Ashley Prentice

She provides a common ground between strangers — and the start to a good day!

Ashley Prentice descends from a branch of elders who tripped and fell into the coffee world.

Her grandfather purchased land in the 1970s to stable his horses. His daughter studied agronomy and her well-trained eye spotted some coffee plants on her father’s farm. She began cultivating it and never stopped. Then came Ashley. She was practically raised on the farm. She grew up always knowing what coffee looked like as it bloomed and popped out tiny green nubs that swelled to yellow, then red cherries. Watching it be pulped, washed and dried in the Guatemalan sun became intimately familiar to her. But she knew much less about the process of coffee at the end of its life. It wasn’t until she was in college working at a café that she really began to understand the full circle of coffee.


She followed her brother to the States for college, though didn’t exactly follow the same path.

He got a soccer scholarship and she studied business in Tennessee. Her very first café job was at a shop in Chattanooga. She started implementing coffee into her schoolwork, mocking up business plans for imaginary cafes. That job revealed to her the incredibly vast range of coffees from a global perspective. Growing up among Guatemalan coffee trees shaped her view of what coffee is but it wasn’t until college that she saw all that coffee could be. Having access to lots of different origins through her café gig expanded her perspective of coffee by showing her that coffee from Sumatra tasted vastly different than coffee from Kenya, and neither of those tasted anything like coffee from her home.

After college she landed a job at Coffee Talk, a coffee-focused publication in Seattle, where she covered coffee news and drafted weekly newsletters. There she learned about the value chain of coffee and her future in the field became clear to her. She knew she wanted to work with small producers who have limited access to various resources that could potentially add value or volume to their current production. She quickly learned that the price of coffee is one piece of a very large and complex puzzle when considering the value chain from a small producer’s perspective. There are handfuls of middlemen between the grower and the roaster, each of whom need a cut, which chips away at the total profit for producers. One of the steepest uphill battles that producers face is the tangled web of the supply chain that begins beyond the boundaries of their farm. It’s an extremely complex system that is hard to navigate at all, let alone navigating it in a way that leaves them with the highest possible profit. 


She went on to study coffee science and economics at the University of Udine in Italy, then rounded out her experience by working for Ally Coffee, an LA-based coffee importer.

After dipping into nearly every part of the supply chain, she gathered all her knowledge and returned home to put it to practice. Ashley built a cupping lab for herself at Finca de Dios, equipped with a small roasting facility, where she graded coffees during harvest and planned lots for the next season. She spent many hours in communication with buyers and took their needs into consideration, building out flavour profiles for future lots to come as close as possible to qualities their clients were looking for. Most commonly, Finca de Dios turns out washed coffees, but will accommodate anything they can for their clients. If someone requests a natural process, they’ll make it happen for them. This sort of treatment isn’t uncommon in long-standing buyer-producer relationships. The investment each of them put into their relationship opens up all kinds of opportunities.

One of their most loyal clients hails from Wisconsin. Ruby Coffee Roasters has been buying coffee from the Prentices ever since Ruby’s founder, Jared Linzmeier, tagged along on a sourcing trip with a friend. He immediately saw the good work the Prentices were doing on their farm. Their commitment to always improving their operation combined with their already excellent coffees made it clear to Jared that he had to make space on the shelves at Ruby for the Prentices’ coffees. These days, Ruby regularly buys almost 100 bags of green from Finca de Dios each year, or as much as the Prentices can sell to him. Some years the harvest is compromised by Mother nature herself. This past harvest was smaller than usual due to hail damage, but Ruby still happily bought as many bags as Finca de Dios could sell to him.


Symbiotic buying relationships allow growth to happen for everyone. Jared could expand his offerings with a family he could collaborate with on future lots and let them know what sort of flavours he was looking to taste in next season’s harvest.

In their relationship with Jared, Finca de Dios knew that they could count on him to stick around even when unforeseen disasters happen, like a particularly gnarly hailstorm. They can rely on his financial support so they can keep upgrading their equipment or hiring more hands to help during harvest. Though she is very grateful for the opportunity to build such close and trusting relationships with buyers, Ashley knew that was a privilege not every farmer could enjoy. That weighed heavily on her heart long enough to morph into inspiration for a new project she would spearhead outside of Finca de Dios.

Ashley started learning about working with small producers while she was collaborating on a project with the United States Agency for International Development and the National Coffee Association. The project was focused around helping these farmers improve their quality and increase production, but it neglected to find the right market for their coffees, which plays a huge role in the sustainability of their operation. What’s the point of increasing quality and production if they are still getting the same low price for their coffees?

In 2016, Ashley launched Gento, a coffee brand and development program designed to bring attention to smaller Guatemalan coffee producers, provide them with the assets and skills they need to level up their operation and ultimately connect them with buyers with whom they could grow a long and steady relationship. A significant barrier to progress for many producers is the tangled web that is the coffee supply chain. Usually there’s a person at each step of the way taking a cut of the profit, but Gento is the consolidation of those middlemen. They cup, roast and facilitate relationships with buyers both in-country and abroad. This way, Gento can guarantee quality and proper handling and share knowledge with clients each step of the way without imparting prohibitive costs at each stage.


Gento’s involvement depends on the needs of the client. Some are more advanced and come to Ashley for help in a few specific areas they’re looking to improve upon.

Others require care that spans several areas of expertise. Though no two clients are the same and Gento cares for each equitably, they all come to Ashley for the opportunity to learn new skills and implement new techniques and systems into their operations. For producers who may require more intensive education, Gento hosts various workshops. There they can learn about the various defects that could harm their crop and how to combat them. Together they sit down and cup coffees to learn about the vast spectrum of flavours they could find in a cup of their own coffee.

Ashley started out by purchasing coffee from producers to roast and sell under the Gento brand. She’d evaluate the coffee in the lab and meet with the producer to let them know how much their coffee is worth based on how it performed on the cupping table. Then she’d offer up some idea on how they could improve quality, yield and profit for the next harvest. Ashley helps clients map out lots on their farm based on quality to ensure they’re pricing their coffees based on their true value. It’s not uncommon for a small producer, especially a very rural one, to be unaware of their coffee’s worth. A farm can be home to a range of coffee varieties, and within those varieties could be a spectrum of quality levels. Without separating different varieties and qualities and charging accordingly, farmers could lose out on a significant amount of profit.

Among all the clients she’s worked with, one in particular stands out to Ashley as having the most amount of undiscovered potential. Ashley met Petrona Perez while doing consultation work for her farm. Petrona is in her early twenties and she runs her family farm. She consulted Ashley’s expertise about her coffee and Ashley was shocked to realise just how high quality Petrona’s coffee was. She was essentially sitting on a gold mine of specialty coffee without even knowing it. Ashley had the privilege of telling Petrona what her 90-point coffees were worth and helping her find a buyer for her lots who would pay the right price. Petrona learned to ask more for her coffee and negotiate pricing that was fair for her. Through her immaculate farming practices and some clarifying know-how from Ashley, Petrona was able to significantly increase her family’s income simply by charging the proper price for her coffees.

This is what it’s all about for Ashley––being the stepping stone that gives others a platform for success. It’s the seed from which Gento sprouted. Ashley always saw that things could be better for her neighboring farmers and dedicated her work to lifting them up. It’s bittersweet, but Gento operating at its most optimal level means that Ashley would see her clients through to complete independence, where they would no longer need her guidance. But they can carry that knowledge with them through a long and fruitful career, passing it down for the next generation to build upon, much like her mother did for her

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