I am quite a coffee freak and the day hasn’t started properly without my morning coffee. Although I love coffee, I was never too interested where coffee actually came from. whilst staying in Antigua Guatemala we drank loads of absolutely amazing coffee and it turned out it was actually produced locally.
After doing some research we found a non-profit organization called De la Genta, and is in cooperation with the San Miguel Escobar cooperative. There are around 30 members in the San Miguel Cooperative. The coffee farmers cultivate, harvest, and process the coffee with care. Through De La Genta you can book a tour with a local coffee farmer and learn more about the coffee process.
We booked our tour over the phone and were asked to be at 9am at the main plaza in San Miguel Escobar, a village approximately 10 min with the bus/tuktuk from Antigua. When traveling in Guatemala, the only way to travel in style is bus, because who can resist these?
At Escobar we were met with our local translator of the day, the son of a local coffee farmer. If your level in Spanish only covers ordering food/rooms/drinks like hours the organization kindly offers a translator/guide as most of the farmers only speak Spanish. It turned out that only 1 other person would be joining us today and that our farmer today would be Froilian.
All the fields of the San Miguel Cooperative are up the Agua volcano, and on average a farmer has about three acres of land. Whilst walking up the volcano towards Froilian’s fields he explains animated the coffee making process and how the cooperation has helped him getting a fair price for his coffee.
It takes on average three to four years before a plant starts to bear fruit, called the coffee cherry. The harvest season is on average once a year where the entire village supports the harvest, as time window to get the fruits is short. Although it wasn’t the main season we could have a go ourselves, as there were still some ripe coffee cherries around to be picked.
After having our baskets half full it was time to head back down again to see the rest of the process to get the cherries turned into actual coffee. The way how this is done in the village is with a contraption resembling a bike which was built by a local artist.
The picked cherries are added at the top, and by peddling the external layer of the cherries is removed, leaving the actual bean exposed. As you can see from my face this is actually not a light job! At the moment the village owns one of these bikes, which is shared by several farmers to ensure everybody can process their harvest.
Froilian told us that a good coffee picker can pick between 50-100kg cherries per day, I can only imagine the serious amount of biking required to end up with the beans.
After the actual beans have been separated they need to dry to reduce the moisture level in order to be stored properly. The method used in Escobar is sun drying: the beans are laid out and regularly turned until dry enough for storage.
Most of the coffee exported only gets to this stage, as most of the roasting takes place at the place of consumption. However, for the purpose of our coffee tour Froilians’ wife was more than willing to provide us with a demonstration on how to roast beans Guatemalan style:
The coffee was roasted over the stove before the grinding process started using a stoner pestle and mortar.
After all the explanations and hard work it was time to actually drink the coffee and needles to say is that it was of course the best coffee we ever had!
As an add on option to the tour you can book a lunch as well, which we did and was a lunch prepared by Froilians’ wife and was served in his kitchen. For us this was a great way to experience a truly Guatemalan experience, and learn more about the Guatemalan society. And the best thing was that we still enjoy Guatemalan coffee at home, as we got a bag of coffee included in our tour!
I can only highly recommend the coffee tour offered by De la Genta. It is not only an informative way to learn about the coffee process first hand, it is also a good initiative for the local farmers to add some income by teaching tourists on fairly produced coffee. And as a bonus you get to experience the real Guatemala.
The coffee tour can be booked through the website of De la Genta. Next to coffee tours they also offer a variety of other local activities that you can undertake to get in contact with the locals.
The price for the tour is 200Q per person (roughly 23 euros) and includes a bag of coffee at the end. Adding the additional lunch is 50Q, approximately 5,50 euros, but highly recommended!