Temple Coffee Q and A with Diego Guardia of Hacienda Sonora, Costa Rica

Briefly, please explain your family history, your involvement in coffee, and your involvement in your local community?

The farm has been in the family for over a hundred years. My dad and I work together in order to satisfy the countless details that come with producing quality coffee, from the seeds to the primmest green coffee ready to be exported. The farm itself is a small local community, where the workers enjoy competitive wages, free housing, and health care. We generate all the energy used in the farm with a small but very efficient water turbine, so the workers and their families also don’t have to worry about paying for electricity.

Prior to doing business directly with roasters, how have you sold your coffee? How is doing business direct with roasters affecting your business, family and community?

When we first opened our micro-mill we started selling to big companies like Starbucks and Illy. When we started dealing with smaller buyers our process in the Mill started improving every year. Smaller buyers pay better but they also demand prime quality. Costa Rica is a very expensive country to produce coffee, so the only way to keep the business live is to sell at good prices. We have to keep doing business with roasters; otherwise the business of the farm is going to be real state instead of coffee. They community is not going to have a place that gives work to the people, instead is going to have more houses full of people going to work somewhere else. The local economy wouldn’t be sustainable without the farm.

Temple coffee prefers to use trusted exporters and importers to handle logistics, and provide insight on expectations between our producers and ourselves. There are advantages and disadvantages to using exporters and importers. Which do you believe works better and why. Can you think of ways the supply chain can be improved?

Importers and exporters are necessary because of scale economics. We wouldn’t be able to be profitable or efficient at exporting and importing when we have small quantities and business we need to be great at. However if there’s a transparent relationship between producers and roasters then the exporters and importers will have to give a good service.

Temple pays above organic or fair-trade premium for our coffees, how has this affected you and your community?

Thanks to customers like you we have been able to stay in the coffee business. Costa Rica is too expensive to produce commodity. Hacienda Sonora gives work to over a hundred people in the months of harvest, plus a big staff in the field and mill year round.

Temple attempts to keep dialogue open with all our producers and share marketing information (coffeereview scores, customer feedback, etc). Do many of your direct relationships also do this? Is it helpful for you and does it affect your business? Is it unique to Temple?

Very few roasters keep such close relationship. Feedback is very important for us! It is crucial to know what we are doing right and what we could improve. It is also very important from the Marketing point of view. For instance, if Temple ships a batch of our coffee to the Barista Championship in China, is important for us to know that, since it’s something worth sharing with all of our customers.

How do direct relationships affect your coffee quality? What information do you find most useful?

Everyone in the specialty coffee industry knows that you can never know enough about coffee. Information is key! We like to know how each variety is being sold, for example: single origin espresso, house blend, etc… Each variety we have is sold differently depending on the place of the world and the taste of people in that particular place. It’s important for us to know the trends in different places in order to market our varietals better.

I have to tell you and ask, Temple will be applying for Micro-Roaster of the Year 2013. If Temple wins, how will this affect you?

I’m not exactly sure, but it will definitely be good. All know is that we would be very happy for our Temple friends!

Temple is committed to spreading our local community to our producers. The purpose of this Q and A is to provide you with a dialogue with our wholesale and retail customers as well as our staff. Is there anything you would like to say to them? 

I would tell them to get as much info as possible from each batch they are buying. The future of the world relies on responsible consumers.

Is there anything you would like to add or anyway you can think of that we can do to make your relationship with Temple Coffee better?

We are very grateful and exited for the direct relationship we have established; we look forward to keep on working together for many many years. You are welcome back at Hacienda Sonora anytime you want!

Thank you, as always, we will look forward to working with you in the future!