My last day with Eduardo and his family started the off with a first for me, breakfast was heated powdered milk. This was used in my cereal and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about trying it. I have never had evaporated milk by itself before, let alone warm! I get the bowl of warm milk, and I’m stuck with a choice between a chocolate flavored cereal and another close to frosted flakes. I went with the chocolate one, thinking it would help make the warm milk more palatable. Pour in the cereal, mix it around and……… I was pleasantly surprised – it was pretty good! My immediate connection was hot chocolate, so I was eating hot chocolate cereal. Of course, this was served with a cup of fresh coffee.
After breakfast the plan for the day was to harvest some more coffee for the day. This was going to be with a different farmer to check out a new area of the hillside, his plot of land. I met with Danilo who led me to the DLG office, where we were meeting everyone for the day. On our way to the office, we walked past a man sitting out front of his place sitting next to a scale and smoking a cigarette. I learned that these people are called “coyotes”. They are the start of the much larger supply chain process. These coyotes will buy coffee by the overall weight of the bag, not taking into consideration the quality of the bean. These coyotes will then add their mark up and sell to larger farms or wholesalers. While pooling the beans together with whoever comes by to sell beans. This will then be marketed as small lot or regional coffee outside of the country. Someone with experience can harvest, on average, 125 lbs of coffee a day. This will pay out roughly between $4-$5 US dollars for a days’ worth of harvesting coffee.
We make it to the office to meet everyone there and run into some familiar faces. Lara who I was with before and Steve. Steve was a barista from England and is actually from Nottingham – you know Robin Hood. And that’s actually how he introduced himself, haha.
We made some small talk and we ready to go to Miguel’s field. Miguel’s is one of the farmers within the co-op who owns a truck, so we jumped in the back and made our way to his field.
All of the farmers who are a part of the San Miguel Co-op, have their plots of land on the side of a dormant volcano (De Agua). To reach any farmers plot of land by foot, it would take between 30-90 minutes. Miguel is on the high end of this but thanks to his truck we significantly cut down the travel time. We get outside of the small town and start traveling slowly up the volcano side on a dirt road. We start to gain elevation quickly and can see out over the city and more of the landscape, pretty awesome view from up here! We are driving past other farmers plots of land who are growing; coffee beans, corn and some areas of fruit. We drive around a hairpin turn and stop at a small pull in. This starts the second part of our journey, walking the remaining way. We walk through rows of coffee plants taller than all of us while staying on this small footpath. After a couple minutes we pop back out into the sunlight and were there! If I spun around in a circle while in this dense cover of coffee plants, I would have had no idea where I was.
Miguel gave us some history of his farm and talked more about the varieties of coffee we will be harvesting from today. We around harvesting bourbon variety this morning. One distinct feature of the bourbon variety is the height of the plant. Adult bourbon coffee plants were roughly eight feet tall. The main trunk part was not very thick, so to pick the cherries from the taller parts of the plant, you would reach as high as you could and bend the plant closer to you. This was a full morning of harvesting, so Lara, Steve and myself each had our own row and went for it. It’s a good way to talk to the people you’re with. The active volcano miles away (but still seemed way too close) would occasionally cough up some smoke every so often, just to let us know she’s still there.
- If you heard about a volcano erupting in Guatemala in 2018, this was that one. Following my stay on the farm, I drove through the area devastated from the volcano. It was very sad to see how everything was destroyed in its path.
After some time, we were rounded up to pool our beans together to carry them back down to the truck. You could tell the three of us were rookies, haha. Miguel and his helper had nearly double the amount of coffee cherries that we had. Our coffee was put in one large sac and Miguel just tossed it over his back to carry back to the truck! Definitely not his first time doing this. After up trek through the coffee forest back to the truck we were on our way back to Miguel’s home. Once back we weighed our coffee. As a group, we harvested about 132lbs of coffee cherries! We were pretty impressed as rookies. However, quickly reminded that 132lbs will end up as 25lbs of roast ready green coffee beans.
As far as my time on a coffee farm it was pretty much a wrap.