Coffee and Culture are Highlights of Guatemala

Feb 10, 2009
This post is another in a continuing series from Desiree Logsdon, coffee aficionado and vice president of marketing for BUNN. She recently returned from a trip to Guatemala with professional women in coffee.

What happens when 13 women in the coffee industry spend 8 days in Guatemala? Simply putmagical discoveries occur.

I had the extreme pleasure of touring the beautiful southwestern region of Guatemala. The experience was designed by Mireya Jones of Jones Coffee Roasters, a Guatemalan native. She knew that for us to have a meaningful trip, she must expose us not only to the coffee industry, but also to the deep-seated culture of Guatemala. As we learned, you must understand the culture to understand the coffee.

I was amazed to see the deeply ingrained pride the people of Guatemala have in their hand-woven textiles. As we passed through small villages, the people dressed in their native costumes, each unique to their community. The women who weave the textiles are actually part of the loom. They kneel on the ground with a loom strap wrapped around their back and weave from dawn to dusk. Women picking coffee in the fields still wear these elaborate hand-made costumes as they work. I couldnt help thinking about our casual Friday approach to dress in the workplace in the U.S.

A highlight of the trip was our visit to Anacaf in Guatemala City. Serving as the Coffee Association for the country of Guatemala, they have done tremendous work in marketing the countrys high quality coffee. Anacaf has led a pioneering effort to define the Guatemalas coffee-producing regions based on cup profile, climate, soil, and altitude. Eight distinct regions producing Strictly Hard Bean have been identified in Guatemala.

Our time spent on the fincas was eye opening. The extensive labor involved in creating the perfect cup of coffee is rather hard to describe. At Finca Los Andes we discovered first-hand the challenges a coffee producer faces each day. After we left the main road, it was an hour drive up a cobble stone path to reach the farm. The heavy precipitation during the rainy seasons requires extensive work to prevent erosion, mud slides and other environmental issues. While touring the coffee and tea farm, we dropped in to the school that is provided for the workers children. The children were overwhelmed to receive the school supplies we brought them from the U.S. The simplicity of their lifestyle was quite humbling.

We spent two days at Finca Pastores. Pastores is a large farm that grows, mills, dries, sorts and stores coffee for export. Again, we were amazed at the many tedious steps involved in creating a great cup of coffee. Finca Pastores has a huge nursery where they raise coffee plants for their own use and for resale. We watch several women in the nursery working with 100,000 small coffee plants. Each plant is grafted, planted, fertilized and pruned by hand.

Our U.S. team foolishly took on the Guatemalan team in a coffee-picking contest. After 10 minutes of back-breaking work, our 13-member U.S. team picked 37 pounds of cherries; the 5 member Guatemalan team picked 88 pounds. Quite a humbling experience!

I have so many amazing take-a-ways from this experience. It would be impossible to articulate the many things that we learned about the Guatemalan culture and coffee producing process. The one thing I do know is that when I drink my morning cup of coffee, I cant help but think about the many hard-working hands that it took to create a single cup of coffee.

The BUNN US Team with Guatemalan Barista Champion Raul Rodas -- me, Lisa Neal-Vickers and Karen Clutter.

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