Sorry for the late email! We were struggling to say everything in one newsletter and neither of us can edit. We also forgot to introduce Santos Aguirre’s coffee to our newer subscribers. Hope you’re enjoying it! We sum'd a bit below, but Semilla's great info pack is attached with some pics and a stunning video of depulping in Honduras <3
We first purchased coffee from Don Santos in 2021, and at the time it was a new region that our importing friends at Semilla were working in. In our second year of roasting his coffee, we were able to purchase the entire production of his farm. In part this was due to a lower than expected yield (which we’ll get into), but we also bought more coffee than we would have otherwise budgeted for. To keep our subscription program fun and engaging, we try to balance the seasonality of various coffee origins while also maintaining commitments to the various coffee projects we purchase from. “Overbuying” from Santos meant that we would be stretching to find new customers, but we saw it as a way to build a deeper relationship with Semilla and the Santos family.
In 2021, Honduras was hit by hurricanes Eta and Iota during a crucial part of the coffee growing season. Cherry maturation was slowed way down, and overall yields were much lower than typically expected. In the same year, massive frosts in Brazil caused a global shortage of millions of bags of exported coffee. Low harvests in Brazil, one of the top coffee producing countries in the world, led to a spike in coffee commodity prices not seen in decades.
With contracts to fulfill for large multinational corporations (directly or indirectly), vulture coffee buyers known as coyotes actively pursued smallholders, promising historically high prices. This was, for some producers, an opportunity to make some quick cash. Especially given the higher quality standards that specialty coffee importers expect, coyotes paying high prices seem at first glance like an attractive offer. The problem is, as producers know all too well, high prices this year do not guarantee the same next harvest. The nature of these transactions are anonymous cash buys, and there is no way to know what the market will do next year, or if the coyotes will even come back with another offer.
Don Santos was approached throughout the growing season with offers from multiple coyote buyers. These were cash offers brought all the way to his remote doorstep, even in the midst of climate uncertainty. He rejected each offer, telling them “we already have a client”. This is an example of how trust goes both ways. When we commit to buying his coffee every year, Santos is also committing to trust us enough to reject other offers. This is no small thing, and it’s deeply meaningful to us - hopefully just a glimpse of the sort of international relationships and connections we hope to continue to build.
LAST EMAIL + NEW FEEDBACK
In our last newsletter, we wrote a lot about the unsustainability of the coffee industry, and in capitalist economic structures more broadly. We sort of name dropped the term “revolutionary optimism”, writing, “Hopefully, it’s clear which strategy we’re championing. We have limitless optimism for the future, and we believe endlessly in our potential to reorganize society to advance our collective interests. A better, more beautiful world is possible.”
Some of you wrote back to us, which prompted several long discussions and the delay of this email! :) We’d like to keep the format of a Q&A* section to this newsletter going if people are interested. Submit your thoughts and let us know if you want to be anonymous and we’ll try to think on some of this together!
* Question and Answer defined loosely. We don’t have every A, and you’re welcome to write with undefined Qs.
“How can we act now and be a part of this revolutionary optimism? Do you have any resources or steps that we can take today that will make meaningful change?” -anon espy subscriber
This is the greatest question to ask! Maybe first we should mention that we’re borrowing the term “revolutionary optimism” from a specific understanding of politics and economics. We’re not revolutionarily optimistic, we are optimistic for revolution. We believe that a better world is possible, and we do not believe the current organization of power and capital can be reformed. In other words, this system is one that is built on the infinite accumulation of power, resources and money at the top, and it can not be used to undo its own effects. Like a cancer, the only available treatment is removal by any means, all of which are revolutionary by definition.
More to the heart of your question, making meaningful change necessitates embracing struggle. There are many ideas about where and how to struggle effectively, and even many visions of what a better world could look like. But step 1 is and always will be an organized people’s movement from a capitalist economy to something else. We don’t necessarily have to agree on what it will look like, but meaningful change will require a transition.
As to resources or steps to take today, there are so many! We 1000% recommend reading this book (shout out literati), written by the PSL (Sam’s political party). It is a hopeful vision of what life will look like in the first 10 years of a US government reorganized in the interests of working people. There are many ways to take steps towards this vision. Organizing your workplace, neighborhood or town is progress! Join or form a union, join a revolutionary political party! But also, and this is crucial to sustaining yourself and your comrades through struggle, don’t wait for the better world to happen! Even in spite of hardship, it is possible to start building it now.
espy was formed around the idea of catching a glimpse of a horizon we didn’t even really understand. With a clear horizon of a world reorganized in our interests, we can all begin re-understanding, re-imagining now. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What do you want to learn? Can you begin building the labor unions, neighborhood associations, community gardens, coops, etc. that will shepard your community through a revolutionary transition? We’re not going to solve everything without removing the cancer of capitalism, but we are embracing the struggle even now.
BAHO + BYE
3 beautiful new coffees are currently en route from the Baho Coffee project in Rwanda and we will have them this spring! Get ready for some very fun, juicy coffees and the first ~single producer~ Rwandan coffee we’ve ever tried! Thanks everybody for subscribing! It means so much to be able to roast y’all these coffees every month, and it also materially impacts folks all the way down the chain to producers at origin.
As always, hit us up with Qs, exclamations, philosophical critiques and tasting notes,