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Coffee and a Chat with Hernan Vergara, Racafe

This month we catch up with Hernan Vergara, Director of Speciality Coffee at Racafe. Racafe are a top Colombian specialty coffee exporter, originating in Cundinamarca in 1929 founded by the Espinosa brothers. Initially renting bicycles, the brothers shifted their focus to coffee in 1953. The company swiftly expanded, establishing milling operations in 9 cities nationwide. Currently, Racafe is a significant family business, representing more than 5,000 individual producers and 45 producer groups.

They created CRECER, their internal sustainability program to further push progression across the industry and amongst their farmers. We have worked with Racafe for many years developing our regional offerings as well as commercial lines with them, and look forward to continuing our relationship.

Hi Hernan,

Thank you for joining us for this Coffee and a Chat. 

Please tell us a little about yourself

I was born in a small city called Villavicencio. Is located 90 kilometers from Bogotá in the Eastern Plains. A region dedicated to Rice, Corn, Soybeans, Cocoa, Cattle and other agricultural products.

My father was an agronomist and I grew up on a farm. That created a bond with agriculture and fell in love with rural life and farming.

I am married to Paula and we have 2 sons: Juan María (10 years old) and Ignacio (8 years old).

Hernan, Racafe

Tell us about your journey in coffee. 

I have been working in Coffee since September 2013. I started to work in Logistics and then started to work as a Trader in January 2015.

Very quickly I fell in love with speciality coffee. The relationship, the people, the stories… it was easy for me to work in this environment.

In 2017 I started as Specialty coffee director in Racafé and for the last 5 years have worked with farmers and the community to find ways to produce better coffees to fulfil roasters’ demands and also looking for customers to offer these amazing coffees.

What were you doing before you joined Racafe? 

After finishing my studies as an Industrial engineer, I worked in logistics in the textiles and furniture industry for 7 years. In 2009 I decided to do a master’s degree in agribusiness at Buenos Aires University; looking to connect again with farming and agriculture again.

I came back to Colombia and worked in various jobs but then I got a call from Racafe in 2013 to lead the logistics team.

What does your role look like at Racafe?

My responsibilities are to look for amazing farmers and coffee in Colombia, work with them to improve quality and create a coordinated supply chain.

Also, I need to develop new relationships with importers and roasters to sell these great coffees.

Finally, part of my time I have to do hedging, finance and trading.

I would say my main role is to connect farmers and importers-roasters in a sustainable way reducing risk and ensuring quality.

Is there anything you like doing in your spare time?

Try to spend time with my family, being a good parent and husband. I love to cook and almost every weekend try to spend time in the kitchen.

Could you share any update on the CRECER project.

New regions: We have started to include farmers from Cauca (Suarez), Tolima (Chaparral) and soon we will start with Huila (Gigante). Coffee from Viani will be traceable from Crecer verified farms.

GCP: We are working to have Crecer program validated no the GCP platform for the end of this year.

We developed a quality competition with Crecer farmers in Caldas.

For 2023 we will have 70,000 bags available from the different regions from Colombia (from those 45,000 are from Antioquia)

You can learn more about CRECER Standard here.

Racafe Warehouse

On most of our trips you have accompanied us and showed us around. Is that something you enjoy doing, showing and connecting people?

I enjoy every single trip we do in Colombia. I am convinced that the most important asset that we can have as an industry is the capacity to work together. That is something that can only be done through transparency and trust. Connecting people is fundamental.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?  

I grew up in Villavicencio and when I finished school I moved to Bogotá to go to the University. Right now I live in Bogotá.

If you had one day in your city, how would you spend it? 

Visiting historical areas and museums. I love history and Bogotá is a beautiful city for that.

What is your favourite coffee varietal and processing method? 

I love traditional Washed Caturra. Personally love the coffee from Cauca, especially from Inzá.

How do you take your coffee?

Every morning My wife and I prepare a paper-filtered coffee.