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Hidden Gems: Meet Kenny Becerra of Cafe Orgullo Celeste

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenny Becerra.

Hi Kenny, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
At the end of 2015, I took a trip with my mother to visit my grandmother & family in Guatemala City. While we were down there, we decided to take a trip to the town of Fraijanes where my mother spent most of her school breaks as a child with her aunts, uncles & cousins. She always spoke to me about how beautiful the scenery that nature provided was. How the air just smelled cleaner & food tasted better because of the freshness. My first day in Fraijanes, I spent most of the afternoon walking through their property which sits at the top of a mountain the locals refer to as “El Chocolate”. That’s where I first saw coffee plants growing semi-ripe cherries on their branches. I asked my family what prices they were being payed for their year long effort knowing high elevation coffee was not cheap back home. Realizing how little money was earned for their backbreaking work was an eye opening moment. It made no sense for them to be working so hard to sustain their humble day to day lives while others at the end of the supply chain were profiting so greatly from their blood, sweat, & tears. I returned with a mission to find out if importing their coffee to Los Angeles was an option in order to have the ability of paying them what they really deserved. In 2016 I registered for some international business & logistics courses at ELAC. Once I figured out it was possible, I reached out to my family once again with a plan. With their help, I was able to connect with the right people in the town to set up everything from processing the coffee to having it shipped. While waiting for the beans to be processed & exported to me, I purchased a roaster, knowing I needed to have a deeper understanding of specialty coffee.

In November of 2018, we successfully made our first import of a single origin coffee directly from the farmers in Fraijanes, Guatemala. El Cielito Cafe was our first “Farm Direct” connection. Since then, we’ve been blessed to have a handful of cafe’s & coffee cart vendors around Los Angeles believe in our mission to provide farmers with sustainable pricing for their knowledge & hard work.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
In my situation having patience & belief in the project was very important. It took three years of effort on both sides of the border to even have the coffee exported out of Guatemala. Within that, I had to learn what specialty coffee was all about. The Import/Export process was very challenging though. Thankfully I’d learned enough from my year in Community College to plug in a lot of the holes. Selling the coffee was also a huge learning experience. A lot of cafes/roasters have established relationships with large coffee distribution companies which sell them coffee at a cheaper price. The fact that some coffee shops prefer to have a minimally better profit margin than to help the dire situation the farmers & their workers face daily made me have a lot of doubt. Not only in my own self as a salesman but also in my business plan. But knowing I had people at origin depending on what I did here in Los Angeles made me just keep pushing through until I found daylight.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Cafe Orgullo Celeste?
We are a specialty coffee import/export/roasting company that sources our beans directly from my family’s & other neighboring farms in the beautiful town of Fraijanes, Guatemala. My company was founded on the idea that there’s enough wealth in the coffee industry so that those who grow and help process the beans we love so much are not underpaid and living in poverty. Paying my farmers well above what the international market says is the thing I’m most proud of because it shows that our mission statement is in full effect. Everything my company does will always be from the heart & with the truest intentions to help change the way coffee is bought & sold. To further help the situation, we’ll be releasing a coffee table book and apparel using the hands & faces of coffee field workers really soon. All the profits from the sales will go directly to the workers to help alleviate their financial hardship. Also really excited to carry a one of a kind coffee named Apple Coffee in our online shop next year. What’s so amazing about this coffee is that only one farmer has this in the world. I’ll be releasing a short documentary explaining its origin in the coming months so stay tuned for more.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
For my business, I keep up with a handful of sources on Instagram like World Coffee Research, Perfect Daily Grind, SCA, The Search for the Perfect Cup. Those accounts give me a good mix of what’s going on around the world as well as locally. Fellow coffee business owner friends are also a huge blessing to have. I’ve been lucky enough to have found a few like-minded individuals from every facet of the industry that I can bounce ideas off of. Podcast wise I really don’t have much time having a 1 yr old running around but when I’m driving, I started listening to the Chicano Shuffle Podcast. Really funny podcast that just kind of takes me back to simpler times in L.A.

Bookwise, I’m currently reading “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. It’s a mind over matter motivational book. I’ve honestly never been one to read a “Motivational Book” before but a friend of mine referred it to me after we had a conversation about mental fatigue and just basic everyday motivation. Enjoying it so far.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Erwin Recinos (Cover, Image 2 & 3), Kenny Becerra

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