We’ve been offering coffee from Santa Isabel in Guatemala since 2011. The farm’s history goes a lot further back – to 1875, when the land was granted to the Valdes family by Guatemala’s president. Since 1961, Santa Isabel has been owned by Luis Valdes – a fourth-generation coffee farmer – and today the farm is run and managed by his son, also called Luis, nicknamed “Wicho”.
Wicho’s passion for coffee and love for the farm is evident as soon as you meet him. He always goes the extra mile to ensure his output is tasting great, even contacting us once his beans have arrived in Australia to enquire and make sure they’re tasting delicious.
Here is an interview we conducted with Wicho a short time ago.
Market Lane: Did you always know that you wanted to work in coffee?
Luis Valdes: I didn't know it was going to be coffee, but I always liked the farm life. I grew up around agriculture. I lived on a farm since I was one, and after high school I studied agriculture. The passion for coffee was just developed through the years.
ML: Describe a typical day’s work for you.
LV: My family gets me out of bed, especially my two little boys (Wichito, 6, and Nacho, 3). I always get up early and start before 7a.m., good breakfast included! Then my team and I review the different activities for the day and check on them. During the day, I spend a long time in the fields (which is my "outside office"), and then I always spend some time behind the desk to plan or review things. At the end of the day, we go through the accomplishments of the day and the plans for the next one. My day never finishes without two Santa Isabel coffees...nothing better to get a good sleep!
ML: Santa Isabel is a very special coffee. What do you think the secret is to its complexity, sweetness and deliciousness?
LV: I'd say it’s our microclimate: the weather, the long periods of humidity, the rainforests that surround the coffee plantations, and the location. Also a good nutrition helps a lot, depending on what the plants are asking for. And finally, in a very small amount, the hard work and passion we put into the coffees.
ML: What has been your biggest achievement this year?
LV: To have reached TEN years of a happy, solid marriage with Karen, my supportive and beautiful wife! In terms of coffee, we have maintained the specialty focus of our farm, and maybe even increased it a little bit.
ML: What has been your biggest challenge this year?
LV: To keep growing in terms of market reach. If we can get Santa Isabel coffee to more places and more people, then it means we're not doing badly at all!
ML: What exciting plans do you have for Santa Isabel in the future?
LV: We are trying out new varieties. One is already out on the fields, three are in the nursery and two more are being planted right now. We'll let you know in about three years how the cuppings turn out!
ML: Can you explain where your nickname ‘Wicho’ comes from?
LV: Wicho is a common nickname for Luis in Guatemala. But most of all, I decided to use it because I have the same name as my dad, so my mom was having a difficult time calling us both Luis. Right now we are Luis (my father), Wicho (me) and Wichito (my older son). Not that we don't have imagination for names...but we are extending a family tradition!