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Meet the Producer: Celeste Fumagalli of Finca El Aceituno, Jutiapa, Guatemala

It’s been six years since we posted our first interview with our producer partner Celeste Fumagalli, who owns Finca El Aceituno and the company Gold Grains with her husband Roberto Recinos. 2018 was the first year that we purchased coffee from her, and we have continued to do so every year since, because the “El Bonito” washed microlot that she prepares for us is a perennial customer favorite.

This ongoing relationship is the ideal “direct trade coffee.” That is to say, a mutually beneficial long-term business relationship between a producer and roaster who negotiate directly, as equals, regarding pricing and purchase. We have critiqued the use of that term as co-opted and dilute, and yet this is the kind of relationship originally envisioned when “direct trade” was coined.

Jutiapa is not located in the region of Guatemala usually known for coffee production. When Ms. Fumagalli’s father inherited the farm, it did not have coffee trees, but rather fruit trees and one beautiful olive tree, from which its name derives. However, Finca el Aceituno is suitable for coffee production due to its 4,000ft+ elevation and the cooling Pacific winds it receives.

My mother first met Celeste on an International Women’s Coffee Alliance trip, and was immediately impressed by her scientific and evidence-based approach to coffee cultivation, and by her gumption in striving to make her business a model coffee operation, gastronomically, socially, and ecologically. Celeste’s story of a family business grown from a shared passion for the product resonated deeply with us.

But even before we knew Celeste, her coffees had stood out on the cupping table. “El Bonito” has a classic washed Guatemala profile, with cocoa powder/bakery spice aromatics and gently rounded lemon curd acidity. Coffee Review gave it 91 points in a blind taste test the first year we brought it in.

Gold Grains experiments extensively with new varietals and processes. Maybe you remember last year’s unusual Purpuracea nanolot?

While the coffee stands on its quality alone, we also deeply respect Ms. Fumagalli’s commitment to the coffee community in her region. She has established a Coffee Camp and a Coffee Kindergarten for the children of Gold Grains’ employees. These programs coincide with the harvest season. Child labor is still a huge issue for commodity crops like coffee and cocoa, and this is the kind of active intervention required to provide children greater opportunities. 

Ms. Fumagalli’s belief that the well-being of her local community is essential to her success is our belief, too. We are inspired by Celeste as we seek to support food security and education here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In addition to the kindergarten, Gold Grains has also implemented adult literacy programs and coordinated the provision of solar panels and water filters for the homes of its agricultural workers.

If you’ve never tried this remarkable coffee, or if you need a refresher, order a bag (or three) today!