It was sad to leave the verdant hillsides of the Michicoy valley, but after two wonderful days at the Finca Vista Hermosa, we headed back to civilization; back to Huehue. Never a dull moment — that was our motto — so not only did we visit the Chocolate Factory-esque dry mill (where the coffee undergoes removal of its parchment, electronic sorting by a computer eye, and final bagging and packing for exportation), we went immediately to the Mayan ruins at Zaculeu. At sunset. It was amazing, beautiful, humbling.
We set off the next morning at 4:30am, and wondered if our hosts were purposefully bringing us through Guatemala at the times of dawn and dusk, as we witnessed yet another amazing sunrise. Misty valleys, pointed volcano peaks, and early morning light led us to the gorgeous area of Antigua.
First we visited a 5-star-hotel/coffee plantation(very ritzy!) named the R. Dalton Filadelfia Coffee Estate. Known by some as the “Disneyland of coffee farms,” this manicured and detailed 900-acre property was the most spacious, well-equipped farm we had ever seen or heard of (they wet-mill, dry-mill, sort, bag, and cup all their coffees on site)!
Perhaps the moment of greatest envy for us was in their cupping room. Holy moly, they had a spinning green marble cupping table! And the plain act of cupping was a much more formal affair… like going to a fancy restaurant or something. We left thinking that our milestone for Victrola’s pinnacle of success would be when we get our marble cupping table :)
We managed to squeeze in a few hours of shopping and eating in Antigua. Milling about the cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, we discovered two things: all the tourists in Guatemala; and perhaps the only cathedral in the world with an aquarium.
We discovered more than that, though, on this trip to origin. We learned firsthand about the passion and care that goes into producing specialty coffee. We counted ourselves fortunate to have experienced the warmth and hospitality of the Guatemalan people. We pushed drying coffee around on the patios, and picked it from its cradling boughs. We learned how hard it is to make a cup of coffee at origin (milling by hand, wood-fired stovetop roasting and hand-grinding!), and appreciated every sip because we had each worked so hard to make this drink. We will never again take coffee — so readily available at every corner in our city, in every size, form, and flavor — for granted.
Thank you again to the wonderful Martinez family (three generations, pictured above! Felippe, Edwin Sr, and Edwin) for their generosity in opening the doors to Guatemalan culture for us. Thanks to everyone who went on the trip with us; who made the experience even more memorable. And thanks also to the photographers contributing to these blog posts: Mike Garber, Perry Hook, and Mark Pfaff. You can see many many more photos on Mark’s flickr account, if you’ve got some time to spare :)