In 2014, Ryan Chipman sat on a bus headed to a town called Quetzaltenango to attend a series of Spanish classes. A 25-year-old college graduate with a determination to immerse himself in local culture, he worked for both a local business and non-profit. His heart was for the people of Guatemala, and he yearned for a deeper connection to the community.
As fate would have it, sitting next to Ryan on that bus were Tiffany and Carlos. They, too, shared a passion for the people of Guatemala, and invited Ryan to visit Yepocapa. Carlos, his brother Chino, and Tiffany were involved in a local school, Colegio Berea. After learning about the school and becoming inspired by the opportunity to reach the community, Ryan soon began teaching English classes at the school with the help of Chino.
The school was a blessing to the community, consistently earning accolades at the local and national levels. With an excellent teacher to student ratio, Ryan and Chino were able to really bond with the students, 60% of whom belonged to coffee farming families.
When financial struggles became more prevalent at the school, the guys began to think of ways that they could help the school. Around that same time, some of Ryan’s friends from the states were requesting that Ryan bring Guatemalan coffee back to the US. Out of this desire to support community and education, Yepocapa Coffee was born.
Ryan and Chino began to explore what the coffee trading business could mean for the community and what it would require of them. Ryan mentioned to us recently that in the beginning of Yepocapa, it seemed like the cards were stacked against them. It was not easy to get approved for loans or to convince farmers to take a chance on them. Because Chino was a local, thankfully, he was able to gain the trust of a few producers early on.
In their first year in operation, they were able to bring on a small handful of coffee growers to work with them, and Yepocapa received a blessing of financial support from a stateside roaster giving them the ability to purchase coffee and pay the farmers directly.
After year one, obstacles started falling away and Yepocapa really started to gain momentum. Having made good on their promises to their coffee producing partners the year prior, Ryan and Chino gained further respect from the community and began to attract more and more coffee producers. An obstacle that seemed massive was shipping and logistics with Yepocapa being so far from the coast/ports.
At the time, the local co-op, La Cooperativa San Pedrana, did not have it’s export license. This is unfortunately a common problem in Guatemala. Many co-ops apply for export licensure for years on end with no success. In the face of nearly insurmountable odds, La Cooperativa San Pedrana applied for their coffee export license and, within a year, were accepted. This allowed for Yepocapa to work more closely with the local farmers and the co-op to get incredible, fresh Guatemalan coffee to the states.
Now in their fifth year of operation, Yepocapa Coffee is not losing any steam and has not lost their sense of purpose in supporting the community. Although Ryan no longer teaches at Colegio Berea, Yepocapa Coffee dedicates a portion of their profits to the school in hopes of consistently supporting the community’s education.
We love partnering with people who choose to invest deeply in communities through a variety of avenues, whether economic, educational, nutritional, etc. We are confident that the coffee we purchase is directly impacting the lives of those in the community of Yepocapa.