From Seed to Cup: My Visit to a Coffee Farm

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Straight rows of tiny well-cared-for plants.

Tall trees generous with sharing their shade.

Gorgeous mountains surrounding it all.

As an avid coffee drinker, visiting a coffee farm or roasting plant has been on my bucket list for a quite a few years. You can imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found this little gem tucked into the volcanic footholds of Guatemala: Filadelfia. While it’s name sounds similar to the City of Brotherly Love, this farm/”resort” is a family owned and operated business that had been passed down throughout multiple generations.

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At times, it felt more like a jungle and less like a farm!

First of all, the grounds (pun intended) were gorgeous! Some lucky visitors get to stay in the lodgings just a stone throw’s away from where the coffee is grown and processed. Can you imagine waking up to the smell of thousands of pounds of beans being roasted? Or looking out your window and seeing the beautiful coffee beans being carefully raked as they dried in the sun?

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A glimpse of the resort, with the drying patio in the foreground.

The tour I took was top-notch. Carlos explained everything from the nursery to the cup. I got to practice picking some bright red berries, and tasting the mellow sweetness of the mesocarp. A Unimog truck toted me around the fields, and I lavished the joy of being outside in such an interesting place. Even when I was indoors, witnessing the complex coffee-berry-washing system, I relished the experience of seeing such a tiny little plant turned into yummy high octane fuel.

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Ready to pick!

Lastly, the coffee was delicious. I enjoyed a cup while I walked around the farm and looked more closely at the birds and plants surrounding the main production facility. It was a fun morning, and this particular pilgrimage is definitely one that I’ll remember for a long time to come.

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If You Decide to Go:

  • Depending on the time of year, you may get to see more or less of the entire coffee-producing process. Apparently during the harvest months (November and December), it’s possible to witness more “action” in regards to the picking and roasting. I went during a national holiday, so it was very peaceful and quiet, but I didn’t actually see every part of the elaborate operation in play.
  • There are many other coffee farms around this portion of Guatemala. Filadelfia is one of the largest and most known; it caters towards tourists, meaning it’s slightly more commercialized than some of the others. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, do some research! Filadelfia was easily accessible (with free transport) from Antigua, so that’s why I decided to make the quick trip here.
  • There are many other activities offered at Filadelfia if you want to make your visit longer: bird watching, camping, and mountain biking – just to name a few.

 

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Farmstead

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I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. The roll of flattened tubing was heavy, and uncooperative as I tried awkwardly to unroll it. My hands were already filthy, so I gingerly used my inner elbow to hold back the sweat already dripping from my brow. I began to hum an indistinguishable tune, finding my rhythm as volunteer farmhand-for-the-day in the northern region of Mozambique.

I had eagerly agreed to help install a basic irrigation system on land owned by Iris Ministries just outside the city. This system would coax thirsty tomatoes into hearty plants during the dry season. On the truck ride over, I learned of the incredible value that viable farmland adds to an impoverished community. Besides the obvious job creation and food production, local farms contribute much-needed nutrition and add to the overall economic sustainability of an area.

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The farm itself was gorgeous (and somewhat reminiscent of my time at Capitol Reef in the Fruita district.) Picturesque trees dotted the landscapes, interspersed between plots for carrots, eggplant, onions, and other veggies. I was told that the mango trees absolutely droop with delicious-tasting fruit when in-season.

I unrolled tubing. I measured. I marked. I cut. I turned. I fastened. I twisted. I straightened.

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With a hard-working team, the installation process moved along fluently. My hands relished the opportunity to touch the African soil; my eyes regularly peeked upwards, paying homage to the lazy clouds in the sky.

When the system was successfully completed, we celebrated the outcome with some carrots pulled fresh from the soil. They were delicious (and organic). I walked to the edge of the property and peered into the marshy creek edge, searching for the crocodiles that I was told regularly lurk there. I didn’t see any.

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One of the local farmhands surprising us with a treat!

Two years ago, while I traveled around the country in a teardrop trailer, I never imagined I would one day spend time on an African farmstead. It makes me excited to realize how far I’ve come, how much I’ve done, and how many more things I have yet to see!

