The Mendez Sisters By Onyx Coffee (Guatemala)
We've known the Mendez family for decades. They're our neighbors in San Pedro Necta, their small plots of coffee plants visible on the beautiful drive to our Finca Vista Hermosa, above the San Pedro Necta valley. Throughout the harvest season, we visit and share best practices, eating meals together at our family table overlooking the verdant coffeelands. We've learned so much from each other over the years.
The Hermanas Mendez lot is a testament to the power of collaboration and determination. These sisters started with very little, and through perseverance and sharing resources, they created something truly special.
And to think we nearly missed out on these unique coffees-- had it not been for a memorable conversation with their brother Gabino just three years ago, we wouldn't have known the sisters were interested in partnering with Onyx. In a conversation about growing our purchases, Gabino asked if we were interested in more coffee. When Edwin asked if he had some neighbors with quality coffee, Gabino didn't miss a beat, saying something like: "I know some neighbors with great coffees. They're my sisters, and their lots are better than mine."
While cultivating coffee alongside family members is not rare in Guatemala, the depth of collaboration and transparency with which the entire Mendez family partners is remarkable. Brothers Gabino and Gilberto, their sisters Juana, Minga Leticia, and Victorina, and their nephew Francisco Florencio, work together along a remote mountainside. Year after year, they share successes and failures, working together to make each other's lots thrive. The family operates like a cooperative, each member making their contributions.
Don Gabino, having been a school teacher previous to his coffee career, takes a careful and educated approach to cultivation. Of the siblings, Gabino is focused most on quality improvements, so he travels to Guatemala City to take courses at Anacafe, learning about innovations in varieties and processing. Recently, he lengthened the washing channels on their central wet mill and implemented processing improvements. Another example is shade: Gabino utilizes mostly Chalum shade, as Gravilea trees make the soil more acidic. Chalum leaves biodegrade four times faster than Gravilea leaves, and he and his sons are monitoring the longer-term soil impacts under different shade types. Francisco Florencio and Minga Leticia both support the family with water distribution from ground springs on their lots. Gilberto uses his years of construction experience to make structural improvements around the farm. Gabino's sons studied soil science, and support with soil analysis and fertilizer balance on each lot, fertilizer which the family buys cooperatively. Each family member benefits from the communal approach.
Each harvest, we work with the Mendez family to carefully blend lots based on quality, keeping individual family member's lots separated by name to showcase their work. The exception this year was the sister's lots, since the three nano-lots together totaled only 34 bags export.