Several weeks ago, Juan welcomed me into his chic, beautiful coffee shop, La Coop Coffee in Northwest DC. (I was there to take photos for the episode with Andy Anderson, curator of the hugely popular accounts @humansofcoffee and @manmakecoffee on Instagram.)
Juan invited me back to the roasting room, and as he taught me how to tell a lightly roasted bean from a dark simply by listening to the beans, he also began telling me the extraordinary story of his life. I asked question after question about his journey - always taking the road less traveled, always taking the difficult and risky path.
At 12, when his classmates had completed their education and were beginning to contemplate marriage, Juan begged for the opportunity to leave his father’s coffee farm at 2am every Sunday night to travel over a rushing river and two mountain tops to school. From that first difficult choice, with his parent’s unfailing support, Juan won a coveted spot in a school for agronomists.
After that, he returned to his region to affect change - not only as an agronomist but as an entrepreneur. Juan, and the 30 brave farmers who risked everything to try his plan, founded the ONLY coffee cooperative in Guatemala that is financed and led by Guatemalans.
Leading with transparency and sacrifice, Juan never took a salary from the cooperative, although he found a way to provide insurance, disaster relief, loan assistance, and grew the profits of the farmers over 40%.
Most recently, he came with his American wife to the States, learned English, and followed a new dream: to open a coffee shop selling cups made from the beans grown on his father’s farm. When I got home that evening, I gathered my family, sat them down, and told them they had to hear his story right away - and now, I’m equally excited to share Juan’s story with you.
- How his father became a coffee farmer
- Chores on a coffee farm
- A basic agronomy lesson growing coffee
- How climate change is affecting coffee farmers
- How Juan earned one of only 100 spots out of 15,000 applicants to his high school
- Increasing profits for local farmers by over 40%
- Why his cooperative has flourished for over a decade, while international cooperatives only work for a short while
- Starting over - again - in the US
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