"We didn't even cup it before we bought it. We just committed to the volume and then we were just… maybe not lucky but pleasantly surprised by how good it is,” shared Drew Johnson of Bows & Arrows on the unorthodox way they came to buy this coffee.
Drew read an article written in the LA Times by Kate Linthicum about Edwin Alexander Reynoso and his daughter Topacio and was determined to get in touch. He emailed Linthicum multiple times before she forwarded the contact information to Johnson.
“I just texted him via WhatsApp and he got back to me. That was in January or early February and then I was down there in March. I was like ‘We're committed to getting in and seeing if we can make something work out that works out for the group.’"
"There was a bit of trepidation at first mainly because he didn't want to be singled out from the group. He wanted to make sure the group was taken care of and that was really cool.”
“We wanted to meet who we're buying from, and we wanted to sort of see everything, from assessing the mills to picking up samples, to engendering some trust, so they know who they're buying from, and I’ve never really felt it as much as this - where I really wanted to make sure that they were clear that we were committed. There's more at stake, and they've been through a s**t-tonne,” explained Johnson on why making that trip down to Guatemala in March was so important.
Bows & Arrows will be making another trip in October and are working to provide agronomic support to the community. They’ve also brought in other Canadian roasters like Drumroaster and De Mello Palheta to increase the buying power for the regions community.
“There are good growing conditions and the elevation's nice. But, predictably, you're dealing with the kind of targeted community that's got a lot on their plate,” explained Drew Johnson, owner at Bows & Arrows on the coffee from the small community in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Guatemala.
Edwin Alexander Reynoso is a coffee farmer who is part of a community in Mataquescuintla that is currently dealing with the turmoil from a silver mine that began operations in their area. However, the mine was almost unanimously opposed.
Between 2011 and 2012, 98% of participating voters from four municipal plebiscites responded “no” to if they wanted the mine. Nevertheless, the mine received its final permits for extraction in 2013 and began functioning in 2014.
His daughter, Topacio, shared in the responsibility for ensuring her community’s voices were heard and formed an anti-mining youth group that helped get the word out on the environmental risks the mine posed.
Being a cautious father, Alex warned Topacio of the potential dangers of being so outspoken, but she was adamant about ensuring their land stayed clean and free from any harm. She felt it was an obligation. With that conviction, Alex followed along with his daughter’s bravery and they continued being leaders for their community with their peaceful protest.
On April 13, 2014, Topacio and her father were walking to their car and were attacked and shot at by two gunmen. A few hours later, Topacio was pronounced dead and Alex had slipped into a coma that lasted several days.
The Palo de Quina estate was a gift from my grandfather Florentin Reynoso to my father Magdaleno Reynoso, which I later inherited. Today I work the land together with my wife, my mother and my sons. The history of coffee in this region began with our grandparents, who were the ones who started harvesting the lucrative crop. Things are more difficult today for a number of reasons, one of which is death. I don’t remember much about the death of my grandfather, but the death of my father is something I still carry with me: he was kidnapped by the army before being executed in an extremely cruel manner. This happened when I was only six years old, and my mother and I ended up alone on the coffee plantation. She didn’t have experience harvesting coffee, regardless, we persevered. When I turned 15 I began to work the land, harvesting the San Ramón variety my father had introduced. I fell in love with the work, and to this day continue to harvest San Ramón.
The worst thing that we have gone through happened in 2011, when a Canadian mining project arrived to our region. With the the arrival of this project, there was also an attempt to monopolize the production of coffee, and the price of our product dropped off sharply. We have always struggled against adversity, but in 2014 we experienced the very worst thing that can happen to a family.
That year, we lost our only daughter, Topacio Reynoso, who was 16. My daughter was a young woman who was an activist against toxic mining in our region. On April 13, 2014, we were returning home together from a cultural activity when we were ambushed by a group of armed men. We were both seriously injured, and she passed away in the early hours of April 14th. Our only crime was, and remains, resisting mining and illegal deforestation, as well as protecting the fauna in our forests and agricultural lands.
It’s not all tragedy, though. For us, the coffee harvest is life, it is dignified work, and it brings us great happiness and satisfaction that our coffee is sold through a fair market. I, Alex Reynoso and the entire Reynoso Pacheco family hope that you enjoy an excellent cup of coffee from our Palo de Quina farm.
The protests have finally begun to see some results that the community is cautiously optimistic about – Guatemala’s highest court suspended the mining operations on September 3, 2018.