During my first day in Guatemala I was told about a holiday that was happening this week, I don’t remember the official name, but I remember it being called the Burning of the Devil. The old tradition was that you make a small fire on your front steps to burn away all the bad from the previous year to start fresh. This got a little out of control with hundreds of small fires going on around the city that it was decided to turn the city into one giant party and do one massive burning of the devil. During the first night I learned how much of a celebration this was because of the fireworks going on during the whole night. I’ll admit, I was a little jumpy the first time I was woken up from a loud booming sound but got used to it. I was officially ready to get out of bed when the roosters let everyone know it was time to get up.
The day started with a delicious breakfast and some coffee. Today’s agenda was to learn what goes on in the dry mill area. The dry mill is where the beans are processed through a machine to remove the outer shell, which gave it the parchment look. We walked over to the De La Gente office to meet with other volunteers and the farmer.
- I’m all the way down in Guatemala and one of the other volunteers is from the area where I went to college in Kalamazoo! It wasn’t Western Michigan but close enough. World just shrunk a little bit more.
Our group gets through our introductions and we are off to the farmers home to pick up the dried beans, now called parchment coffee, to take to the dry mill building. The dry mill consists of three machines; two for removing the parchment and one to sort by size. Below is a picture of the dry mill area.
The machine on the left is thew first step. The smaller machine is step two and the white frame in the corner of the picture is the sorting table.
The first step is a larger machine that the beans are pushed through to remove the outer parchment layer. Next, the beans are ran through a similar but smaller machine which seemed to be at a higher speed to remove any remaining parchment. Following these two machines, all the parchment will be removed. The third and final machine is a sorting table. The main table at the center, is full of small holes. As the table shakes, beans that are too small, fall through the holes are captured below. The coffee that falls through is to be considered to have a defect. It still tastes like coffee should but, the defect is based on size alone. Coffee beans that are bigger, continue down the table and fall into a collection bag at the end.
We have green coffee beans! This is what I would see when getting coffee delivered to me before roasting. There is one final step though, the quality check. The two bags of green coffee beans we processed are tied off and taken back to Miguel’s home. What we had to do next humbled me a little bit more regarding the coffee process. We had to go through the bags of beans by hand and pick out the defective beans. All the discolored beans or broken beans needed to be removed. The beans were poured out onto a table and we sorted away.
Sorting was like harvesting to me, you got into a rhythm and just sorted away almost relaxing. It’s a great time to talk to whoever you are working with.
The reward was a wonderful homecooked lunch of carne asada, salsa, black beans and avocado. I was the only one without conversational Spanish. I had another moment where it made me realize I need t o learn this language. My memories of high school Spanish were not coming back.
We parted ways and I headed back to Eduardo’s home to relax for a little bit before taking a tour of downtown Antigua in the afternoon. Short afternoon naps are amazing!