The Coop(erative) Way
We put farmers and community first by sourcing directly from coffee cooperatives, which better position farmers to receive the best price for their coffee and help us ensure each cup of La Coop specialty coffee is of the highest quality.
La Coop's micro-lot approach gives our customers the opportunity to experience single-origin coffee from the specific farm and individual farmer who produced it. This lets each farmer's harvest stand on its own, preserving its unique qualities and showcasing the hard work of every farmer we work with.
The La Coop Story
La Coop is a family owned and operated business from the beginning of the value chain in Union Cantinil, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, to the end, in Washington, D.C.
Juan Luis Salazar Cano, Founder and CEO of the social enterprise La Coop Coffee Company, has deep roots in the coffee industry in Guatemala. An agronomist and the son of a coffee farmer from Union Cantinil, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Juan Luis brought together a group of coffee farmers from his hometown in 2006 to form the Asociacion de Caficultores de Union Cantinil (Association of Coffee Growers of Union Cantinil or ASOCUC), with the goal of empowering farmers to earn a fair price for their specialty coffee. With a strong focus on community development and capacity building of its members, ASOCUC introduced new environmentally-friendly farming techniques, quality controls, and a micro-loan program, which led to better quality beans, higher earning potential for farmers, and social impact in Union Cantinil. Following their first year as a formal Association, ASOCUC sold their collective harvest to one of the most prominent coffee companies in the world. More than ten years since its formation, ASOCUC’s members are now collectively producing over 200,000 lbs of specialty coffee every year, while continuing to invest in the health and education of their families and community.
Juan Luis founded La Coop with the goal of directly sourcing coffee from ASOCUC, and eventually other smallholder farm cooperatives around the world, to offer producers the fairest possible price for their coffee. La Coop aims to make a sustainable impact on the coffee industry, particularly by empowering the most vulnerable sector of the value chain. La Coop’s approach is to showcase the high-quality specialty coffee of ASOCUC through micro-lots, which tell the story of each farmer’s harvest and preserve the unique quality of each bean.
The Coffee Plantations
The coffee plantations in Union Cantinil, Huehuetenango, Guatemala are located at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Most of the farms are small plantations owned and operated by families who have lived and worked in Union Cantinil their whole lives. The most common varieties produced in this area are Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, and Mundo Novo. Specialty coffee from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala is highly sought after, as the climate and the soil in this part of Guatemala’s Western Highlands produce some of the world’s best coffee beans.
Harvest and Process
The harvest season in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala generally ranges from November to March, depending on altitude, rainfall, and overall plant health, among other factors. When the coffee is ripe for harvesting, it is picked by hand. Once picked, the coffee is wet milled to remove the red skin and washed to remove the natural honey-coating (mucilage) on the beans. The beans are then dried in the sun for about 3-4 days, hand sorted to remove low-quality beans, and dry-milled to peel off one final layer. The “green” beans (due to their color at this stage) are stored in burlap bags in a dry and well-ventilated area before being exported to Washington, D.C., where they are roasted and packaged.
La Coop Coffee pays premiums to farmers for their specialty coffee- between 30 to 40 percent more than local export companies. This incentive motivates farmers to continue producing some of the finest coffee on the market. Working as a cooperative also provides opportunities for the farmers to receive training and certifications.