Small Batch Roasting Because Small Lot Farmers
head roaster owner

Stephen Holmes
Owner & Head Roaster

By now, you’ve learned a thing or two about third wave coffee in a previous post. And of the most important characteristics  of third wave coffee is small batch roasting. “Small batch” is a phrase that implies more than just a limited production of goods. In the world of coffee, it confronts gigantic batch roasters who can roast up to 2,000 lbs at a time. It speaks of care given to beans. It conveys the message, “We aren’t in a hurry,” and “Good things take time.” More specifically small batch roasting corresponds to small lot farming, often known as micro/nano lots. The hard work a farmer puts into a small crop is reconstituted by a roaster in a way that will maximize that coffee’s potential––it honors that farmer’s beans.

arrott portrait

Arrott, our roasting manager, dropping a batch into the roaster

Photograph by Steve Willis

As stated in the previous post, the first year of coffee business is typically a period of grief since you don’t know enough about the industry to have met a farmer. When I founded Peregrine in 2018, I already had the unique experience of living in Nepal for a couple years, where I visited coffee farms and witnessed firsthand the distinct processes involved in coffee going from farm to cup.

This gave me respect for the product itself and for the farmer’s hard work. It was ingrained in me to never forget the connection of the farmer to the cup of coffee we drink. While my experience in Nepal was unique, it gave me a driving philosophy—a desperation to not just find coffee, but to find farmers.

Finding the Farmer

Cesar Gaitan
Peregrine’s start was atypical however. It had a touch of the Divine, one might say. From the start, a unique partnership dropped in our laps—one that embodied the importance of farmers in a tangible way. His name is Cesar Gaitan. 

When Cesar, a Guatemalan native, and I were introduced (shout out to Kenny from All Good Things Coffee Roasters for the connection), he was in the process of immigrating to America. For our first meeting Cesar came to our home for breakfast. We talked for several hours over some Ethiopian coffee of which he constantly bemoaned was too tart and acidic like a faithful and true Guatemalan would. During those cups I heard his life story. He wanted to roast coffee together afterwards, so we fired up the roaster and did right then! I adored this breach of culture and felt as though I was baptized again into the waters outside of America that I loved so much. I knew we were off to a good start. 

Cesar was from Maya Ixil, a coffee farmer cooperative, in Guatemala, and was proud to show me how his local coffee tasted. I knew that this connection was priceless, and his coffee immediately became a staple in my shop from year one. 

People loved the coffee for its smooth chocolatey-ness, though it was a low-scoring coffee. It being a “low-scoring” coffee did not matter to me. What mattered was that we began a friendship with a real Guatemalan who was from the region itself. While I was unable to go to the origin, the origin came to me… and for this I have been extremely grateful!

The Discovery of Other Farmers

Connecting with Cesar has helped open the door to many more relationships with coffee farmers. Despite the fact that an unexpected turn of events changed Cesar’s circumstances,  Cesar remained an optimist, with boots on the ground in Guatemala and the U.S., and kept helping us open those doors. We just went on his coattails with new coffee relationships as they developed. 

José Padilla – Santa Felisha Farms
One of those relationships was with José Padilla. José Padilla is a die-hard Guatemalan, working hard to oversee Santa Felisha Farms where our  Guatemala Don Antonio, Guatemala Volcán Chingo, and Geisha coffees from Antonio and Annabelle Menesis have their roots. José particularly has a drive to see exotic coffees grown and create a stronger presence for truly unique coffees in the industry. Last year, it was a groundbreaking three hours for us to host José Padilla at Peregrine. We tried all of his coffees that we had in stock in multiple ways. We literally just geeked out with him over his coffee! His wife translated, as he spoke only Spanish, and we talked of our different approaches to his coffees. He expressed so much gratitude to us, as we equally did to him.

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Jose Padilla and his wife, with Cesar and I in 2021

A golden moment transpired that day in our shop with Jose Padilla. As he pursued our shelf he offered to do the most beautiful favor for us––to take a bag of the Don Antonio Guatemala back to Don Antonio himself so that he could try our roast of his coffee. This opportunity was one of those things we have been living for.  It was one of our proudest moments!

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Don Antonio on site in Guatemala holding our approach to his coffee in his hands

We are still on the journey at Peregrine to become who we know we can be. In some ways we are just cresting the horizon to be able to realize them. World-renowned Spanish chef Andoni Luis Aduriz is someone who I’ve come to look up to in business principles. He has made a name for himself through intentionally knowing the depth of story and connectivity behind the food he serves. He is so passionate about what he believes that he closes his restaurant three months out of the year in order to travel with his team of chefs and see firsthand where his food comes from, learning every detail he can about the people and processes. At Peregrine, we possess a similar mindset. And, while we don’t necessarily have the means to close our coffee shop for three months of the year just to travel and visit our farmers, the sheer courage of what he’s doing has inspired us to be willing to do what is necessary to find the story behind our product. As we seek to devote ourselves to the journey of being truly connected to our farmers, we welcome you to join us in partaking in something that’s more than a purchase. Our future farmers will thank you and your commitment to such principles enables our small business to do this with excellence.

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