Since the beginning, Guatemala has been one of our top-selling origins. The success of our Guatemalan beans is widely due to the incredible work ethic and connection made through the producers that Onyx Coffee connects us with. Residing in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Onyx Coffee has become our primary direct supplier for Guatemalan coffee.
Edwin Martinez is the owner, founder, and CEO of Onyx Coffee. Onyx Coffee has provided us coffee from farms such as El Regalito, La Esperanza, El Milagro, and many more. His family also owns the Finca Vista Hermosa Coffee Farm in Huehuetenango.
Here at Sagebrush, building direct relationships with coffee farms is very important to us. It allows us to provide the best available coffee to our customers without an intermediary. We asked Edwin Martinez to share his love for coffee with us by answering a series of questions, and we are so excited to share that passion with you.
Below is our Q&A with the long-time owner of Onyx Coffee...
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What would people that don't know you be interested in?
Despite being a black coffee purist that has geeked out on brew methods and extraction more than I'm willing to admit, I can still enjoy an iced mocha breve on a hot day. But let's be honest, that's not coffee, it's a liquid dessert with coffee as an ingredient. What else... I like to surf, cook, and be with my wife and three boys. I had a lot of random jobs as a teen, often 2-3 at a time and my favorite job was my first, washing dishes at a Sizzler in Miami when I was 14. To this day, I still enjoy washing dishes and do it every chance I get. Keeps me grounded.
How did you get into the coffee business?
I grew up spending holidays at our farm in the highlands of northwest Guatemala in Huehuetenango so the agronomy side has always been familiar, but it wasn't until 1995 in Bellingham, Washington where I borrowed $6k to buy an espresso cart, I much enjoyed crafting something that brought warmth and joy to people almost daily.
What do you love about being involved in the production of coffee?
There is something humbling about the impact potential investing in a community in both the people and in the very soil to produce something that is valued globally. Growing coffee is not lucrative but there is deep reward knowing how many years of work go into a coffee tree before it produces even the first cherry. The beans in this cherry are at its peak on the farm. Quality is produced on the farm and from here on out it cannot be improved. It can only be maintained and preserved. It is where the bar is set.
If you could change one thing about this industry what would it be?
Other than control the sun and the clouds? I would like to see more market separation from specialty and non-specialty coffees. This requires education at the consumer level surrounding how coffee is an agricultural product and how this impacts taste in the cup. As a commodity the value fluctuates on the global market often for reasons unrelated to the factors that should most impact such as supply, demand and quality. As consumers if most of us can't tell the difference between frozen or canned fruits and vegetables why would we pay a premium for fresh produce? It is the same with coffee. We've come a long way but still have a way to go. In my opinion this is why there is a future in coffee. There is still work to do.
Share something with the people that drink your coffee that you'd want them to know about this amazing drink.
A 10oz mug of coffee requires about 160 beans, 80 cherries that in most countries are picked by hand. If somehow just ten cents of each cup went back to a farmer it would almost double their income. This is part of our mission, to bring sustainability and value to all long term.
How has COVID had an impact on your business?
It has reduced sales for brick-and-mortar retailers who are a large part of our customer base, so we've had to pivot and be responsive to this.
What do you think the next 5 years will bring to your part of this industry?
I anticipate both logistics and finance will increase in efficiency and when paired with technology it will provide more opportunity for market access between remote producers and consumers.