Guatemala is known for its breathtaking volcanic landscape, lush Central American forests, and rich Mayan culture. It also happens to be one of the best places to grow coffee. The mild, subtropical climate and volcanic soils nourish coffee plants to create unique aromas and flavors. The coffee is grown at high altitudes. Guatemala is a relatively small country, but its diverse landscape makes it home to seven distinct types of Guatemala Arabica coffee.
Earlier this week, Brewpoint owners Melissa and Angelo returned from a fruitful experience in Guatemala, where they visited the coffee division of the San Lucas Mission, a Catholic, non-profit institution that invests in the San Lucas region. Brewpoint’s partnership with North Central College gave Melissa and Angelo the opportunity to visit Guatemala and witness the coffee production process firsthand.
In typical coffee production, small coffee farmers gather about a hundred pounds of coffee cherries each day, then hike with them down the mountain. They sell these cherries to coyotes, the middlemen who sell the coffee to larger companies. The small farmers only get about $22 per one hundred pounds of coffee cherries, which is just enough money to live on and give minimal payments towards their farming debts. This creates a nearly inescapable cycle of poverty for the coffee farmers because the coyotes make most of the profit.
But what if there was no middleman? If the coffee farmers can sell their harvests directly to producers, they can make a larger profit. The San Lucas Mission is a farmer co-op where farmers sell their best harvest at much higher, fairer rates than what the coyotes offer. They also offer the farmers free training and education to ensure higher-quality crops. This creates some of the highest quality coffee in Guatemala, with an average Q score of 86, and ensures that farmers have a way to exit the oppressive cycle of poverty.
As the San Lucas Mission processes the coffee, there are quality checks at every step. They process from cherry to parchment, or husked coffee, to green to roasted, and finally to ground coffee. It takes five hundred pounds of coffee cherries to make sixty-four pounds of roasted coffee.
The coffee washing process consists of coffee being washed, fermented in honey mucilage for thirty-six hours, washed again to remove the mucilage, and dried on a patio for ten to twelve days. During the drying process, it is turned over every fifteen minutes throughout the day and mounded and covered overnight.
Melissa and Angelo were able to take part in the coffee production process and observe the work that goes into making quality coffee. This experience offers great insight into the story of each cup of coffee.
This was Melissa and Angelo’s first visit to a coffee farm. While we were all shivering in past week and a half of cold and snow, they were enjoying the stunning views, valuable experiences, and subtropical temperatures of Guatemala.