Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bean - Part 1

The power of the bean. 
The coffee bean, that is. 

In the mountains between the highlands of Guatemala and the hot, dry coast, coffee plants thrive. To make sure these plants don't get too much sun, palm and banana trees have been planted systematically within the crops to dapple shade on the coffee below throughout the day. 

Considering coffee has been around since the 13th century, you can imagine the wealth associated with exporting the prized Guatemalan beans. 

The majority of coffee plantations are owned by one of the 30 wealthy families in Guatemala that control...well, pretty much everything. And if the owners aren't one of the families, they are foreigners, like this plantation we visited. 

Italian owned and locally run, this massive plantation was not free-trade and during picking and processing season (September/October and/or January/February) dozens of families live together under one large roof and sleep on the floor. Their days are long, with every family member out in the fields picking...even the babies and children. And they get pennies a day for their labor. 

So, buy FAIR TRADE when possible. It makes a difference. 
The caffeine capsule. Small and powerful.  

My one word of advice. If it's not coffee season, don't tour a finca (farm). It was hot and every aspect of the processing center was closed down. The green coffee beans were durable and confidently growing on their stems.

I'm looking forward to seeing the varied shades of reds, oranges and yellows that the beans turn when they are mature and ready to pick. Next time...

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