Caroline Kellems, Owner and General Manager of Godoys de Guatemala, Coffee producers and roasters in Guatemala. Author of The Coffee Diary, published September 2010.
Ive always thought that the worlds most profound truths can be found in fiction which is one of the reasons I started writing The Coffee Diary. Recently published, the novel unfolds on a coffee farm in rural Guatemala, in an area known for harsh conditions, poverty, and drug trafficking. But the spirit of the locals, their desire for justice, and a peaceful life prevails.
Coffee production has taken on many new challenges in recent years. This year in particular has been especially difficult: a volcanic eruption dumped thousands of tons of ash all over the country destroying countless crops and leaving many homeless, followed by record-breaking rainfall and flooding that seriously damaged the infrastructure.
But it doesnt just end with natural disasters. Drug violence has filtered down from Mexico as corrupt politicians and police are unable or unwilling to cope. Many middlemen, locally known as coyotes, are actually narco-traffickers using coffee to launder dirty money by offering higher prices to farmers, then selling to exporters at a lower price, leading to a destabilization of the internal coffee market. As roasters, we use not only the coffee we produce, but buy directly from known farms and, like other small buyers, have had trouble finding enough coffee at a reasonable price.
The setting of The Coffee Diary is actually our farm in Moyuta, Jutiapa, a town located on a small volcano just west of El Salvador where my husbands family has been raising coffee for several generations. The challenges of drug trafficking, organized crime and violence in Central America are definite themes in my story, and are serious challenges to all of us living in the area whether or not we grow coffee.
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