tell to the world, and Deiro as well, just be good, be nice. Let's all make a business out of this. 

Ashley: Sebastián, thank you so much for highlighting these stories and asking these farmers to share their experiences and giving us a lens into some of the real struggles that are happening with coffee farmers in Colombia. I really appreciate your time. 


That was my conversation with Sebastián Diacono, breaking down insights from Alejanda Hoyos.

Thanks again to Chobani for making this episode possible, and if you want to learn more, give Sebastián a follow on Twitter (@sebdiacono) —he’s more than happy to hear your responses and answer questions.