Two of a kind: Eduardo Florez and Diana Calvo

Categories: Behind the stalls

The team behind The Colombian Coffee Co on curious customers, speciality coffees, and meeting the president of Colombia

Interview: Viel Richardson
Image: Alice Mann

Diana on Eduardo
It was about two years ago that I first met Eduardo, who owns the business, and we got on very well from the beginning. He is incredibly passionate about coffee. He would happily talk all day about the different varieties and blends. If he stops talking about coffee, it will be to talk about drinking chocolate instead.

For him, the social enterprise aspect of what we do here is just as important as the coffee. Eduardo only works with small farmers from Colombia, who produce very special coffee, but it can be difficult for them to get it out to the wider world. It is very hard to take the idea of helping a community and turn it into a well-run business—but Eduardo has done that very well.

For him, this is all about bringing the best of his country to a wider audience and helping the farmers back at home by doing so. Making sure that we are finding and selling the best coffee is something that Eduardo is very committed to. Every six months he goes back to Colombia for at least a month. He talks to the farmers about how things are going, what is good, and whether there’s anything new that would interest him. He is never still, he is always looking to improve what we do. In fact, we roast our own coffee—it is all about getting the coffee to the customers at its absolute best. Anything else would be a disservice to the farmers who grow the beans.

Eduardo cannot be here every day, so I run the stall. But when he is at the Market you can see how much he loves talking to the customers. They are very curious and really want to know the story behind what they are buying.

For Eduardo, Borough is the most important market in London. The number of people who come through here is amazing. Being here gives us the opportunity to put our coffee in front of a great many people and introduce them to the quality of what we are selling.

Eduardo on Diana
Diana comes from Anserma, Caldas, a mountainous region of Colombia. In the villages in those areas, all your shopping is done in markets. Although Borough Market is much bigger, I think it reminds her of life back home, where the market is a central part of community life.

Having grown up on a coffee farm, in the heart of a coffee-growing region, Diana has a good understanding of the production processes when she joined us, but she was new to the roasting and brewing side of the coffee business. She has become a really amazing barista, as well as rising to be the manager of the stall. Diana also knows a lot about Colombian single origin coffee varietals—it wouldn’t surprise me if she was one of the most knowledgeable in London.

She is a real food person, always coming back to the stall with stories of some new food she has found around the Market. I know she loves the Argentinian empanadas from Porteña.

The best thing about working with Diana is that she really understands our presence in the Market; why we are here and who the customers are. She understands the rhythms of the Market and runs the stall very smoothly. She is very strict, though, even with me—on the stall she is definitely the boss.

One of the things that has impressed me most about Diana is the journey she has made. She came here from a small mountain village, where women face many challenges, to make a better life for herself. She fell into low-paid work, which is so often the case with women in her position, but she was always looking forward, trying to improve her position.

Earlier this year, we went to see the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. He was being presented with an award by Kew Gardens because of his work in developing environmental tourism, as part of the peace process that ended decades of civil war. It was a beautiful old building, and when we were inside Diana turned to me and said: “I know this building. I have been here many times.” She used to work there as a cleaner, and now she was there meeting the president of her country, as a businesswoman and extremely good barista. The journey Diana has undergone through her dedication is incredible. She is a very inspiring woman.