Here's why it took SF's Proyecto Diaz Coffee 100 years for their beans to reach US

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Friday, October 14, 2022
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Proyecto Diaz Coffee's Fernando Diaz explains how his coffee business is opening doors for Latin America coffee farms to reach the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As we continue celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we are introducing you to Proyecto Diaz Coffee.

ABC7 news reporter Luz Pena spoke to Fernando Diaz about how his coffee business is opening doors for Latin America coffee farms to reach the U.S.

Luz Pena: "As a Latino would you say that coffee is in your "venas"? In your veins?"

Fernando Diaz: "It's in the veins, it's in the roots."

For Diaz, coffee is truly part of his DNA. His dad, grandfather and great grandfather paved their family's legacy through coffee.

"For me, it's wonderful to know that it has traveled many miles to get to this point," said Diaz.

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It took over a century for the Diaz family's coffee to reach the Bay Area. Their journey started in Oaxaca, Mexico, each coffee bean representing sacrifice and history.

"I grew up hearing about grandfather's farm. There was always drama around it," said Diaz, "My grandmother didn't want my grandfather to spend so much time on it, because there's no livelihood in it. Or at least, it didn't seem like there was a lot of livelihood in it," adding, "But when I got older, like in 2013, 2014, I recently graduated college. I was like, wait a minute light bulb. My grandfather has a coffee farm. So, let's do something about it."

Diaz made it his mission, his "proyecto," to help keep his grandfather's coffee farm alive. That was the birth of the coffee roasting company Proyecto Diaz.

"I wanted to keep that history that I knew was there for over 100 years, I wanted to keep it moving into the future," said Diaz.

Ten percent of Proyecto Diaz's profits go toward rebuilding his grandfather's farm.

"There is a lot more production," said Diaz. "New plants have been replanted, there's growth for future years. There is now a consistent farm manager on the farm living with his family, where we're also helping him build his own like little house."

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Eighty-seven-year-old Senor Juan Leovigildo Diaz Ricardez spends his days checking every coffee bean before it's sent to the U.S. His hands have built his family's legacy.

Pena: "How was seeing your grandfather again after so many years?"

Diaz: "There was like fairy dust and sparkles everywhere. I mean, that's how I can best describe it in the moment."

El senor Juan Diaz dreamt of his coffee beans making it to the U.S one day. What he never thought was that his grandson would be the one to make that dream a reality.

Almost a decade later, Proyecto Diaz's coffee is sold in stores throughout the Bay Area, online and in San Francisco at the Ferry Building three days a week.

"He watered the plants and the plants are growing through his son, and then you know, his grandson," said Diaz.

Pena: "What do you think your grandmother would say today?"

Diaz: "I'm assuming, right, my grandmother must have some pride and, and in knowing like, OK, my husband's efforts have not gone in vain."

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Proyecto Diaz is not only helping their family coffee farm but also opening doors for small coffee farmers throughout Latin America to sell their beans in the U.S.

"This one is from Costa Rica. This is a natural process," said Diaz as he described coffee beans they roast.

Pena: "What is the feedback you get from people? Because even if they don't speak Spanish, and people may not know what the names mean they are still getting a taste of your culture."

Diaz: "They enjoy that cultural experience that immersion that they might not be able to physically be there, but they feel like they're having some taste of that."

Diaz says they focus on region where the coffee is coming from.

"So, we provide those details where if there is a singular producer or a cooperative," said Diaz.

The core of Proyecto Diaz is still "familia." Fernando's wife Hannah-Love does the production and design, his dad the roasting of all the coffee beans. Aside from coffee selection, Fernando also designs all the art pieces on the packaging. They change with every season.

As for el Senor Juan Diaz, even though he can't hike to the coffee farm in the mountains of Oaxaca as often, he still has a key role, ambassador.

Pena: "What is your abuelito, your grandfather, saying today knowing that the fruit of his labor is now in the U.S.?"

Diaz: "He brags to people saying like, oh, my coffee is in the United States. So I would assume that, you know, him saying that he's really proud. And you know, that he actually has a different pep in his step. Now. There's a rejuvenation. He now talks like he's eternal."

Perhaps he is eternal because his legacy will be kept alive one coffee bean at a time.

See more stories and videos related to Hispanic heritage here.

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