It has always been difficult to quickly explain what we at Onyx Coffee do. If we were to gloss over some of the points and distill it down, that would not represent who we are. Let us not quickly explain but instead take some time and share what we do and where we came from.
FIRST WE ARE FARMERS;
We have been coffee farmers since 1957. Edwin is the third-generation coffee farmer and works with his father overseeing Finca Vista Hermosa in San Pedro Necta, Huehuetenango. For years this is where the story ended; then in 2002, Edwin starting bringing his own coffee into the US via suitcases. He was driven to know why the coffees at Finca Vista Hermosa always seemed to fetch a little bit more from the local buyers than the neighboring farms. Edwin took these samples to roasters in the US for feedback. The result lead to some of the earliest direct-trade relationships in Guatemala.
IT'S TOUGH TO GROW A COFFEE COMPANY ONE SUITCASE AT A TIME...
The next piece of the story is Edwin becoming the first small producer in Guatemala to export his own coffee. A Farm Export License is a fairly common occurrence in Guatemala today but up until the early 2000's it was a mythical piece of paper. Edwin was determined to obtain this license even though no one ever had. It turned out to be an 18 month process of waiting, creating documents, traveling across Guatemala, and more waiting (for anyone that has visited Guatemala you'll understand why waiting is in there twice). Finally, Finca Vista Hermosa was granted its own Farm Export License and we were able to fully export all of the coffee off of the farm.
ONYX COFFEE IS FORMED;
We are a part of the community no matter where we work. This principle will never change. Once Finca Vista Hermosa was granted the right to export, we quickly taught our neighboring farms and farmers how to go through the process and have more proceeds return to origin. As we were assisting our neighbors in exporting their coffees, more and more roasters wanted to directly connect with Finca Vista Hermosa. Coffee being an agricultural product with cyclical yields, we could not accommodate all of the requests from roasters and started connecting our growing network of roasters with our neighboring farms and farmers. To minimize confusion, Edwin created Onyx Coffee as an import/export company in 2006 placing Finca Vista Hermosa as one of the farms we (as Onyx) works with. People often wonder about the relationship between Onyx Coffee Importers and Onyx Coffee Lab. In 2012 Jon Allen left Onyx Coffee Importers to focus on the roasting arm of the company. Just kidding, Jon and Andrea are dear friends, the name is purely a coincidence, and we are very fortunate to work with them!
From 2006 to 2014 Onyx is on a growth track and the Martinez Family is accomplishing incredible feats. We are exporting and importing friends and families coffees, we enter Finca Vista Hermosa into the Cup of Excellence and place, and we are educating our farmers both at the farm level with agronomists and sample roasting/cupping. We start to work with growing regions outside of Huehuetenango, networking through the Cup of Excellence and meetings with quality-driven farmers. We focus on domestic logistics by creating efficient systems for our farmers and again, increasing the profits that are returned to origin.
ONYX COFFEE IMPORTERS GROWS AGAIN;
To date Onyx offers the most high-scoring micro lot selection from Guatemala than any other importer. In 2016 we are working with over 150 Guatemalan Farmers and over 250 micro lots. We work with two Huehuetenango cooperatives that produce over 40 containers of Fair Trade Organic coffees. We work with four micro dry mills and are planning on building our own mill in Huehuetenango. The team has expanded in both Guatemala and the US. Onyx adds a logistics expert and a lab technician, grows the roaster support team, and an operations specialist.
When all of these pieces come to together we can create life changes for families and communities. We provide unforgettable experiences for roasters and unimaginable benefits for farmers. In a way Onyx Coffee Importers has been on this path for almost 60 years. Edwin's grandfather, Felipe Martinez, planted churches throughout the San Pedro Necta as a pastor. He built and took care of those communities returning often to preach. Edwin's father continued the missionary work throughout Huehuetenango and other parts of Guatemala his entire life. He continues to work with church groups to this day. Edwin's mission is through coffee and the farmers.
While Onyx Coffee has a number of "firsts" under our belt we will never settle. There are over 120,000 Guatemalan Farmers and that means there are coffees that have not been separated out to highlight their unique characteristics, farmers who have not tasted their very own coffees, and communities that have not benefited from direct trade. Our work is never done and that is all part of the plan.
These stepping stones have all come natural for Onyx Coffee. It feels like yesterday that we were using checked suitcases to move coffee and today 40' containers! We are an inclusive company that uplifts Guatemalan farmers and celebrates roasters. Join us!