From an early age, Edwin Martinez understood what it took to succeed in coffee. As a child in Guatemala, his grandparents grew coffee in the Huehuetenango region, then passed the farm on to his parents. Today, Martinez lives in Bellingham, Washington, near the Canadian border, far from Guatemala, but with strong ties to Huehuetenango. He is the CEO of ONYX Coffee, an import company, as well as Coffee Blossom Honey.
“We know of many coffee growers who would have long since abandoned their land had it not been for the diversification of honey production in addition to their continued coffee production,” Martinez tells me. “Coffee blossom honey literally saved the lives of many of these farmers,” he says.
The third-generation farmer remembers growing up visiting his grandparents’ farm, which allowed him to see first-hand the agricultural challenges faced by coffee growers. Although he moved to the United States for college, attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, he never strayed from coffee, first opening an espresso cart and later a cafe. “It opened my eyes to the business side of coffee,” says Martinez.
Soon, he will combine his farming experience and business knowledge. While running his cafe, Martinez began working with humanitarian groups traveling from Bellingham to Guatemala. Martinez and his traveling companions each brought back a suitcase of green coffee from his family farm, Finca Vista Hermosa, and so began Martinez’s import journey.
But thanks to ONYX’s growth as a green importer, Martinez began to see an opportunity for even bigger ways to help Guatemalan farmers. That’s when Coffee Blossom Honey was born.
Guatemala is not only a great coffee-producing region, but also an ideal region for honey production, says Martinez. “Growing up in Guatemala, many farms had apiaries. I remember having the opportunity to taste the incredible honey that came from there many times. He knew firsthand the potential of this honey.
Martinez believes that coffee blossom honey offers a better future for coffee farmers. There is great risk associated with growing coffee, and the challenges farmers may face could mean – in the event of a bad year – that their income would be significantly affected. By also producing honey, the likelihood of a consistent yield is much greater.
Many farms in Guatemala already distribute their coffee through the ONYX network. Martinez’s sister company therefore allows farmers to sell their honey directly through the same supply chain and to people with whom they already have strong relationships. Coffee Blossom partners with well-known farms such as the award-winning Finca El Injerto and Finca El Apiario (get it?), where it was after tasting the honey of farm owner Jorge Mendez that the ONYX team knew that it was a business worth pursuing. .
The production of honey in coffee plantations can produce an overall benefit for the coffee plants themselves. Farmers tend to see an overall improvement in the health of their coffee plants with the increase in bees on the site. Also, while it helps coffee plants thrive, it doesn’t create a lot of extra work for farmers when it comes to honey production…bees do most of it!
“It’s a relatively inexpensive business where the only real cost comes from harvesting the raw honey.” Martinez shared. Again, this creates greater opportunity for economic diversity and provides financial stability for farmers. Martinez says, “Put simply, what this has done for Guatemalan farmers is it’s basically given them a much better life,” Martinez says. ” What more ? »
In the United States, the time had come to educate customers about high-quality honey. “Coffee blossom honey is a premium product. For many, what they are used to when consuming store-bought honey is a lower quality product that is often watered down and flavorless. It lacks a lot of the original complexities that can be found in honey,” says Martinez. Coffee blossom honey has a delicate taste, with floral notes and a significantly higher sharpness and clarity. You can taste these nuances (much like with the coffee grown in the different regions of Guatemala). Bee health also plays an important role in the overall quality of the final product. Happy bees = good honey and overall happier, healthier coffee farms and farmers. Rather sweet.
Tyler Hagan is the creator of the Calgary coffee blog, Commonly Coffee. Read more Tyler Hagan for Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Edwin Martinez.