The Quinayas Family

Pronunciation Key: no-Eh kin-ay-Us
This month is a proud one for us. The Quinayas family, near and dear to our hearts for a long time now, have produced outstanding quality to the tune of taking up three of our eight slots for feature coffees. We’re pretty bloody fussy, so that’s no easy achievement.We’re ever impressed by this family. They live in very humble conditions, geographically isolated, and are unsupported by any producer group or Cooperative. After being exploited by various exporters they decided long ago to dedicate their entire production to us. Why? We pay the most, we visit all the time, we promise to buy everything they have and we support them financially throughout the whole year.

Grandpa Noe is featuring on our filter and espresso list, and we’re loving young Yamid’s varietal separation efforts: this Typica lot comes off the back of his lovely Caturra, the latter currently featuring in Candyman. We buy from the other three family members as well.

We are with them many times throughout the year, and when we’re not there Yamid is constantly in contact via whatsapp. He’s actually become pretty good at taking photos (see him with his imminent Typica harvest at the bottom of this little diatribe), and we get to track harvest progression, collaborate on timing of shipping, give them processing recommendations, and most importantly they get to tell us when they’re struggling. At several points throughout the year we give them micro-financing to see them through the lean months when there’s no coffee to sell. Because we have a Colombian bank account we can instantly transfer pesos to Yamid which he distributes to the other members of the family who don’t have bank accounts.

So who are these people? Noe, the grandfather, who we think is in his late eighties but no-one’s entirely sure, is really of another era. He rambles a little bit, but mostly retells stories from when he served in the national military in his youth under a general that would later be a formative leader of the FARC… Three of Noe’s children took over parcels of the original family farm. We buy coffee from Edilma, Miller and Avelirio. You may remember that Avelirio sadly passed away earlier this year. We will continue to buy his family’s coffee of course, his wife will now run the farm.
Yamid is Miller’s son. Yamid is young and energetic and really is the motor of the family now. It’s because of him that their processing keeps getting better. But it’s because of the heirloom trees planted by Noe many years ago that their coffee tastes so damn good.

Yamid, his son his dog his Grandpa
So what do these amazebombs taste like?Noe as an espresso is all thick melted chocolate, reeses peanut butter cups and sticky dates, but with a super interesting herbaceous note, a complexity that speaks to the heirloom Typica and Bourbon shrubs. This is an intriguing coffee aromatically and very very yummy texturally.

As a filter brew, that complexity is on show. Again there’s a baseline of roasted nuts and molasses, and texturally it’s jelly-like. The top notes are bright strawberry and lemongrass with a mayer lemon acidity that’s bright, clean and persistent.

Yamid’s Typica is also super full, tastes like a chocolate velvet cake with an experimental passionfruit icing. We’ve tweaked the roast a little to bring our more obvious milk chocolate and almond butter. Yum-town.

no way noe
Becoming close to this multigenerational family of small, traditional growers has been a very humbling experience for us. Theirs is a story of decades of cyclical poverty, where there’s never enough money, there are always bank repayments to be made, and there’s only one source of income, which is very unreliable and too often badly affected by climate change. In this age of incredible political, economic and environmental instability, smallholders are too vulnerable.We do what we can, and we go way beyond what would be considered normal risk to support them. But we want to take a moment to recognise that roasters don’t save the world, they don’t radically change lives and don’t lift people out of poverty. Growers do that themselves, and often they are unable to. We want to take a moment to recognise that despite all of this, we can forge real and meaningful personal connections with people who live and work in contexts entirely different from our own. We can be a positive part of their lives and vice verse. When you buy coffee in the right way, the result is that kind of special. Nothing more nothing less.

Some of the ways we support the Quinayas family, and many like them are: zero-interest loans with repayment terms that are decided by the growers, paid back in coffee often over several harvests; support to build new infrastructure; investments in tools and equipment; processing advice to improve the quality of their coffee and hence increase the price we pay for it, and above all a commitment to purchase all of their coffee. Alleviating economic insecurity in the form of an assured high-paying buyer is our way of helping those most in need build more resilient households.

The Quinayas family and our many growers like them are the reason we launched an export business out of Colombia, and they give us the energy to continually strive to improve coffee on our end. They are the manifestation of what real trade can mean in the coffee industry. We can confidently say we are the only roastery in Australia outright purchasing parchment coffee in the Americas in local currency from small producers. Are we therefore the only roastery allowed to say we do the ‘Direct Trade’ thing? We are also the only roastery to actively preference smallholders above larger wealthier producers, and to support them in the way they tell us, in person, they need.