【Rebirth】Daniele Levorato: Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates
Hi everyone. First of all, thanks for a wonderful welcome to your country.
We are Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates, established in Panama in 2014. We are part of the AgroNosotros group which, through private equities, invests in specialty agriculture.
At the moment, we own and operate 12 specialty coffee farms for a total of 177ha in Boquete, Panama, one cacao farm in the Bocas del Toro region 135ha, and four different cacao farms in Belize, 60ha in total.
In addition to farming, we operate one coffee shop, soon to be two, in Panama City, and two chocolate bean-to-bar facilities in Boquete, Panama, and Punta Gorda, Belize.
Our mission is to own and operate specialty coffee farms in Panama that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Sustainability is the cornerstone of our business model. It’s not just a buzzword thrown around or a marketing tool.
We believe that with these three pillars of sustainability, we can produce excellent specialty coffee now and for generations to come.
As a crucial part of our business model, we take a full 20% of the gross operating profit from each farm and place it into a bonus pool. This pool is used to provide vastly improved living conditions for our workers and their families.
In 2016, Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates started a scholar program to support the education of our worker’s children. The scholar support program consists of giving them a bonus at the beginning of each new scholar year. Currently, we have 83 kids enrolled in the program.
This bonus is to buy all the stuff they will need for school, uniforms, books, notebooks, backpacks. Then at the end of each semester, they give us their scholar report to follow their academic performance. We also had cases of adults going back to school.
We are also contributing to a local charity that supports families in extreme poverty.
Inefficient water use is one of the biggest problems that traditional wet mills face. To rectify this situation, Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates decided to invest in a more efficient mill that only uses around 10% of the water used in traditional mills. To do so, we replaced the water conveyor method of processing coffee cherries, with mechanical conveyors.
In addition, the mucilage is removed mechanically with a specialized machine, replacing the fermentation step that uses large amounts of water. Even with our use of modern technology, our eco-friendly mills still use a small volume of water that can’t be returned directly into a stream or the farms after being used in the coffee sector.
We refer to it as honey waters. And in Cuatro Caminos, we use it in our vermicomposting process. The vermicompost system is a biotechnology that manages the intensive breeding of worms in specialized beds, transforming fresh organic substrate into a more suitable material for plants.
Here, the pulp and coffee mucilage produced in wet mills is used to obtain humus, leachates or worm exudate, both highly valuable products for soil improvement purposes. Drying is the final step to produce green beans.
At Cuatro Caminos Coffee Estates, we manage 3 systems, patio drying, static and dynamic machinery. In the patio, the heat source is the sun. However, in the static and dynamic machines, we obtain the energy for drying by burning a fuel source.
In the past, we used wood. However, now we are producing green coffee for export. The final peeling process provides a large amount of parchment. Parchment is the coverage of the green bean. In fact, the heat generated by parchment is a little higher than wood, which means that we are not only eliminating our use of wood but replacing it with a sustainable source of fuel.
We started our own coffee shop in 2018, The Perfect Pair, to start testing the products on the market. While the first few years of the business have been tough, you all know what’s happened. Right now, we are gaining momentum.
We find that the vertically integrated business model makes much more sense for us in terms of being economically sustainable. We are all here because of coffee.
And because we believe that only by nurturing the earth that hosts us, we can grow together as entrepreneurs, farmers and humans. We believe that everybody wins when we take care of each other. And together we can overcome challenges to get truly specialty coffee from privileged terroirs and leave the world a little better than we found it.
Q: I noticed that you use a mucilage machine from Pinhalense. Do you find any breaking of the husk with Pinhalense?
A: It depends on the settings. Yeah, there is some. But it’s very little. And it depends on the settings to use.
Q: And do you ferment at all or do you just go straight from the pulping you go through that process?
A: Yeah. No, from the pulp to drying. So we basically use little water in the conveyance process. And that’s it.