Hi, I am Tomas Trigueros III one of the co-founders of Jags Head Coffee. As we come to the end of the year, 2 things come to mind; 1.) I really want to thank all our partners who have supported us throughout the year, whether it be by serving our coffee in their fine establishments, or all the direct customers we have had a chance to engage and speak with at the farmers market (this has really been an amazing experience for us); 2.) How far we have come along in our mission that we set out to a few years ago. It is on the second point I want to talk a bit more about.
Coffee farming has been in crises mode for over 20 years. Global coffee prices from the year 2000 to 2005 hovered from $0.45c to $0.60c, truly unsustainable prices, this initiated a widescale decline in coffee farming. Then in 2012, Central America was hit hard with Roya (coffee leaf rust disease) which devastated coffee yields on national levels by up to 75%. This was the final nail in the coffin for many coffee farmers choosing to abandon their farms instead. After the Roya outbreak coffee prices continued at unsustainable prices around $1.20 per lb.
After much discussion in 2016 our dad and family farm were faced with a tough decision on whether to continue farming or sell the land for real estate development. We knew we did not want to sell the land for real estate development, so we doubled down on coffee and decided to integrate vertically into coffee roasting; the plan being to bring high quality specialty coffee at prices sustainable for the farm, the roastery and to bring some of the best coffee in the world (no doubt the best in Charlotte NC!) at low prices making it approachable for everyone. We started by planting more coffee trees year over year, with only the highest quality varietals, strict harvesting, and processing standards. These strict standards are rarely seen today in modern coffee farming where higher yielding, lower quality varietals are used, with less post-harvest sorting to increase yields have become the norm (think green and red coffee cherries being picked, and of varying sizes). We can’t judge or blame them for that since the coffee farmer has the hardest job, and takes the most risk (market prices, and uncontrollable environmental factors to name a few) with the lowest profit in the supply chain. If the coffee farmer’s yield goes down, or quality suffers there “partner coffee roasters” do not help them out. They might buy whatever they have, take the photo op, share there “direct trade” or “fair trade” story, and pay an additional $0.30c per/lb which in many instances does not even cover the price of production (the farm has been in this spot before). This does not do much for the sustainability of specialty coffee. At the same time roaster charges the end consumer a couple of dollars more for the story. I always encourage everyone to ask their local coffee roaster how much the farmer gets paid per lb, not the exporter, importer or any other middle man but instead the actual farmer.
Fast forward to 2019, Jags Head Coffee is ready to operate! The farm had been investing in new plants and exotic varietals, having put the best farming practices and
quality controls in place. At the same time my brother Andres (our head roaster) had been training and practicing his coffee roasting skills (initially in my shed on a 1 kilo machine, my daughter Sofia (age 7) referred to the shed as “Uncle Andy’s house”). Not even having been open a full year we faced the pandemic, with many of clients having to close but we luckily managed to still grow.
Finally, we get to 2021 and Jags Head Coffee is on firm footing, with an established name for high quality specialty coffee. Going back to my 1st paragraph this year was definitely a crucial year for us with the farm making its first healthy and sustainable profit in decades! All of this is thanks to everyone who have supported the roastery the past few years. As I write this my oldest daughter Sofia is making sure I mention her efforts at the farmers markets on the weekends selling freshly roasted specialty coffee, so shout out to Sofia! Also ensuring another generation of our family continues in coffee.
With this good news, our dad on behalf of the farm and Jags Head Coffee was able to donate 12 bikes to kids in the
local community, who otherwise would not have that opportunity. This is in addition to the health services, and meals provided to our collaborators during harvest season. This is just a small step in the right direction, ultimately one of our goals is to bring the internet to the local community which will be life changing for the locals. We are looking to make real impacts to communities and not pizza parties for showmanship.
While many coffee farmers are constantly abandoning farming, we are looking to grow our farms. As we continue to grow, our mission is not just becoming a top specialty coffee roaster and making farming sustainable for our family, but to make it sustainable for other farmers as well. We hope to bring other farms along with us to ensure the world still has a great cup coffee available to them for years to come. We also hope to set a new way of how specialty coffee roasters work and collaborate with coffee producers.