San Miguel Escobar is the Spanish name given to a district of Cuiduad Vieja “old city” that contains the ruins of Guatemala’s second colonial capital. The previous capital was located on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Iximche, but sustained indigenous resistance forced the Spanish to relocate to the Almolonga Valley in 1527. As fate would have it, the new colonial seat of government proved equally short-lived when a catastrophic lahar descended from Volcan de Agua in 1541 and destroyed the city forcing the Spanish to move yet again. Despite their precarious location, Cuidad Vieja and its districts which wrap around the base of volcano have endured the mudslides including one in 2010 and many of the 30,000 people who call them home now use the volcanic slopes to grow coffee.
Unfortunately, despite the inviting climate and rich volcanic soil, getting a livelihood from growing coffee is a tough go. The coffee industry, like so many others in Guatemala, has always been dominated by large fincas or estates.
It was only in the 1990’s that small-holder farmers with experience as paid labour at nearby fincas began planting their own coffee trees and by the early 2000’s small coffee farmers were still getting as little as 7-10 cents per pound selling their coffee fruit on the street or to neighbourhood coyotes (middlemen).
That’s why in 2005, a group of seven farmers from the area and a visiting volunteer from the US planted an idea and with a little help in the form of professional development and seed funding, began to process their beans and look for better markets for their gourmet coffee. From these humble beginnings, this tight knit group of farmers have become pioneers in the industry, forming their own cooperative which we now know as Café Artisanal San Miguel Entre Volcanes or “San Miguel between Volcanos Artisanal Coffee”. The coop has since grown to include 30 individual farmers who all work together to produce impeccable, specialty-grade coffee but rather than blend their crops, these artisans bag their coffees individually, making sure that the unique taste that comes from the soil, water, and climate interact with the genetics of the coffee plants—its terroir—is preserved.
They also helped form a Non-profit organization called As Green As It Gets to support other small producers build capacity and commercialize their coffee. Today, AGAIG is known as De La Gente … micro-financing, import…
We are proud to work with both Café Artesanal San Miguel and De La Gente who have taught us so much about coffee production and continue to inspire us to contribute to a more equitable and inclusive coffee industry.
Timoteo Minas, better known as "Timo" to his friends and colleagues, is a coffee production pro with a million-dollar smile. He is one of the founders of Café Artesanal San Miguel and an indispensable member of the De la Gente's team. Owning more than 20 cuerdas of coffee-producing land, Timo is always looking for innovation and better practices. He is always happy to share his extensive knowledge and experience with other DLG's partner cooperatives as a respected peer-to-peer trainer. With his wife Amalia they are parents to 6 children, and have 6 grandchildren.