On January 18th, 2009, I boarded a plane heading to Guatemala City, Guatemala. There I would meet up with 12 other women from various professional backgrounds. Together we would spend the next 8 days learning about the coffee industry in Guatemala, the coffee farms, the people associated with them and the Guatemalan culture.
Would you spend an entire day lining up coffee beans, planting coffee beans by hand, and watering 2,000 plants with a garden hose? Or how about using an entire day to fill one-pound bags of dirt? That is what the Guatemalan women do on a daily basis, if they work on a coffee farm. Perhaps more astonishing was the fact that the women seemed to be content and proud of their work, much as an artist might be with her painting.
In Guatemala, there are 65,000 coffee growers -- 65% are small growers, 25% medium and 10% large, and the percentage of small
growers is on the rise due to overhead. According to Hans, owner of Finca Pastores, a coffee farm in Guatemala, Guatemalan coffee between 2007 and 2008 generated revenues around $700 million. Although the coffee industry is not the main source of income in Guatemala, it is the number one employer.
The culture in Guatemala is different than in the United States. While riding in the tuktuk, a small vehicle somewhat like a golf cart with a cover, I noticed women, young children and men along the roadside dressed in their native, hand-woven, colorful clothes. They were walking with heavy bags of coffee beans or sugar cane strapped to their backs, hoping that they would sell their wares.
Of course, because we were a group of women in coffee, we were very curious as to how each of the many stops we made did their brewing. A good number of places including gas stations, hotels and coffee farms were still using the stainless steel percolators that had been used in the early 1900's. As we stopped at a roadside caf, a few of us noticed a BUNN VPR on the counter. I was intrigued to see a BUNN product, considering I was so far away from home (not to mention in another country).
Going to Guatemala was an incredible journey. Before I took this trip I had no idea of the hard work and preparation that went into providing one single cup of coffee. From this point forward when I am drinking my coffee, I will think about the hard-working women, their labors and the people with whom I shared this experience.