The story of my heritage starts actually in the late 1800’s, when groups of young and intrepid men used to leave their towns looking for land and fortune in the less explored territories; it was similar to pioneers here and also risky, as Colombia was living a tough war, “The 1000 days war” around that time.
Jesus Zapata was part of this group of what we call “Arrieros”, who left the town of Manizales and ventured south, ending their journey toward the southwest end of what today is called “The Coffee Zone” (La Zona Cafetera).
Years later, in 1903, the town of Sevilla was officially founded and there is where our story starts being written; Jesus Zapata was my great grandfather, he was already growing coffee in that area and he had a little boy who was just three years old when they arrived in there.
The little boy’s name was Honorio, man of Honor, my grandpa; he was really smart and he loved coffee, he made that his main way of living and as his family grew so it did the knowledge and passion for growing what by that time was starting to be an important part of our economy as a country and of our culture, the most appreciated coffee beans.
There are too many stories about my grandfather to be told in these pages; I can only say, “he always smelled like coffee”; I grew up visiting him and following him wherever he would go, so, coffee was my life since I was a child.
My grandfather had many children, my dad and 12 more! Most of them followed him in his main job, starting and growing little coffee farms; he left us when he was 96 but, by that time he had created a tradition; most of his grandchildren were also growing coffee, I was going to college where later I graduated in the school of Agricultural Engineering, my brother graduated as an Agronomist; most of us just wanted to be like him.
My Family Tradition
My father kept his farm near Sevilla until that critical year of 2002, when Jorge, my husband and I started the project to grow mushrooms of coffee waste; it was a research project I became a member of with the National Center for Coffee Research; we used to travel to the farm every week, sometimes I would stay there as the mushrooms grew while Jorge worked his main job.
But violence was rampant in our country, somehow the word that we were doing something different got out and one night people who claimed they were from the guerrillas paid a visit to the farm; I wasn’t there as I was eight months pregnant with my first child, but Jorge, my dad, and my brother and my little nephew were there; they surrounded them with guns and rifles, threaten them, took our jeep, and took my brother with them saying we needed to pay ransom and monthly installments from then on.
That same night they released him but told him “tell your dad to bring the money next week or we will burn the farm down”; when they got back to Bogota, the capital city, authorities just said it would be too hard to track these people down, “it could be anyone” the commander said…
We decided to leave the country, my husband could try to find a job abroad, so we moved here, to the wonderful Pacific Northwest.
My dad sold the farm and started another one closer to the main city, a safer region also known for the quality of their beans; “Villa Linda” has been his farm since then and we are currently working in directly importing beans from there too.
More than forty relatives today work around coffee, they grow coffee in small farms, they roast, they own coffee shops in small towns; Zapata coffee is born of this tradition of love and respect for coffee and for the communities where it is the main way of living.
This is what I am; I feel blessed to have found this community that embraced me and my family, they gave me wonderful friends and neighbors, and I am honored to have to opportunity to continue my family tradition roasting great coffee for the community I feel proud to call my community.
I hope you enjoyed the story, I hope you enjoy our coffee…
Maria V. Zapata, owner and roast master.
Coffee is usually grown in small plantations in the mountains of countries near the equatorial line, for many reasons, many known reasons, these are usually underdeveloped countries, and coffee farmers usually struggle to make a living, while companies in the U.S. and Europe make millions off the business.
We decided that we wanted to be aware and sensitive to the through social origin of coffee from the moment we start as a small business, and that is why we are connected to organizations working globally to help improve the quality of leaving in coffee growing countries.
In particular, Zapata Coffee Roasting Company is a member of the Women in Coffee world alliance, an organization devoted to help women who work for the coffee industry around the world.