It’s been over a month since I’ve last written…but…it was time that I made the time to go to Guatemala. It is the small, beautiful, but often-troubled county where my family is from. I mostly traveled for personal and familial reasons – to connect a bit with my past – but I also took advantage of my stay and traveled to learn more about the beverage that I (and you) love: coffee!
I traveled about the country, where I spent time in the lush mountains where coffee grows wild in the shade of large foliage to a place called Panajachel, near the Lago de Atitlan, where locals harvest, roast, and brew their own beans right on the spot.
There is no question that Guatemala is among the best coffee producing countries in the world. The quality and taste of the bean and the maturity of Guatemalan coffee industry makes it a global coffee powerhouse. So I was fortunate to have the time to visit few coffee fincas, roasters, and cafes. In the process I learned quite a bit about the process of how coffee is grown, harvested, and packed for shipment to a variety of countries around the world, including the U.S.
Certainly, my visit was eye-opening. For one, there is a lot that goes into to growing coffee and there are many, many hands that touch our coffee beans before we get it poured in our cappuccinos. Watching Mayan families with shoeless children, some as young as two years old, harvest the coffee by the pound for very little pay, was heartbreaking. There is no doubt that I have gained an eternal appreciation and respect for those many individuals who harvest those coffee fincas and make the drink possible for the rest of us.
Unfortunately, this past year, the Guatemalan coffee industry has gone through a devastating set back by “rust,” a fungal disease that is also devastating crops in Mexico, Central, and South America. There is no question that the problem concerns the local producers more than anything else at the moment.
As the rainy season begins now in Guatemala, and another harvest is around the corner, consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere can only hope that the problem gets addressed quickly and decidedly.
But now that I'm back home, you can be sure that I'll be out on the town discovering great places to get great Guatemalan coffee. Thanks for reading the Seattle Coffee Scene!