For most of us, me included, drinking coffee is an everyday occurrence. While we don’t exactly think about the act, it’s how we start our day and we need it to function. But do we stop and think about where it comes from?
Nelly and I got the chance to see the coffee making process up close and personal for our ISP, or individual study project, at Café La Voz. La Voz is a coffee cooperative near the center of San Juan La Laguna, the town where we completed our second homestays.
On our first day, the guides showed Nelly and me around the expansive area where the cooperative keeps their trees. We learned that there exist two different types of coffee trees that belong to the region; Bourbon and Caturra. The Bourbon is short and squat and produces more seeds, but is more susceptible to sickness. The Caturra is taller and thinner, much less able to get sick, but produces fewer seeds. In order to protect the trees from diseases, bugs, and chemicals, the cooperative plants “barrier trees” and uses tires to protect the beans. These “barrier trees” are common trees for the region with big leaves; the tires are old and were thrown away until La Voz decided to use them.
The guides explained that they go against large companies like Nestle and Nescafe because their coffee is poor quality in comparison to the organic coffee of La Voz and well as with large companies, someone is always exploited during the coffee-making process. We learned in both our classes and during the tour that companies like those come into Guatemala, threaten and forcefully take the land from local people, or purchase them for a fraction of what they are worth. La Voz, on the other hand, relies on the work of 14 people (both men and women) to complete the whole process BY HAND; they don’t use machines to make their coffee.
In order to help us to understand their work and just how good their coffee is, the tour guides gave both Nelly and me free coffee so we could experience the delicious flavor and richness of the beans. The coffee was REALLY good.
While there was more that we learned, the biggest takeaways I had was to never take a sip of coffee for granted again. Now, every time I pour a cup of coffee, I will think of the work that has gone into what I supposed to be a simple drink.