Our coffee sourcing trip to Guatemala: adventure, peace, connection, full of life and beauty for all that is genuine and straight from the source!
We woke up early on Thursday morning (and every morning on this trip week long trip was early… coffee trip? I think so!) to be ready to board the boat to Peurto Barrios, Guatemala from Punta Gorda, Belize. Backpacks packed, coffee at the bar by Kelly, sunglasses on (haha) and breakfast burritos by Yvette, we are set! I was feeling so happy that we decided to take the early morning boat ride, as the Gulf of Honduras is peaceful and calm in the morning, allowing us to savor the sea breeze in preparation for our adventure up and up to the Mountains where the coffee fields are in abundance and the sweet smelling flowers are blooming. Enrico, Kelly and Katie off to Guatemala!
The first day was spent traveling; on the boat and bus, keeping our eye on the horizon of Guatemala City, our first destination! We had just enough time between the boat arriving in Peurto Barrios and the bus leaving, to enjoy the market in all it’s richness to the smells and sites of fresh fruit, live chickens, fresh vegetables, dried fish, and the slapping of handmade corn tortillas. Perfecto! Lunch is set: fresh avocado and hot, thick, handmade corn tortillas… Welcome to Guatemala with a smile on my face!
Arriving in Guatemala City that night, was a bustle of activity, in the largest city in Central America. We managed to find a comfortable hotel right in the Centro Historico, where the beautiful churches, central market and cultural activities take place daily. Arriving around dinner time, as we were walking the streets, the smell of meat searing on the comal filled the air, with workers just finishing their shift, indulging in a homemade taco or salbute covered with sauce; the next block over store vendors had set up there many items for sale from movies to underwear, to sunglasses… “would you like to try miss?” to be packed up tonight and unpacked for a fresh day tomorrow. Over the next couple of days, we would truly find out how big la Ciudad de Guatemala really is, and the incredible contrast in cultures, living conditions and social status that it’s residence experience. That night we settled on a place for dinner (dare I tell you where?), and took a rest, in anticipation for a very special reunion the next day!
…we all know that there are those sweet moments in life, when you connect, and share an unforgettable life experience of transformation and growth and have the bounty to share that with others; and when the time comes to say Goodbye to this special experience, you feel connected at the heart, and just hope that one day you will connect again along the path of life…Guess what! On Sunday, that happend! My dear friend Shabnam from Guatemala City, who I met while I was serving at the Lotus Temple (Baha’i House of Worship) in New Delhi, India, picked us up to go for lunch in her home town! It had been six years since we had seen each other, I left India for Canada and she left for Guatemala City, and now here we are, hugging in person, and in awe that we are actually seeing each other! Giddy and excited we spent the afternoon together, catching up like no time had past, and introducing each other to our families. Such a special moment. Kelly also enjoyed getting his boots shined, and sharing a glass of fresh goats milk with Enrico, squeezed right from the Goat on the street…
The following day we were on our way to Huehuetenango, on (none other than) the 4am bus! Classic Coffee Trip with Kelly. We slept for most of the bus ride, until it stopped half way for breakfast at this cute little area… they were serving Atole (my favorite! a sweet corn drink) and more hand made blue corn tortillas with eggs; such a treat here for me. Content and happy we continued on the bus, singing to the music that our bus driver was playing. That afternoon, upon arriving in Huehuetenango, we met up with a local coffee co-operative for a cupping experience of dozen different coffees from Northern Guatemala; tasting for aspects such as mouth feel, acidity, flavor….For me, this was my first cupping experience, and it was fantastic to be introduced to the complexity in one cup of coffee, and the care that it takes to choose the best beans. One more layer to understanding the significant process and care of planting, growing, harvesting, drying, roasting and making this world renowned drink.
We spent the night in Huehuetenango, and the next day we were en route to La Libertad! Driving along the bumpy road along the mountainside that passes through sweet little towns, that finally leads to a small dirt road, that wrapped it’s way up towards the top of the Mountain… here we go! The warm sun was shining down, and although the dust from the road was filling the air, we could still see the beautiful surroundings as we made our way up the Mountain: lush trees descending down towards the river, the radiant blue river flowing between the strong tall mountains, where other little towns were nestled throughout the trees on the other side… absolutely magnificent!
After about fifteen minutes up, we reached La Libertad and we were all in awe. A truly special place, situated in a serene atmosphere on the top of the mountain, with a panoramic view of it’s rich surroundings of coffee fields, lush mountain sides, and the sweet smell of coffee flowers filling the air. We spent the day at the Coffee Co-operative that supplies specialty, sustainable coffee for top coffee roaster’s in the USA, Canada and Europe. Speaking mostly in Spanish was refreshing, and we were grateful to have Enrico to translate where we did not understand… They graciously toured us through their facility, and through the coffee fields…an absolutely incredible experience. Weaving through the coffee plants, observing the changes that the plants pass through on their stages of growth, flower and bean, and the care that has to be taken to protect them from the over bearing sunshine, and diseases that can inflict their delicate leaves. Most of the plants were blooming with fragrant little white flowers, the offered the sweetest, most uplifting smell, and I was inspired to close my eyes and smile… mmmmm :). We found out that in May (right now) they collect honey from the bees that pollinate coffee flowers, a honey that turns out black (how fitting) and incredibly sweet! Can you imagine? Yes please, how divine! After the tour we made our way back to the co-operative for another cupping of the unique coffees of this region… I could get used to this!
Our day in La Libertad was truly one to remember; the friends that work at the Co-operative really had a genuine and caring vibe, that made the experience that much more rich. Kelly and Enrico began negotiations to source coffee from them in the near future, and we left feeling fulfilled. The incredible surroundings, the knowledge sharing, and connecting to the source of our favorite drink, really left a great taste in our mouth (…I had to:) ) and we look forward to the next time that we can visit such a special place.
After the enlightening experience in Huehuetenagno and La Libertad, it was time to return home… we decided to take the twelve hours of travel on the bus the next day, where we would sleep on the Rio Dulce that night. How incredible happy we were when we arrived to the river, stretching our legs, and nestling into a little cabin on the river side for a good nights sleep, under a mosquito net, in the open air (we were tired and fell right asleep)… Our final day we took the boat along the Rio Dulce to Livingston, where we would take a boat from there back to Punta Gorda. After one week of early mornings, on the bus and traveling, the trip down the lush river was refreshing and relaxing… with the clean breeze, green trees and wide open river we eased into the trip home to Belize.