I arrived at this wonderful setting about two days ago. It took me a while to get to my final destination of Chichicastenango, between riding on the backs of mules and a few questionable boat rides ... but I made it safe and sound.
It really was quite an adventure for me. The southwestern region of Guatemala is breathtaking. Upon my arrival I met up with a fellow coffee roaster and Guatemalan native, Violetta, who led me on an unforgettable journey through this beautiful coffee region. I was not only exposed to the coffee industry, but also to the deep-rooted culture of Guatemala. This was an incredible benefit, because, as I quickly learned, you must understand the culture to truly understand the coffee.
The Guatemalan people displayed deep pride in their hand-woven textiles. As Violetta and I passed through small villages, I noticed the people dressed in their native costumes, each very vibrant and unique to their community. The women who weave these one of a kind textiles are actually part of the loom, kneeling on the ground with a loom strap wrapped around their back weaving from dawn til dusk. What I found to be most interesting is that the women who pick the coffee wear elaborate hand-made costumes while they
Violetta and I continued into the marketplace, where I lit a special candle for hope and witnessed a Guatemalan celebration for those that have left this earth. Violetta also showed me that the barter system was the most popular method among the locals for purchasing goods. After learning so much about the culture in so little time and seeing how hard these Guatemalan women work, I was ready to check into the inn. And it didn't help that my day of travel wasn't exactly a non-stop flight.
Violetta accompanied me to the front desk so I could check in and then bade me farewell. I trudged along dragging my bag behind me and entered into my sleeping quarters. The room was very quaint, complete with a comfy fireplace decorated in handmade ceramic tiles with rich colors of blue, green, and yellow. A small bed was covered with simple linens. This last item was all I needed -- I didn't even jot down two full sentences in my journal before I was out.
At sunrise, Violetta met me out front of the inn with a fresh cup of java in her hand. I couldn't thank her enoug. The aroma alone began to jump start my day and I had a feeling I was going to need a little kicker to prepare me for what was in store today. We hopped in the car, left the main road and began the hour long drive up a cobble stone path to reach the farm. The extensive labor and tedious steps involved in creating the perfect cup of coffee is amazing, yet rather hard to explain. I discovered first-hand the challenges a coffee producer faces each day, and it was rather eye-opening, I hasten to add.
Coffee plants for their own use and for resale are raised in the farm's huge nursery. We spent two days at the farm, learning about all parts of the process: growing, milling, the drying process, sorting and storing the coffee for export. I personally witnessed several women in the nursery graft, plant, fertilize and prune 100,000 small coffee plants by hand.
It would take more than one journal entry to articulate the many things that I learned about the Guatemalan culture and coffee producing process and my fingers have already grown weary. The one thing I do know is that when I go to drink my morning cup of coffee, I will have a greater sense of appreciation for each sip as I think about the many tireless, hard-working hands that it took to create this lonesome cup of coffee.