When our Mercer On Mission group first met Arturo during the summer of 2016, Arturo was working as the director of the local greenhouse initiative. He and his team were planting coffee seeds, nurturing them for 5-6 months, then donating them to farmers throughout the El Oro region of Ecuador.
Because of his extensive knowledge, experience, and connections within the coffee industry, Arturo was assigned the task of acting as our group's tour guide while we traveled throughout El Oro, interviewing and surveying farmers.
Arturo did a great job at it - he knew the location of everyone's plantation and he was able to translate if and when we had issues understanding one of the farmers. Fortunately for me, Arturo and I immediately got along. At that point in my life, my Spanish was rough - okay, maybe horrible. But, for the first time, I was getting over this fear of making mistakes while speaking. Arturo didn't care if I made errors, he just wanted me to keep speaking. Keep practicing.
While the Mercer On Mission trip didn't turn our like we all would've hoped, as we rationally concluded there wasn't enough coffee in the region to substantiate creating a coffee company in The States, Arturo and I kept talking - kept building our friendship.
The more we spoke, the more convinced I became. We should give it a shot - we can build a true direct-trade business. And, while doing so, it will forever be fun.
Now, four years later, we have come a long ways. From 65lbs of coffee to 27,000lbs of coffee - to coffee shops and a roasting facility - to an incredible team in Ecuador and in The States, we have scaled. But, as we continue to grow, Arturo remains in the center of it all.
Below, you will see a list of roles and descriptions that Arturo plays for Z Beans on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. By no means is this a completely exhausted list, as Arturo wears many hats. But, when we are operating efficiently, Arturo is working on these tasks:
- Meeting and Connecting with new farmers.
- Arturo attends different coffee conferences and meetings throughout Ecuador each year. At the conferences, he has the ability to meet and connect with new farmers in hopes that we may be able to visit their plantation and purchase their coffees in the summer. A few examples of farmers that Arturo met at different conferences include Milton Rivadeneira, Ramiro Pauta, Juan Carlos Acevedo, and Jose 'Pepe' Mayo.
- Quality Control Inspections
- Before we purchase coffees in the summer, all farmers are required to send a small sample of green coffee beans to Arturo. When Arturo receives the sample, he grades the green coffee beans, roasts them, and cups them. After his inspection is complete, he will pass the report on to Shane, and together, they decide whether or not to purchase coffee from a particular farmer. To this day, Z Beans has purchased coffee from every farmer who has sent in a sample.
- Once we have purchased the coffee, Arturo continues his quality control analysis. While processing it, Arturo will assess the humidity levels for each farmer’s coffee, ensuring that the range is between 10-12 percent. He will also assess the quality of the green coffee beans. Are there defects? Are there signs of broca or roya? With years of experience, Arturo knows what it takes to produce a quality cup of coffee.
- Logistics Coordinator
- With many years of experience, Arturo has formed many relationships in Ecuador. These relationships have been essential for us as we have grown. We utilize Arturo’s trusted relationships to safely transport coffee from farmer’s plantations to the processing facility in Pinas, Ecuador. We have also used his connections to help us safely get the coffee out of Ecuador as well.
- Before heading to Ecuador to purchase coffee every summer, Arturo will coordinate our itinerary to ensure we are efficient with our time. He will notify farmers, make living arrangements, and purchase bus tickets.
- Manager of the Chocolate Factory
- Arturo plays a vital role in the chocolate business as well. With the coffee and chocolate industry overlapping a great deal in Ecuador, Arturo has the connections to purchase quality chocolate and transport it to our processing facility in Zaruma. Once there, Arturo oversees each step of the chocolate making process.
- Our Mentor
- Every time we have gone to Ecuador, we have stayed at Arturo’s house with him, his wife (Anita), and his daughter (Roseangela). We eat, partake in festivals, and enjoy Ecuador with them. While Arturo has shown a great deal of trust in us over the years, we have reciprocated. When we are in Ecuador, we trust his decision making. In doing so, we are able to enjoy Ecuador to the fullest!
- Arturo has taught us just about everything we know about coffee. His knowledge about the industry is unmatched, and from the very beginning - he has been an open book. To say we are forever grateful for him, would be an understatement. With Arturo by our side, we know - no problem is too difficult, no question can’t be answered, and no dream is too big.
Hasta pronto, presidente.