AN ECUADORIAN entrepreneur is hoping to supply isles coffee connoisseurs and shops with coffee beans from the mountains of Colombia.
Vladimir Portilla and his wife Andrea Gardiner came to Shetland last year (actually back to Shetland for Andrea as she did her GP training in the isles), with Vladimir planning to establish his Andes Brothers Coffee brand.
His brother Frank and wife Rachel are now settled in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and have been importing green coffee beans from the family farm in the Andean region of Colombia, supplying 20 tonnes last year for the Northern Ireland market.
Another shipment will be coming and roasted and ground coffee is also on the menu, with Frank setting up a roasting machine in their coffee shop in Coleraine. Andes Brothers Coffee can be supplied in either form in the isles as Vladimir has invested in a coffee grinder.
According to Andrea, who is working again as a Scalloway GP, the brothers grew up in Ecuador, but always looked forward to going back to their grandparents farm in Colombia for harvest time.
This love of agriculture led to Vladimir, a trained electrical engineer, working his own anthurium farm in Ecuador.
The Andean region of Colombia is famous for its coffee, supplying big buyers like Starbucks. Most workers earn a poor wage and that has led to many turning to more lucrative coca growing, which of course is used to make cocaine.
Vladimir hopes that by paying a fair wage, he will keep some workers from becoming involved in the drugs trade. Some of Vladimir’s friends have become involved in cocaine and several are now dead as a result, said Andrea.
According to Andrea, the coffee grown by the ‘Andes Brothers’ is 100 per cent Arabica which benefits from being grown in the high, steep mountainsides and has a “sweet, citrusy” flavour.
The couple met in Ecuador where Andrea was working as a doctor since 2005, after her first stint in Scalloway.
Vladimir previously set-up a sponsorship scheme for children to get to school and also a charity to build houses for poor people. Various Shetlanders have been to Ecuador helping build the houses.
The couple decided to come to the UK as their youngest daughter was born with a cataract in her eye and she had a better chance of treatment here.