Meet the LOT participants: Producer Willan Abad and Roaster Camila Khalife

CQI’s newest Learning Online Together (LOT) program is designed to create business relationships with roasters and producers, using post-harvest processing techniques to focus on specialty coffee and quality improvements. CQI selected six coffee producer-roaster business partnerships for this project. Today, the 2022 LOT participants located in Ecuador, Producer at Comité de Jóvenes ACRIM, Willan Abad, and Roaster Camila Khalife at Botánica, tell us about their experiences in the coffee industry, their goals, and some challenges they face as roasters and producers.

Willan Abad

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in the coffee industry?

My name is Willan Abad, I am 27 years old, and I am from Ecuador, specifically from the Zamora Chinchipe province, in the South of the Amazon. I love the coffee world. I have 4 hectares of coffee, and last year I participated in the Cup of Excellence and placed 18th with my washed process typica mejorado. I work at ACRIM, a local producers association, as a coffee quality technician. 

What are you most looking forward to learning?

One of my main goals is to increase the quality of my coffee, so I want to learn everything I can about coffee processing. I want to do it to have access to better opportunities and of course better prices, but also because I would love to share new knowledge with other producers from my region, which I am sure has great potential.

What are some challenges you are facing?

One of the main challenges other producers and I from my region struggle with is the lack of learning opportunities to improve the quality of our coffee. We would love to have access to more customers and build strong relationships, and coffee quality has definitely been a challenge in that matter. Another big challenge for us is the lack of credit support at low-interest rates for the coffee sector. I think young people are the present and the future of coffee, and that if we want future generations to stay on the farms and keep producing coffee, we should have access to better financing services.

Camila Khalife

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in the coffee industry?

I was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador. I have worked in the coffee industry for 8 years now. I started as a barista and coffee educator, and later on specialized in coffee quality. I am a Q Grader and a certified WBC Sensory Judge. I am also the founder of Botánica, a café, quality lab & training center based in Quito. I have experience sourcing and processing Ecuadorian coffee and have had the opportunity to work closely with producers from all over the country. I am currently Program Fellow at The Chain Collaborative, an organization focused on sustainability and community-led projects in the coffee sector.

What are you most looking forward to learning?

I am looking forward to learning more about post-harvest processes and their impact on flavor. I would also like to better understand the kind of quality assessment and feedback that would be most useful for the producers we work with. In other words, to learn with Willan and his group how we can be of support towards quality improvement.

What are some challenges you are facing?

A few of the challenges we face as specialty coffee roasters and a coffee shop at origin are related to the fact that usually, the development and learning opportunities on topics related to coffee processing (roasting, cupping, brewing, etc.) are happening in consuming countries. The opportunities to build a business around roasting and serving specialty coffee at origin are much more limited due to a number of reasons, including high costs of equipment and lack of training opportunities. Also, there is a lack of a customer base that is already familiar with quality, values direct relations, and sees the benefit of best practices, and that is willing to pay for them.