Foundation: The Canales family & Saint-Henri micro-roaster|Foundation: The Canales family & Saint-Henri micro-roaster

Fondation: La famille Canales &  Saint-Henri micro torréfacteur|Foundation: The Canales family & Saint-Henri micro-roaster
Travel story by Jean-Francois Leduc, founder of Café Saint-Henri.

VS
t was in March 2009 that I undertook my first trip to supply coffee for the company I dreamed of founding. It would see the light of day two years later: Saint-Henri micro-roaster.

This first exploratory trip aimed to obtain an understanding, acquired in the field, of the different aspects of coffee agriculture: varieties, harvesting methods, types of fermentation and drying, etc. On this trip, I traveled through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. In each of these countries, I visited several farms producing specialty coffee, hoping to gain as much knowledge as possible and, if luck permitted, establish an initial purchasing relationship with producers.

Today, I have the enormous privilege of finding myself, once again, on one of the farms visited 10 years ago, that of the Canales. I visited it at the time because one of their certified organic batches had won the first prize in the Cup of Excellence in Nicaragua, a first for an organic coffee. Since that time and depending on the harvest, I have continued to purchase lots belonging to Milton and other times to his brother Norman. Milton, the eldest of the siblings, received me on his farm and in his house several times. 4 years ago, I in turn invited Milton to my home in Montreal so that he could attend the opening of our Jean-Talon Market branch. The idea that a coffee farmer could participate in this event and meet our customers was a dream that I had cherished for a long time.

Canales family in 2019

During these ten years , our respective businesses and our personal lives have evolved side by side: Saint-Henri has gone from a single café to 7 branches as well as a headquarters. The Canales have acquired over the years several new lands, new drying patios and even, recently, all the equipment required to hull, sort and bag their own coffee. Several children have also been born in each of our families and will probably in turn become involved in their family business.

This year, the micro-lots that we came to select are superior to those of previous years. They are very sweet and have a nice juicy acidity that hasn't always been as present in the past. This result is partly explained by a longer maturation of the cherries on the coffee trees and by new nets installed above the beds which slow down the drying of the beans. Although I am happy with the harvest that is expected for 2019-2020, I am even more proud of the journey we have taken with them and of having overcome the best and worst years. My business, too, had more difficult years than others, and in turn, the Canales were always there, no matter the fluctuation in the volumes that I could afford to buy from them.

The terms “direct purchases” and “relationship coffees” are often used in the specialty coffee roaster scene, but there is still a lot of opacity in terms of traceability and the quality of relationships between roasters and producers. I am very proud to have established such a long relationship and quality communication with Milton and Norman, while providing them with fair prices allowing all of us to operate our businesses viably. It's a foundation that serves as an internal model for our other coffee purchases and which, I hope, will inspire others.

Jean-François Leduc,
and the entire Saint-Henri team who make the adventure possible.

¡ We are happy to be happy for our 10th birthday!

A travel story by Jean-Francois Leduc, the founder of Café Saint-Henri.

I
t was in the month of March 2009 that I took my first coffee sourcing trip for the company that I had dreamed of founding. It emerged two years later: Saint-Henri micro-roaster.

The purpose of this first exploratory trip was to gain an understanding—acquired on the ground—of the different aspects of coffee farming: the varieties, the harvesting methods, the fermentation and drying processes, etc. During this trip, I traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. In each of these countries, I visited several farms producing specialty coffee, in the hope of acquiring as much knowledge as possible and hopefully establishing an initial purchasing relationship with a producer.

Today, I have the enormous privilege of once again finding myself at one of the farms that I had visited 10 years ago : the Canales farm. I had visited it at the time because one of their certified-organic micro-lots had won the Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence first prize —a first for an organic coffee. Since that time and according to the harvest, I have been buying micro-lots from Milton and others from his brother, Norman. Milton, the older brother, had welcomed me to his farm and to his home several times. 4 years ago, in return, I invited Milton to my home in Montreal to attend the opening of our café at the Jean-Talon Market. The idea that a coffee farmer could take part in this event and meet our customers was a dream that I had cherished for a long time.

Canales family in 2012

Canales family in 2019

For these past ten years, our respective companies and our personal lives have evolved side by side: Saint-Henri grew from a single café to 7, as well as a headquarters. The Canales family, meanwhile, acquired several new plots of land over the years, as well as new drying patios and—recently—all the equipment required to mill, sort, and bag their own coffee. Several children were also born and will probably get involved in the family business as well.

This year, the micro-lots that we have selected are superior to those from previous years. They are very sweet and have a nice juicy acidity that has not always been as present in the past. This result is partially explained by a longer ripening of the coffee cherries on the trees and by the newly installed nets above the beds, which slow the drying of the beans. Although I am happy with the harvest announced for 2019-2020, I am even proud of the journey that we have taken together and of the fact that we have overcome the best years as well as the worst years. My company has also known years that have been tougher than others, and the Canales family has always been by our side, regardless of the fluctuations in the volumes that I could afford to buy from them.

The terms “direct trade” and “relationship coffee” are often used in the specialty coffee roaster scene, but there is still a lot of opacity in terms of traceability and the quality of the relationships between roasters and producers. I am very proud to have established such a long relationship and quality communication with Milton and Norman, while offering them beyond fair trade prices that allow us all to operate our businesses in a sustainable way. This is a foundation that serves as our internal model for our other coffee purchases and one that I hope will inspire others.

Jean-François Leduc,
and the entire Saint-Henri team that makes this adventure possible.

¡ We are happy to be happy for our 10th birthday!