Orlando Lemus - Guatemala

Country: Guatemala

Region: Olopa, Chiquimula

Zone/County Seed/District: Olopa

Altitude/Elevation: 5000 ft

Characteristics/Species: Yellow Catuai

About Orlando

In the heart of Olopa, Guatemala, resides Orlando Lemus, a fourth-generation coffee farmer with a legacy of innovation and dedication. Orlando's passion for coffee runs deep, evident in the care he takes nurturing his 85-acre coffee farm. In Orlandoʼs home, a TV stand serves as an altar where he and his family display photographs of loved ones and memorabilia important to them. Among these items are a SoZo ceramic coffee mug and two cards, each signed by SoZo customers to say “Thank You for your awesome coffee.”

Honoring the Flavors

Orlando's coffee, aptly named "Esquipulas" after the town, is a medium-bodied delight. Grown at 5000 ft, this Yellow Catuai coffee offers a symphony of flavors. It begins with a wonderful bouquet of floral notes, leading into a rich dark chocolate essence, and finishing with a hint of cherry.

About the Region

Nestled in the highlands of Olopa, the Lemus family farm stands as a testament to innovation. The sunny yet rugged terrain, once doubted by neighbors as unsuitable for coffee production, has been transformed into a thriving coffee haven. Thanks to Orlando's groundbreaking farming techniques (his thought was to use the thick weeds to keep the grounds moist and stop the sun from drying out the ground) Orlandoʼs determination resulted in an excellent product. 

Farmer and Roaster Collaboration

SoZo Coffee Roasting's partnership with Orlando Lemus goes beyond sourcing coffee beans; it's a commitment to community empowerment and sustainable practices. Orlando's farm has blossomed into a beacon of hope for his community. The innovative techniques and sustainable practices have improved coffee production and transformed the lives of those involved.

Lasting Impression

The impact of SoZo's collaboration is about creating a positive ripple effect in the local community. Orlando's award-winning coffee not only represents excellence but also provides a source of pride and hope for the workers and families involved. This is why we are excited to partner with him to help us “save good people from bad coffee.”

Additional Insights:

Innovative Farming Practices:  Orlando's "worm farm" is a testament to his ingenuity, using worm castings as organic fertilizer. He uses worms to break down the remnants from around the bean. As the worm secretes waste, Orlando collects the liquid, mixes it with water and sprays it on his plants as fertilizer. He applies the solids the worms break down to the base of the trees as fertilizer.

Sustainable Operations:  Orlando questions the potential fallout from using chemicals on his coffee trees. “If I spray something on my leaves and it's not natural, how is it affecting the soil?” Orlando explained “And if we donʼt know how it's affecting the soil, how is it affecting our product? And if we donʼt know how itʼs affecting our product, then how is it affecting you?

Recognition and Awards:  Orlando's coffee earned the title of "Top Coffee" in his region, a testament to its exceptional taste and quality. The coffee's journey from bean to cup is a celebration of meticulous care and dedication.

Direct Farmer Relationship:  SoZo Coffee Roasting's commitment to direct trade ensures transparency and quality control. Bypassing anyone else in the middle, SoZo Coffee Roasting and Orlando Lemus can collaborate closely to bring the finest quality beans to coffee lovers.

Community Impact:  Orlando's involvement in a local coffee cooperative fosters knowledge sharing and community support. SoZo Coffee Roasting's partnership aims to uplift the community, providing a platform for growth and recognition.

Future Endeavors:  SoZo Coffee Roasting's long-term vision includes working directly with Orlando to enhance bean selection and quality. A union of passion, innovation, and sustainability, bringing the finest Guatemalan coffee from farm to cup. Experience the essence of "Esquipulas" in every sip, and join us in supporting a legacy of excellence and community empowerment.

Rodney’s account of visiting Orlando:

The first time I went to Olopa in 2017, I had the privilege of taking my employee, David, who has been roasting alongside me at SoZo Coffee Roasting. We toured Orlandoʼs family farm and had dinner with his wife, Renia Marie Pazos Guevara De Lemus, and one of their two daughters (they also have a son).

After we walked the fields, I enjoyed a delicious dinner of traditional Guatemalan chicken stew and freshly made corn tortillas with Orlando and his family. I could hear the laughter of their cute and curious children, who were playing as the men had lunch. As we ate, we listened to Orlando reminisce with stories of growing up on the farm.

Edgar, who was happy to speak to me in my native tongue, had shared stories as we drove together earlier that morning of the workers in his community and how difficult it is for them to do anything different than what they are doing now. He told me how hard they work, and that the workers who pick the coffee will most likely be picking coffee for the rest of their lives. On the road that morning we passed an elderly man carrying a machete and a bundle of sticks. He supplies people with wood for their fires to make dinner. Thatʼs his job now and probably will be his job for the rest of his life, too.

The feeling of hopelessness – that thereʼs no way to get out of it – struck a chord with me, and I wondered, is there anything we can do to help these people? The farmers in their local coffee cooperative get together and share whatʼs working and whatʼs not working. They try to help each other out. These farmers know that if they produce a better product, it brings more recognition to their community and increases demand for their coffee. They also hope that this will give the workers more of a sense of accomplishment for their part in that. I want SoZo to be part of that effort, too.

In March I traveled for a second time to Olopa to visit Orlando and his family and tour his 85-acre coffee farm. I was excited to see them again, and they were happy to see me; but the first question they asked was “Whereʼs David?” For me, that's when you know youʼve made an impression on someone.

When I presented Orlando with the mug, a bag of his coffee and the cards, I could see that he was struggling to keep his emotions in check. (Like me, heʼs not going to let you see him cry!) His brother, Edgar, also a coffee farmer and who speaks wonderful English after spending some time living in New York, served as our translator. Edgar didnʼt bother trying to remain stoic. Tears were welling up as he explained the SoZo motto to Orlando.

“Do you understand this?” Edgar asked. “Youʼre helping Rodney ʻsave good people from bad coffee.ʼ”

Orlando told me as he placed our gifts on the shelf in his section of cheer, “When I get ʻdown,ʼ I want to be able to know that what Iʼm doing is making a difference.”

Also on the “altar” was an award Orlando received for “Top Coffee” in his region. Orlando is a fourth-generation coffee farmer and a member of a local community coop with other coffee farmers. The coop paid to bring in a “Q grader” to sample their coffees. The Q grader is someone who has calibrated their palate to be able to tell the characteristics of a cup of coffee and what notes you should be tasting in it. He selected Orlandoʼs coffee for the highest award, for its characteristics and exceptional taste.

This is the same lot of coffee beans we are roasting at SoZo.

When we prepared to take a photo of Orlando with his award, he pulled in his family to be in the picture with him. That made so much sense to me. Mindy and I know the sacrifices we make for our business affects not only us but our kids, too. Orlando recognizes this as well.

A surprise to me, Orlando found me online and emailed me. He told me he knew that Tom brought me a sample of his coffee. Tom Heffron works at Farm Direct Coffee and is our coffee supplier. He is a former Michigander who now lives in Guatemala and is working with us to bring Farm Direct Coffee from smaller sustainable growers like Orlando. Orlandoʼs email read:

“You tasted it. I want to know what you thought of it.” 

He was able to communicate with me personally, the guy roasting his coffee beans. So cool.