Juan Diego, along with his family, owns and operates the magnificent estate, Finca El Culpan. I felt an instant kinship with him after learning that he attended Arizona State University in Tempe—a few blocks from both my home and Cartel’s roastery! We laughed together as we discussed the neighborhood bar, Casey Moore’s Oyster House. For anyone who knows Tempe, you can understand how randomly cool it was for me to connect with a Guatemalan coffee farmer over something like Casey’s.
While navigating the primitive roads connecting all 837 hectares of his farm, Juan told us many stories of his grandfather, Roberto Toledo, who passed away in 2008. Mr. Toledo was a lifelong producer who commanded infinite respect from his peers and was an integral member of Anacafe, the specialty coffee association of Guatemala.
One of his stories involved a daily evening coffee hour at 5 pm sharp, which every member of the family was required to attend, showered and dressed for the occasion. His grandfather was a man of uncompromising detail and discipline. Mr. Diego resented this as a child, but now he finds himself repeating all the traditions and mottos of his mentor.
Listening to Juan reminisce about this great man provided a glimpse into his sense of calling. This concept of heritage and responsibility is not something we associate with coffee (or anything else for that matter) in the U.S., since we are primarily a consuming nation and tend to pay more attention to coffee fads that are, at most, a few years old. At origin, however, it is very common to find centuries of family passion associated with coffee growing. Most farm owners will share with pride how many generations of coffee production stand behind them.
At the crest of a great hill, we stopped to take in a vista overlooking Culpan ‘s picturesque fields of Macadamia shaded Bourbon. The coffee trees were flowering, which was a wonderful treat. An essence somewhere between sweet vanilla and jasmine from the flowers filled the air, providing one of those moments when things seem to make more sense than you have the ability to decipher. The confluence of coffee history, relational beauty, unlocked biological mystery, and simple geological wonder were enough to knock me over.
Juan Diego’s coffee did not disappoint on the cupping table. I am proud to be able to feature his coffee this year, and look forward to sharing it with all of my customers. When it becomes available – in our stores and online, give it a try and see if you don’t feel just a little more connected to coffee’s grand narrative.
You can follow our Head Roaster & Green Coffee Buyer, Paul Haworth's origin stories through our blog and our social media hashtag #carteldirectsource.