It’s an exciting time for wanna be coffee importers. After successfully overcoming myriad obstacles, Yrma & I managed to get our coffee from the central rainforest of Peru to the Port of Callao in Lima, Peru, then on to Long Beach (where we encountered first hand what happens when there’s a longshoreman work slowdown,) from there to northwest Arizona & to select coffee shops in Kingman, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
Too Clueless to Stop
Often as we contemplated this business, we were told we needed market studies & a thorough business plan. For several years we did talk to folks, and try to get a sense for what the market might be. We were always met with enthusiasm, but without coffee in hand, it becomes just a pipe dream. So, with a little capital, and big hopes we decided to move ahead. No firm clients, no orders waiting in the wings, no fancy diagrams or thick business plans with positives & negatives, only the desire to seek great coffee, and to try and help the growers as much as we could. We weren’t particular about certifications & changing the world, but rather wanted to feel somehow connected to the people that grew our coffee. To somehow make a favorable impact on their lives, not even knowing if it was just some foolish sentiment from an old hippie & his kind hearted wife, or if we really could get to know these hard working families that labor so that our french press can be full each morning.
“Seek and you will find” rang true in our case. The journey was different than we could have ever expected, and so many things that at the time seemed unconnected, but in hindsight were part of the journey that led us to exactly what we had wanted. It wasn’t an MBA that guided us, but our hearts and our souls & those kindred spirits in the coffee world that have aided us willingly, almost joyfully as these two “greener than our coffee beans” novices struggled to learn all of the details of not only exporting from Peru, but also the demanding customs procedures of the US.
The journey took us from the metropolitan streets of the capital city, Lima to the jungles of the eastern Andes & to the Amazon River itself. Along the way, we met farmers & shopkeepers, tour guides & coffee roasters, and saw first hand the marvel that is coffee & the amazing trip that each bean has to take to be savored in our cups, and also the care that must be taken to preserve the good flavors & aromas. Each step of that arduous journey is fraught with risk, care must always be taken to guard these treasured beans. Viva Coffee!
The point is that we just took a leap of faith & the rest fell into place. Now, that sounds much easier than it really was, but one truly does learn by doing. So after years of thinking and dreaming, and wondering & hoping, the decision was in the end the only thing that had stopped us. When we finally just decided to do it, the rest came to us.
The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity: several trips to Las Vegas & Phoenix (thank God for the lower gas prices) loaded with 132 lb bags of coffee, samples & promotional materials, occasional roasting for our roasted coffee customers, and of course all the little things that one has to do when one lives off grid on a 40 acre ranch 22 miles down a dirt road in the desert of northwestern Arizona.
We managed to sell the majority of the coffee, so it was gratifying to “finish the circle” so to speak & to realize that we can do this. It wasn’t a huge money maker because of the small volume that we shipped this year, but now we can see what needs to happen to make it all profitable.
Yesterday, we returned to Lima where we will gather the materials needed for solar coffee drying tents, and hopefully be able to visit with the growers. It’s been an exceptionally hard year for them because of torrential rains (see Massive Flooding in the Peruvian Rain Forest,) so we may not even be able to go at this time. If not, we’ll return in late May.
Many thanks need to be said to the roasters who took a chance on us & the small farmers of Chanchamayo. Special thanks to all who have supported the Curibamba project & truly are making a difference. Thank you!
© 2015 Ben Gangloff
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