Meet the market: Behind the scenes at Caf Palmira

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October 12, 2009
By: Zoie Glass
Zoie Glass
While most of the food and drink available at the Mill City Farmers Market is locally grown, one exception that you may have noticed is the delightful steaming cups of coffee and heavenly smelling bags of coffee beans sold by Café Palmira. The answer to the question of why coffee beans are sold at a local market seems obvious to me; what can be more Minnesotan then a good cup of coffee?

I recently got to visit with Katie and Carlos Palacios, owners of Café Palmira, to get a more in-depth answer to the questions of, “How is coffee local?”

For the past four generations, Carlos Palacio’s family has been growing and harvesting coffee in Huehuetenango, Guatemala — a region renowned for growing some of the world’s finest coffee. In 2000 and 2001, coffee prices crashed and the supply was greater than demand. This had an enormous impact on the livelihoods of coffee farmers throughout Guatemala. Many farmers at this time began selling their lands in order to support their families. However, the Palacios family continued to grow and harvest coffee even though the prices declined significantly.

Katie and Carlos met in 2001 when Katie, originally from Minnesota, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala.  She spent a significant amount of time on the coffee farm and spent hours talking with the Palacios family about trying to export the coffee directly to the United States instead of using a “middle-man” export company. In 2004, Katie and Carlos first started selling Café Palmira by bringing it to the United States in their suitcases and selling the coffee to friends and family. Everyone loved the coffee and it was then in 2007 that Katie and Carlos started their small business, Café Palmira. They started selling Café Palmira at the local Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets. The green beans of Café Palmira are now shipped directly from Guatemala to Minnesota and roasted to perfection weekly by the Bull Run Roasting Company in St. Louis Park.

Carlos and Katie hope to expand to being carried in more local co-ops and coffee shops.  They also hope to open a coffee shop of their own in the future.

The couple can be found weekly in their booth at the Mill City Farmers Market. They have pictures of their family farm in Guatemala and love to chat about their business when they have the time. But, with the constant line each Saturday, don’t take too long chatting.  Minnesotans don’t like to wait for their coffee.

Zoie Glass owns the Mill City Farmers Market vendor Lucille’s Kitchen Garden.