A few weeks ago, we released the first piece in a series of posts featuring the faces of the Sustainable Harvest team. Our goal with this series is to give you a better sense of what we do as importers, and all the hard work that takes place before coffee gets to you.
For this installment, we’ll introduce you to our quality control team at origin: Dimar Zurita, based in Peru; Gema Lopez in Mexico; and Leonardo “Leo” Acosta in Colombia. These three professionals work directly with our producer partners, providing trainings to help them better understand how to produce high-quality coffee—and much more. They are also an immense support to our supply coordinators, working closely with them to make sure all of our coffees are delivered on time.
Please read on to learn more about these important individuals on our team!
Quality Specialist, Peru
Dimar joined our team almost a decade ago and started working closely with our supply coordinator, Oscar Gonzalez. Dimar is a trained industrial engineer, but he’s also the son of a coffee producer, so coffee runs in his veins! Just before he graduated from college, Dimar started working at his family’s mill, where he learned to cup. As he started discovering the world of quality control, he fell in love with coffee. He attended a Sustainable Harvest training in Peru, and when we opened a position on our team soon after, Dimar applied, and the rest is history.
When Dimar joined our team eight years ago, he was focused solely on quality control. But his role has evolved over the years; he is also responsible for operations at origin ranging from quality to logistics, and he has some risk management responsibilities, supporting cooperatives on the creation of strategies and analysis of their campaigns. Dimar describes his role as “the extension of the quality control of cooperatives and organizations,” as he works closely with the team of each co-op we work with.
So what does a day in the life of Dimar look like? He usually begins by preparing and roasting samples, to be cupped the next day. “Some are new offerings we try for the first time, some are from cooperatives that want our feedback, and some are pre-shipment samples,” he says. After preparing samples, he updates the system with quality reports, and then he starts cupping the day’s offerings. “In between cuppings, I send samples or have calls with the team to go over inquiries around logistics, or with the sales team to follow up on samples we sent,” Dimar says. “I follow up with the shipments to see everything is running smoothly.”
Dimar says what he enjoys most about his job is knowing that Sustainable Harvest is important to the cooperatives we work with. “It’s like being part of the team of every one of them,” he says. “I get an incredible sense of satisfaction knowing that they apply our Relationship Coffee Model of transparency and innovation, and that we can work together and help each other grow.”
"We do everything on our side, even when the market is not very stable, or when the industry is facing challenges like the current ones, so they can still receive the best coffees we can find - We work hard so they don’t have to worry"
What would Dimar tell coffee buyers to help them understand the role of the SH quality control team in Peru? “We do everything on our side, even when the market is not very stable, or when the industry is facing challenges like the current ones, so they can still receive the best coffees we can find, with consistent quality and in the best conditions,” he says. “We work hard so they don’t have to worry.”
Quality Control, Colombia
Leo started his journey in coffee 18 years ago, when he discovered a passion for the product while working as an assistant manager, barista, and roaster at a café in Bogotá. There, he met Claudia Rocio Gomez, our supply coordinator in Colombia, when she conducted a training at the café through her then-job at a coffee academy. After that training, Leo participated in the Colombian Barista Championship, with Claudy as his trainer; Leo and his team got to the finals and earned second place!
Leo continued working in coffee, including at various roasteries, and at some trading and exporting companies, where he started specializing in green coffee. Eventually, he volunteered at one of our Let’s Talk Coffee events in Colombia, where he met a few of our team members. At that time, Leo says, he thought to himself, “I’d like to be like them someday.” In 2018, after reconnecting with Claudia while looking for a new job, he asked if there were any open positions at SH. The timing was perfect: A couple of days later, Claudia told him we were looking for a quality control assistant and coordinator. We couldn’t be happier that Leo joined our team!
Leo says one of his favorite parts of Sustainable Harvest’s model is that it goes beyond “direct trade” to establish real relationships between members of the supply chain. “I feel like that’s what makes you fall in love with this company—it’s not just a name or a facade,” he says. “You work with people you truly admire, from the global team to our partners. They are people you look up to.”
On a daily basis, Leo’s job is centered on green coffee, as he conducts physical and sensory analysis on all of the coffees passing through Sustainable Harvest’s Colombia office—from offer samples to pre-shipment samples. Leo is also in regular contact with farmers, answering their inquiries on processing techniques, drying, and much more. “I also provide trainings for cuppers, quality control analysts, and roasters at the organizations and cooperatives we work with,” Leo says. “We give them all the tools they need to implement better practices.”
Leo says he loves many parts of his job, including the camaraderie he shares with his colleagues. “The company cares about our growth, and everyone on the team learns from each other,” he says. “I love going to the office and being able to share a cup of coffee with Liliana or Claudia.”
"What I enjoy the most about my job is knowing that the company really works towards improving the lives of coffee growers"
Perhaps even more dear to Leo is the impact that Sustainable Harvest has on our producer partners. “What I enjoy the most about my job is knowing that the company really works towards improving the lives of coffee growers,” he says. “That really is what gets me excited about my job and made me fall in love with what I do!”
Quality Control, Mexico and Central America
Coffee has been part of Gema’s life since she was born. Her parents are coffee producers, and she remembers playing on coffee farms when she was little and just enjoying being around her parents while they worked. After Gema’s father unfortunately passed away, she took on additional responsibilities at the farm, and coffee became a bigger part of her professional life.
Gema moved to the city of Oaxaca when she was 14 to study. While in high school, she met someone who used to work with Sustainable Harvest who invited her to attend trainings and courses at our offices in Oaxaca. It was during one of those trainings that Gema started learning about cupping, quality control, and roasting. Eventually, Gema attended one of our Let’s Talk Coffee events in Peru, where she got to spend some additional time with our team. After that event, in 2017, she officially joined Sustainable Harvest!
Gema’s first role at SH was as part of the quality control team. Gema and Chabela Cerqueda, our supply coordinator in Mexico and Central America, would cup all our coffees from the region and discuss the results with producers. After some time, Gema began getting interested in roasting; she started visiting the cooperatives we work with in Mexico and Central America to run evaluations and diagnostics at their farms. She would follow up with these producers after every harvest to help them improve their practices and quality.
Fast forward to today, and Gema is a vital part of our quality control team while also supporting our logistics team. She is in charge of all the samples we receive and handles all the paperwork, approvals, and shipping instructions. “The origin team is a ‘quality filter,’” Gema says. “We try every coffee before it gets to our clients.”
As Gema has become more and more interested in quality evaluation, she has developed an affinity for cupping coffees. “Cuppings are definitely one of my favorite things about my job,” she says. “I love discovering different profiles!” She says another exciting part of the job for her is visiting producers on their farms. “It’s always amazing to feel welcomed at the farms,” she says. “I always come back with a big smile from those trips!”
"To me, Relationship Coffee means that we see the supply chain as a circle, instead of something vertical or horizontal, and I feel that is one of our strengths as a company”
With coffee having been part of her life for as long as she can remember, Gema is particularly proud to be working with Sustainable Harvest’s model that prioritizes relationships and shared value. "To me, Relationship Coffee means that we see the supply chain as a circle, instead of something vertical or horizontal, and I feel that is one of our strengths as a company,” she says. “It means transparency, traceability, and real, direct relationships. We know the producers, the co-ops, and their quality, and they know us. We trust each other."
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sustainable Harvest blog for the latest updates! In our next behind-the-scenes post, we’ll get to know our Logistics Team, a very important element of our operations!