On the third morning of our trip, we met with a coffee engineer named Alex Santiso. Alex explained to us the science behind certain plagues they've been fighting in the area, as well as the importance of preserving the earth by keeping each farm 100% chemical free. When farmers add chemicals to their plants instead of taking advantage of the natural ecosystem, the plant might produce 50% more coffee in one crop, but chemicals reduce the life of the plant & can damage the fertility of the earth in which it's planted. There are pros and cons to both ways of producing coffee, but (as he said) organic is higher quality coffee.
One of the main issues farmers in Chiapas have to deal with is not enough sunshine and dry weather to patio dry the beans once they've been de-pulped (more on that later). This can result in beans rotting and entire crops lost. Alex mentioned that there is testing being done in the area for other methods of drying. There was fire in his eyes when he talked - obviously this was a passionate subject for him. We found out later that he grew up in a farming family and his mother is currently a member of the Café Justo co-op. Everything he talked about was deeply personal.
When Alex found out we purchase green coffee from the co-op, he started asking about how much of both arabica and robusta we roast. I told him we've played around with the robusta, but have basically given up on it. He got all excited and told me that a 80% arabica / 20% robusta blend makes a wonderful cup and I really ought to try it. His excitement was contagious. Be on the look out for an arabica/robusta blend in our online store soon!