A lot of coffee roasters talk the talk about fair trade, but Soldadera Coffee is determined to find partner companies that walk the walk.
Enter Chica Bean: a Guatemalan company that delivers specialty, single-origin coffee produced by women farmers directly to customers' doors. Not only does Chica Bean buying and producing all of its coffee in Guatemala earn more money per cup for farmers, but customers know they always get the highest quality product straight from the source.
Chica Bean got its start in 2017 purely to support Doña Maritza, mother of Chica Bean co-founder Josue, as a coffee farmer in Guatemala. The coffee production chain is riddled with stops and middlemen that leave producers with the smallest cut. According to Chica Bean, producers on average make just five cents for every cup of coffee, while consumers will pay an average of $3.50 for that cup. So the company wanted to find ways to keep production in Guatemala and put more of that money back into the hands of farmers like Doña.
The coffee industry at-large isn't made to support small businesses, especially anything that could threaten the large exporting model, so Chica Bean quickly realized just joining the game wasn't going to change anything. About a year later, the company added a group of other women coffee producers from an area near Doña's farm.
Chica Bean buys all of its coffee in parchment form directly from the women who produce it. The coffee fruit then is transported to Chica Bean's roastery in Santa Lucía Milpas Altas where they do all of the remaining processing.
"If we could be getting $2 per pound of green bean or $18-$20 per pound roasted, one makes a little more sense economically than the other," said co-founder Abbigail Graupner.
Women coffee roasters are rare in the industry, but Chica Bean thought it only made sense to roast with a woman while they were supporting women growers. Josue and his wife Alene brought their nanny Evelyn on board and had her trained as a roast master by internationally renowned coffee roasters, and the company continues to train women roast masters for its workforce.
Aside from Josue, the token "chico" of Chica Bean, the entire company's workforce, including logistics and accounting, is a woman.
Photo: Josue and Doña Maritza
"We have a very efficient value chain," Josue said. "A regular value chain has eight stops, and with us it's pretty much three. So we can tell the story of the producers and who roasted it."
Soldadera Coffee is excited to partner with a truly fair-trade organization that supports these soldaderas in Guatemala. Recently we sent out an exclusive invite to 300 of our most loyal supporters to get a first taste of Noche Buena! a specialty blend we are rolling out in partnership with Chica Bean.
"It was hard for me to find a company that was walking the talk," Soldadera co-owner Mario Rodriguez said. "And the one company that came to my mind was Chica Bean."
People who preorder Noche Buena! will get a 12 oz. bag of single origin Chica Bean coffee with notes of dark chocolate, brown sugar and sweet orange, with a target delivery date of Jan. 6. By fulfilling 300 orders, Soldadera and Chica Bean can ensure that workers are paid up front.
"It's not just us," Mario said. "It takes a lot of people to get this done."