Why Passion and Commitment Make a Great Coffee Farmer
Horst Spitzke didn’t set out to become a coffee farmer. He had plans of raising cattle in the lush rainforests of Cobán, a city in central Guatemala. Then coffee changed his life.
“Luckily, I found coffee as a perfect match for the land and myself,” Horst said.
The 78-year-old German native purchased the Flor del Rosario farm as a ranch back in 1988. He quickly discovered the steep, rugged terrain wasn’t suitable for cattle. Luckily, Horst has a flair for figuring things out. He decided to do something no one in his family had ever done — grow coffee. He planted his first crop the next year.
“He wasn’t born and raised there, yet he found this natural way to become part of the element of coffee. He does it so well,” said Leslie Wolford, Starbucks senior coffee quality development specialist. In March 2016, Leslie traveled to Guatemala with Starbucks Reserve coffee buyer Ann Traumann. They both had the unforgettable opportunity to meet Horst, a “ball of energy” according to Leslie.
During their five-day trip to Guatemala, they spent the better part of a day at Horst’s farm. For hours, he showed them around his 550-hectare estate. Leslie says they could barely keep up.
“He just took us everywhere, and he was so excited to show us everything. His passion and his commitment to share his love of what he does really resonated with me,” Leslie said.
During one stop on their tour, Horst hopped out of his Jeep to talk with coffee pickers harvesting cherries. He knew them all by name. Many have worked for him for years.
“There’s this very intimate relationship he has with the people that work for him,” she said.
In turn, they affectionately call him “Papi.” He even has a baseball cap embroidered with the nickname—a gift that, judging by the wear and tear, he’s lovingly worn for many, many years.
“Honestly, he reminded me of my grandfather,” Leslie said. “We were just really charmed by his genuineness and his love of what he [does.]”
His dedication to coffee became more apparent as the day went on. The way Horst processes coffee cherries—well—it’s not run of the mill. He showed Leslie and Ann the gravity-fed mill he’s used for years. Some of the equipment isn’t even manufactured anymore, Leslie says. But he loves it so much, he figured out how to keep it running.
“He’s quite ingenious,” she said. “He was kind of like a MacGyver to me.”
Shortly after Leslie and Ann returned from their trip, they received a sample of coffee from Horst. Upon tasting it, Leslie was immediately transported back to that day on the Flor del Rosario farm. With a strong chocolate note and a unique brightness in the cup, they knew it was a coffee they wanted to feature through the Starbucks Reserve® program.
We’re excited to share Horst’s passion with you as Starbucks Reserve® Guatemala Flor del Rosario. The coffee is offered exclusively in November through the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery subscription program.