We spoke with Volcafe Guatemala, our sister co and Guatemala coffee sourcing team, about how harvest is going. What we learned was that market forces such as the C-Market, the supply chain, inflation and COVID are shaping the season. However, the team is in the field daily, working with producers, and ensuring that GO roasters will have an outstanding line up this Spring.

La Morena Guatemala Women Coffee Producers | More Women, More Momentum

Six years ago, Genuine Origin set off on a mission to empower female coffee producers with the help of our sister company, Volcafe Guatemala. The La Morena program has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and there’s a lot to look forward to in this year’s green coffee lot from the women of Guatemala.

La Morena Guatemala Coffee producers 2019

La Morena Guatemala Coffee Producers 2019

La Morena Speaks for Herself

It all started on the cupping table. In a contest among women producers in 2016, three outstanding farmers were chosen to spearhead the La Morena program. Since then, Genuine Origin (GO) and Volcafe Guatemala’s field teams have been working with an increasing number of women year-on-year to expand the program, which comes hand-in-hand with Volcafe Way training.  

In 2021, over 20 women came together under the La Morena brand and multiplied the lot size from 2,000lbs to over 40,000lbs. Each farmer is also producing more coffee than before, supported by Volcafe Way resources that train them on how to run their farms more effectively as businesses. 

The results have gotten a lot of attention. “The story tells itself,” says Carlos Umanzor, Specialty Coffee Trader at Volcafe Guatemala. “There are a lot of willing women producers who want to be a part of this. It’s very appealing and attractive to anyone we tell it to.”

Maria Renee Morales, Assistant General Manager at Volcafe Guatemala, brought La Morena to life in the very beginning and knows firsthand just how far the microlot has come. “The whole point of this idea was to help women increase their production, and that’s something Volcafe Way has done very well. Now we want to keep working with the same women, who are already producing more, and add more women to the program,” she says. 

Extending the La Morena Beyond Huehuetenango 

La Morena bracelet by Wakami Guatemala

La Morena bracelet by Wakami Guatemala

In 2020, Genuine Origin partnered with the Wakami Foundation to support female entrepreneurs who run their own micro-businesses making and selling handcrafted bracelets. As a result, every box of La Morena coffee came with custom bracelets featuring the La Morena symbol to celebrate women-led businesses in Guatemala. 

Women supporting women are more important than ever, and the 2022 La Morena microlot is taking the opportunity to uplift entrepreneurs in Antigua who usually rely on tourism revenue for their livelihoods. The vibrant city of Antigua is one of the most important destinations in Guatemala, known for its ancient heritage, bustling markets, and local artisans, and is suffering from pandemic-induced losses.

“When we tell our women coffee producers that we’re going to be helping these other women who have had no income for the past year, they get really excited,” says Maria. The partnership between La Morena and the Wakami Foundation is growing faster than ever, and roasters can look forward to new handcrafted bracelets with their orders of the incoming microlot.

The Wakami partnership has also opened doors to new women who make bracelets and produce coffee who are eager to join the La Morena program. While the women producing coffee and the women making bracelets were separate groups in the past, Volcafe Guatemala is working on a special edition microlot featuring the same women who make both the bracelets and the coffee as well.

Past La Morena lots were also a culmination of coffees produced by women in the Huehuetenango region. This year, GO and Volcafe Guatemala are extending La Morena’s reach into Cubulco for a brand-new profile under the label’s empowering umbrella. 

“It’s been easy to build interest in a new region,” says Carlos. “When people in the field hear about what La Morena does, how it’s grown in these past years, and see the bracelets, they immediately want to be part of it.” 

Carrying coffee cherry in Cubulco

Carrying coffee cherry in Cubulco

COVID and Challenges in the Field

While heavy hurricanes threatened to scramble coffee production in Guatemala last year, the country continues to experience repercussions of the pandemic throughout the supply chain. There are shortages all around, and costs have gone through the roof across the board. “Everything from jute bags to transport crates, farm labor to security, have increased incredibly. For trucking companies, it’s not just the fuel costs that are expensive – there’s also a shortage of spare parts,” says Maria.

Inflation has left no inch of the supply chain untouched. But although costs for fertilizer, raw materials, and labor have increased for farmers, so have the prices they’ve received for their coffee. Carlos reports a change in dynamic on the farm level, where farmers who used to process their own coffee are now mainly selling in cherry because they can now receive high prices for less effort.

A prime example is Finca La Pila, which is moving away from processing honey microlots in favor of selling cherry directly. “The price of cherry is so good, and they can make enough money selling cherry rather than going through the honey or natural process themselves because honeys and naturals are bought at a fixed rate,” says Carlos. When the C-market was down, that fixed rate could be three or four times the market rate for cherry. Now, rates for processed coffee versus cherry are nearly the same. 

For Volcafe Guatemala, this is an advantage, particularly in the Antigua region, where they have their own wet mill. “We’re now getting a lot more options to buy cherries from other producers,” he says. 

La Morena 2022 is Coming Soon

With the women of La Morena, relationships are as strong as ever. The program’s momentum continues to propel the microlot further through the ups and downs of coffee production in Guatemala, despite market volatility and pandemic challenges in the past few years.

The first shipments of La Morena 2022 green coffee will go out starting in Spring 2022. Reports from Maria and Carlos in Guatemala as they receive the first samples are very positive, and early planning on the logistics side has ensured timely delivery of coffee to GO’s warehouses. 

If the past five years have shown us anything, it’s that La Morena sells out fast. Stay tuned for updates on the availability of this great coffee – with a great story – on GO’s social channels (Instagram / Facebook / Twitter). In the meantime, check out GO’s Guatemala green coffee portfolio on our website here: https://www.genuineorigin.com/guatemala