Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Coffee Farming



One of our new Guatemalan friends is Anna. Anna is one incredible woman. Her family has owned their coffee finca (farm) for four generations. Her finca is one of only a handful of certified organic coffee farms in the country. Anna herself is certified as a coffee expert through training at a coffee 'university' in Brazil. Her family had left to live in the city and kinda put the finca on the back burner. Anna has decided to take over the family business. She's the one who has made it an organic farm.

But she has other projects as well. She started a panaderia (bread bakery) out of Ronnie's cultural center. When we arrived they had just started getting customers and baking daily. By the time we left they had opened up the corner room to sell the bread. She also helps women and young entrepreneurs with starting businesses. They are going to start a program to teach business skills and business planning. She will be holding a small contest for the participants to propose their ventures and then she will pick one to mentor to fruition. She's also teaching Mayan women to use their artisan skills for making materials for shoes. I didn't really get to see any of these plans, but I am very interested because I've thought of starting a shoe business myself. She also ships other plants to the U.S. as well. (More on that in another post.) Anna is one busy lady.

The Acatenango valley grows primarily for Starbucks. Starbucks says they have all these standards about workers and growing conditions, but Anna says that it is all bunk. Children are picking the coffee along with their parents. As you saw in yesterday's post, Mayan families like Alvinna's are dirt poor and start the children working at a very young age.

For anyone who has a coffee shop/business who might be interested, Anna is looking to sell directly to shops in the U.S. without the middle man. Contact me and I'll get you her contact information.

Anyway, the above picture shows the coffee plant in flower. The one below shows the red coffee berries, ready for picking.



Here I have a freshly picked coffee berry. When you break the skin there is a thin, fleshy bit over the beans. There are two or three beans in a berry. We tasted it and the fruit is very sweet. I asked if there was something that they used this sweet part for. Anna says that it is stripped from beans during the process and the slough is taken and fed with other organic material to composting worms. This then creates the fertilizer they use for the next crop.



After the berries are picked they are put in these troughs that are filled with water. Bad berries will float to the top and get skimmed off. The good berries fall down the shoots by gravity.



The berries are soaked for a few days so that the red skin/hull can be removed as well as the thin flesh layer.





Anna is standing amidst young coffee seedlings in the nursery section. She is explaining some of the process to us.



Eventually the beans are laid out in the sun to dry out.



This handful is the finished, green bean before roasting. This is how the bean is shipped to the U.S. and other coffee buyers. You can see that there is still a thin skin on it.



These are the 100 pound bags ready to be shipped.

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