If you are looking for a unique way to interact with the culture in Guatemala then I would recommend you spend some time with the non-profit De La Gente, who works with 30 farmers in the area to help them make coffee farming a sustainable business for their families. As a non-profit they work with coffee farming cooperatives to create more economic opportunity for the farmers and help them reach bigger markets. While in Guatemala you can set up a 3 hour tour for around $20 a person (which includes a bag of coffee) by emailing through their site here. This blog post is one of those trips and it is a fantastic way to learn about coffee and to support the local economy.
After arriving at the plaza in the center San Miguel Escobar (10 minutes from Antigua) we were greeted by one of the actual farmers, as well as a translator and we set out on our 10 minute walk to where the coffee is grown. This beautiful church was where we met.
The Coffee Trees
After a decent walk we arrived in an expanse of coffee trees and our farmer took us through the entire growing process.
The growing process was amazing and I loved hearing about how they protect from leaf rust with organic compounds, plant other trees to provide shade for the coffee plants and what types of beans they harvest.
Our farmer Eduardo even let me take a small piece of fruit from the tree and pop the beans in my mouth. You don’t eat the bean itself but when you suck on it it tastes a lot like honey and it is super unique.
It was amazing to see the small coffee beans that were in the fruit and it makes me wonder if there are other plants around the world with coffee potential that we do not know about yet. The area we were in overlooked the city of Antigua in the distance and was a beautiful place to farm coffee.
After finishing hearing about the plants we walked all the way back to Eduardo’s house to see the rest of the process.
The Coffee Making Process
When we got to his house we got to see his entire family engaging in the art of making coffee. It was a really unique experience, and the process is as follows.
Pulling the Beans from the Fruit
In order to remove the beans from the fruit, Eduardo uses a bicycle that he can pedal attached to a wheel that pulls the beans out of the fruit. It is a time consuming process and it must be done the same day they are harvested.
From there the beans were laid out to dry on the ground in the backyard for a few days.
Selecting the Right Beans
After this the beans were sifted through and all of the ones that were not the right size and shape were removed. This process was done by members of the family and it was time consuming for them to sift through all of the beans.
Making the Coffee
From there we roasted some beans over an open fire to prepare them for the coffee we were making. This is not the way they roast the beans normally for production but it is how the families roast them for their own consumption.
After that we took the roasted beans and ground them with a mortar and pestle which was much more difficult than a hand grinder.
Lastly, the beans were added back into the boiling water to produce the coffee that we drank there.
After producing the coffee we all got to sit around with the family and drink it while discussing the taste. It was fantastic coffee and so fun to be sitting there enjoying it with the farmer who grew the beans then took them through the entire process.
After drinking it you can buy the coffee directly from the farmer if you are interested and I took the opportunity to do so as it was fun to be able to buy coffee right from the one who brought it to fruition.
All in all this is a fantastic way to learn more about the coffee farming process and to interact with locals while on a trip to Guatemala, I couldn’t recommend it more. Check out De La Gente’s website for more tours in the area as well.