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Peoria Cafés Cultivating Equity With Latin American Coffee Farmers

Cafe Santa Rosa
Heber Vidal owns and operates a coffee farm in Colombia which supplies beans for his store.

Two Peoria coffee bars cut out the middleman between the coffee farms in Latin America and their stores. WCBU Student Reporter Jordan Mead explores how Zion Coffee Bar and Café Santa Rosa are forging more equitable relationships.

Coffee growers in Latin America are often working at a disadvantage in negotiating pay and benefits. That's especially true for smaller coffee farms.

Zion Coffee Bar is focusing on compensating the farmers for the value they provide.

“Our goal is to help them … to open up this market. So, we are not there squeezing out every penny. We want them to earn the value that they provide," Zion Coffee owner Banu Hatfield said. 

Credit DLG
Frolian Minas poses with a bag of harvested coffee beans on a coffee farm in Guatemala.

Banu and her husband, Mike Hatfield, educated themselves on sustainable coffee production and decided to work alongside the farmers themselves through De La Gente, or DLG for short. 

DLG is an organization in Guatemala that works with coffee farmers and cooperatives, building economic opportunities that benefit both the farmers and their communities.

DLG typically produces 30% more in profits for farmers from Ija’tz and San Miguel Escobar than they would through the typical supply chain. 

Roberto Cojtín, president of Ija'tz, produces coffee in the mountains in San Lucas Tolimán.

“We are very grateful … satisfied with all the support and the effort our partners are making, which makes us have a very pleasing experience for all of us and our people," he said. 

Without De La Gente, Cotjín says they would not be able to sell their coffee at the same fair prices. He says working with De La Gente is one of the greatest experiences. 

Manuel Gómez, a coffee farmer in San Miguel Escobar, says there is much value in his work, because behind every cup of coffee, many are impacted.

“I believe that is why they continue supporting us-by buying coffee-because they already know about the effort we make to obtain a better product," he said. 

Another Peoria-based coffee shop, Café Santa Rosa, supports farmers in Colombia through a different approach. 

Credit Heber Vidal / Cafe Santa Rosa
Heber Vidal's Colombian coffee farm

Owner Heber Vidal says he purchased a farm in Colombia 10 years ago and opened a shop in Peoria last year to produce and sell coffee with responsibility.

“We are one of a kind operation in the sense that we own the coffee farms," Vidal said. "We export the coffee from Colombia and import the coffee into the United States.” 

Café Santa Rosa grows their own coffee, processes it, roasts it, and sells it in the shop. Vidal says this rare process is known as “Farm to Cup.” 

Campo Elias Belalcazar, designer and photographer for Café Santa Rosa in Colombia, says he and other staff in Colombia have close relationships with Vidal in the U.S to carry out the long production process. 

“It is not an easy job. We don’t use machines here in Colombia, and we pick the best coffee beans so the consumers in the U.S. have a great flavor in the coffee," Belalcazar said. 

Both Zion and Café Santa Rosa have built up extended families within their coffee shops that not only support these coffee retailers in Peoria, but support farmers thousands of miles away. 

Every ounce of coffee consumed impacts the farmers, and Hatfield and Vidal encourage consumers to educate themselves on where their coffee comes from and how to support sustainable coffee farming.

Editor's note: Some interviews for this story were conducted in Spanish. Translations into English went through a stringent editorial process to ensure accuracy. 

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Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.