Barista Magazine

AUG-SEP 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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into the business, my mother had only one 20-hectare farm at 1,000 [meters above sea level], so medium altitude, and with one variety, Bourbon. There was no mill, no exporting, no roastery, just land. We would sell the cherry to another mill, so that once the cherry was handed off, no trace of the coffee was left for us to see. This meant that when I got into the family coffee business, all I really had was a great family history and a low-elevation farm. But I did have something else that would make the difference, and it is the reason I have the opportunity to be invited to be featured in Barista Magazine: I had two incredible parents that supported and encouraged me to get involved. KRO: Why did your father decide to start Cuatro M in 2001? What did he want to accomplish? ELD: History was going to take another hit to our family business. Between the year 2000 and the year 2001, coffee prices hit a histor- ic low. At that moment for us, producing the coffee and handing it to the miller had a cost of about $0.50 a pound, and the NYC price had come down to $0.42 a pound. That meant that by the time you remove the processing costs, producers were receiving about $0.30 a pound for what cost $0.50 cents to produce. When my father visited me in Portland in December of 2000, I remember him saying, " We need to mill our own coffee and find di- rect buyers for it." At the time, I knew I came from a coffee family but didn't know the whole story, so he went ahead and explained to me all about what my family had accomplished, and he also explained how they lost almost all of it. Before he left, I told him I'd see what I could do, what I would find out in this town about coffee. At that moment I never imag- ined that Portland would turn into a world coffee mecca. Only two weeks later I called him: "Send me roasted coffee, I think I can sell it here." So my first working coffee experience was with roasted coffee. One of my aunts at the time was roasting coffee, so my father purchased 150 pounds, the minimum he could send on air freight, and shipped it to me. I would go around town offering roasted coffee to small restaurants, cafés, and a few Latino shops. The 150 pounds, though, soon turned into 1,000 pounds per month, and by the time I was about to graduate in 2001, I was doing about 2,000 pounds a month! Customers were digging the coffee, and at the time, almost no one was doing single-origin cof- fees. One thing I learned in that year, though, was that customers needed reliability and consistency, so before I went back home I told my father, " We need to get into milling, but also into roasting. We need to be able to control the whole supply chain if we want to deliver quality and be reliable." I went online, did research on who could sell me milling and roasting equipment that would be small enough for our scale—the smallest possible—and that's how I got to meet Pinhalense, the only company at that time that could supply a depulper, huller, and roaster for a tiny producer like me. So literally the day I got back home from college, I went to customs and had the equipment released. My first harvest then was 2001–2002, and I processed 100 bags of green. All of it got roasted and shipped to Portland. KRO: When did you get involved in the Roasters Guild, and what role has it played in your professional development? ELD: I became a member of the Roasters Guild in 2002. I wanted to learn how coffee was roasted and get to know people similar to me that wanted to share information. I registered for an event called the Roasters Guild Retreat, and off I went to Lake Delevan, Wis., together with about 200 other roasters to talk coffee and roasting. 118 barista magazine

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