From Soil to Cup: Coffee in Guatemala

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A visit to one of the world’s great coffee regions wouldn’t be complete without a look behind the scenes. We got this at Cafe Azotea in the highlands near Antigua (itself a short trip from Guatemala City). This place is geared towards visitors, with a soil to cup storyline, tours through the fields, well-stocked gift shop and a little museum, too. I didn’t know too much about coffee production before but I know what a good cup tastes like – strong, dark and delicious. It was a real eye opener to learn one Arabica coffee plant will provide between 1-5kg at most of dried coffee beans per year. In our household of two, we consume roughly 500g of whole coffee beans every 2-3 weeks. We would need at least a few plants of our own to sustain this 2-cup-a-day ritual. No wonder coffee is the gigantic cash crop that it is, to say nothing of the deep passions surrounding the beverage itself.

A coffee plantation isn’t just coffee plants either. Azotea has banana, avocado, beans, squash, exotic fruits and gorgeous flowering plants for pollination, shade and beauty. In the images below, you’ll see the green coffee berries, then becoming the red/orange coffee cherries. Inside these are the raw beans. The enormous paved yard is where the beans are spread out to dry in the sun, separated by hand and prepared for roasting. At the end of the day, one realizes how much effort – on the part of both mother nature and mankind – goes into a single cuppa joe. Speaking with an independent farmer later in our trip and visiting smaller coffee towns revealed how personal it can really get. I definitely take away more from a cup of coffee now knowing the long journey it’s had before reaching my lips.

Antigua, Jocotenango and San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, 2011.

(click the first pic to view large)

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