The Tale of Jose Martinez

Jose and Francy Martinez

I first met Jose Martinez in November of 2014, you can read about my first encounter with Jose here. I feel fortunate to work with some passionate and hard working coffee producers. In the seven years I have spent buying green coffee and meeting farmers, I have probably met several hundred producers and have worked directly with over 100 of them. Jose Martinez is certainly one of the most impressive ones.

In each of my five visits with Jose, he has continued to earn my respect as a coffee producer and as a person. He is hard-working, smart, passionate, and is also very appreciative of my involvement with his farm. Every time I visit him, he makes a point of thanking me for any technical advice I have given him and for believing in him by buying his entire harvest at our agreed prices. I find this point personally rewarding, since this sentiment he expressed to me is at the very foundation of everything we hope to achieve as a company: buy amazing green coffee and work with farmers that are happy producing great coffee. I certainly don’t expect coffee producers to show or express gratitude, but it sure feels nice when it comes my way.

When I visited Jose and his partner Francy last June, they asked me if I would attend their wedding and that they could be flexible with their date so that I could be there. I was obviously flattered and told them to plan for November and I would make their date work into my travel plans. Last month they told me the date and I organized my trip around it.

I spent the past eight days in Colombia travelling with my business partner Rob, our two friends and customers Graham and TJ from Thom Bargen in Winnipeg, and my friend Salome (from Caravela), who accompanied us here in Colombia.

Their wedding was held at Jose’s parents house in the town of Pitalito, and was attended by their family, friends and me and my posse. The wedding was simple, filled with nice speeches and toasts and some salsa dancing. Being part of their wedding was very special and certainly a first time for me. I got a chance to meet Jose’s parents, his kids (from his first marriage) and some extended family, all of whom seemed to have heard about me, Phil & Sebastian, and the business relationship with Jose. I could see that Jose feels a sense of pride of working with us and the fact that we purchase his entire harvest at great prices.

At the wedding with Francy, Jose and Salome.

At the wedding with Francy, Jose and Salome.

The next day, I spent the day at Jose’s place, walking around his two farms and chatting about his improvements, both to his process and his infrastructure. Jose shared with me his difficulties with finding good workers for many of the farm duties – a problem that appears to be a common thread amongst Colombian coffee producers.  The biggest implication of this is that he is losing some of his harvest since he doesn’t have enough pickers to collect the ripening cherries.

Tasting some sweet yellow caturra plants ready for picking.

Tasting some sweet yellow caturra plants ready for picking.

The progress at his farm continues to impress. He is now nearly done his drying infrastructure – he already finished a shaded, covered drying patio last year, and through this year, he has been installing shaded raised beds for pre-drying. He should have all of his beds installed by early next year.

Discussing the challenges of shade drying with Graham, Jose, Salome and TJ.

Discussing the challenges of shade drying with Graham, Jose, Salome and TJ.

He had already made improvements to his washing process, but hopes to refine it by adding extra fermentation tanks and a new float tank (to remove low density cherries). The steps he is taking should all lead to more consistent coffee and higher cup quality, which means more earnings for him. Although he is not solely motivated by finances, it’s important for him to know that improved quality will result in higher earnings – as it should.

I can’t predict the future, and I won’t try, but I know that Jose is going to be one of the most successful small producers in Colombia. I am just happy I get to tag along for the ride.

– Sebastian




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