Head Roaster, Matt meets the newest addition to the Rumble family: the brilliant Marlon Del Valle of El Valle, Guatemala.
Beautiful Guatemala. It’s one of our favourite origins.
I first visited in 2018, noticing huge differences between the operations and processes of different coffee farmers. The coffee itself? Amazing. And after meeting and talking with a number of young coffee farmers it became apparent that many were extremely passionate about their coffee. It piqued my interest, to say the least. I couldn’t wait to learn more.
Returning to Australia, I began to read up on what I’d noticed. What became clear is that coffee farmers in Guatemala face huge challenges in relation to the prices paid for coffee versus the time, effort and money it takes to run a sustainable operation. Much of the research points out that if a farmer has a solid education and speaks English, they can receive up to double the price for coffee of a similar quality to their neighbour.
The kicker? It’s all about equal (or unequal) access to the market.
It was upon realising this that I made another call to Stephany Davila, one of our Guatemalan export partners, explaining that it’s these people doing great work but not getting rewarded for it that I want to be buying coffee from.
And after a few months, I got an email from Stephany introducing me to Marlon Del Valle.
Introducing Marlon and El Valle
Marlon is a young farmer from the much-loved Huehuetenango coffee-growing area of Guatemala. Marlon, his brother Rudelfi, and his mother María Eugenia have worked El Valle,an 8-hectare coffee plot in Unión Cantinil, Huehuetenango, since 2003. They work with eco-friendly practices and have huge respect for Guatemalan coffee culture, all keys to producing coffee that is good for everyone: from nature, farmers and roasters to consumers at the other end of the supply chain. Seriously impressive stuff.
The plantation's altitude ranges from 1400 to 1800 MASL with its coffee being scored 85 SCA points for the farm’s beautiful past crops. While El Valle belongs to a coffee cooperative (co-op) that sells to exporters in the domestic market, Marlon and his family haven’t ever engaged in direct sales with a roaster/importer, mainly due to their lack of English.
That is, until now. With coffee prices at historic lows and conditions getting tougher for farmers like Marlon, we’ll never be able to sit by and watch. Marlon is an incredible young producer that wants the best for his family, and that’s exactly the kind of work that we at Rumble are here to support!
Coffee Co-ops: what’s the deal?
With their centralised operation and potential for supporting farmers, co-ops can sound like a great idea. While many are, poorly run co-ops can also mean low quality for buyers and even lower prices for farmers.
When small farmers from a particular growing area are members of a co-op, all of their coffee is combined for processing. While some co-ops make available some cheaper tools and fertilisers, if coffee isn’t graded upon collection, it gets lumped together regardless.
What does this mean for farmers? In a word, that those doing good work and taking the extra time to produce the most beautiful coffees get paid the same as others who take less care. It’s unmotivating for those farmers, to say the least, and these conditions produce a huge lack of incentive for farmers to improve their practice and grow their operations.
This is why working so closely with our export partners is a top priority for us at Rumble: we know that it’s through prioritising relationships that we make the industry more sustainable. You can read more about our Transparency Project here.
Marlon’s coffee arrives
At the start of the harvest, we were sent the best two lots from Marlon’s farm. They were both absolutely incredible, and perfect for both blending and single origin espresso!
Rumble paid an FOB price of USD$2.40/pound for the first lot equating to nearly USD$1.65/pound ‘farm gate price’ directly to Marlon and his family. If Marlon had sold his coffee on the local market he would have been paid close to 40% less than this. For the smaller lot, we paid USD$2.80/pound, so the results here were even better.
Get a taste for El Valle
As of mid-October 2019, we’re thrilled to announce that Marlon’s coffee has cleared customs and arrived at our Kensington roastery. This beautiful coffee will become part of the Haymaker and Streetfighter blends and we’ll also be offering one of the lots as single origin espresso.
Keen to know what it tastes like? Don’t just take our word for it: order yourself some today!