We traveled to Nueva Alianza, the first co-operative finca in Guatemala, with a group of 8 other students. 40 families live and work within the farm. There they have a sort of ¨Eco-resort¨(dormitory style beds with cold showers) that we stayed in. We learned all about the coffee processing business as well as other projects that they have started in the co-op, including macademia harvesting, bio-diesel, water purfication, and bamboo furniture.
We picked coffee off the trees on a hillside. Did you know coffee begins as red berries? When you suck on them they have a sweet flavor.
After picking the berries, we hiked into a nursery where they graft coffee plants together to ensure they will produce a plant that fits the Guatemalan terrain.
After the berries are picked they are hand sorted to make sure only the reddest berries are processed first. The green berries are stored in burlap bags for 8 days to ripen. The berries go through 3 processes to remove the 4 outer layers over the bean. These processes take a total of 86 hours to produce raw beans as shown in the photo below. What begins as 100 lbs. of red berries ends up with 19.5 lbs. of raw beans.
The beans are then sent to a nearby women´s co-op for removal of the final layer and roasting. At this time Nueva Alianza does not have these capabilities, but are hoping to change that in the future. This would allow them to create greater income upon sale of the coffee.
Most of the coffee from the finca, the 2nd to highest grade of coffee available, is exported to other countries. At this time, the Guatemalan coffee market is the best in the world, mainly due to small scale farming. Ironically enough, most Guatemalans drink instant coffee. Good thing we brought some of the good stuff home for our family!
We also did some rainforest-like hiking to nearby cascadas (waterfalls). We really enjoyed cooling off, after being eaten alive by mosquitos and ants!