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Looking for some crocs… (not the footwear kind)
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Finished!

RRG Recap

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The cabin I shared with friends (and a couple mice, apparently)

Length of Stay:

  • Four days, three nights

Highs:

  • Good climbs, good people
  • Kayaking in an abandoned, flooded mine
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The mine entrance: creepy, yet fun
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A little different feel than my last kayak adventure in Kentucky

Lows:

  • A couple thunderstorms meant a few less climbs than planned

Favorite Climb:

  • Workin’ for the Weekend (10a)

Favorite Treat:

  • Miguel’s Pizza (a Red River Gorge must-have)
  • Ale-8-One ginger/citrus-ale (a Kentucky must-try)
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On the wall, happy as can be…

Blue Grass Escapade

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Kentucky: state of mountains, mines, and impeccable scenery. This region of Appalachia also happens to be one of the best places to rock climb on the east coast. Red River Gorge (RRG) features some fantastic routes in sandstone cliffs forged many moons ago by a tumbling river.

It was the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

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Getting ready for the daily warm up.

Armed with bug repellent, climbing gear, lots of crag snacks, and two competent friends, I enjoyed hour upon hour in this wild space. Muir Valley, named after the “Father of the National Parks”, was a serene location with enough shade to make the Kentucky heat bearable.

I still sweated.

A lot.

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Finding our climb

But it was so much fun to climb real rock – to be 100 feet above the ground hyper-aware of every movement and rock feature. The wildlife was present, but unobtrusive, although I did get to watch a snake eat a mouse.

Kentucky, you’re ruthless, but beautiful.

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N’awlins

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Famous Cafe Du Monde beignets

The food is incredible.

The sights are boundless.

The humidity is tolerable.

The laid back, slower pace of life in this city has earned New Orleans the nomenclature The Big Easy. Streets cater to pedestrians, narrow alleys are ideal for intimate meals, and music seems to seep out from unexpected places. Compared to my recent stint in NYC, N’awlins was relaxingly mesmerizing.

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A cute pedestrian-only alley

The Garden District is a playground for celebrities. Who knew that the likes of John Goodman and Sandra Bullock regularly call this city their home? I took a walking tour of this neighborhood, marveling at the gorgeous architecture and delightful foliage of plantation-turned-mini-mansion neighborhoods.

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City Park was another highlight of this fascinating city! The green space was well-kept and an intriguing place to meander whilst sipping a chickory coffee (bitter).

And now to end on a quote (of an author I’ve never heard of):

“Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.” – Dave Eggers

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City Park

* Check out the N’awlins Bayou post

Sky Time

Throughout my travels near and far, I have experienced nature in the forests, mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, and even underground in caves.

It was high-time that I took to the skies.*

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Me. Happy.

When my pilot friend (who also happens to be a flight instructor) said, “Let’s go flying”, I was 100% onboard – literally.

It was a crisp, clear day with views for miles. I observed the lacy patterns on the semi-frozen Potomac River that lay surrounded by snow-dusted grounds. The deciduous trees stood as tiny skeletons while pockets of deep green marked the clusters of their evergreen friends. The Chesapeake Bay was a sight to behold with its glossy surface reflecting the sun, making the light dance as we flew lazy eights above.

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The view from above, including the Potomac

I was experiencing my world from a completely new perspective, and thoroughly enjoying it. Things looked prettier from up high, away from the concrete and busyness on the ground. My birds-eye-perspective rendered everything as smaller, simpler, yet somehow even more beautiful.

And yes, getting a chance to take-off and actually fly a bit myself added to my sense of awe.

I was surrounded by air, far from the world as I know it, yet still experiencing the natural world in a phenomenal way.

I cherished every minute of it.

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Our plane

 

* The commercial flights I’ve taken wherein I share elbow space with other humans and have just a peek of blue sky out a too-small window don’t truly count as a “nature experience”

Guest Post by J.C. (Travel-Safer)

I first met J.C. in a tiny camp store during my visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was one of those serendipitous encounters that led to some great conversations and a follow-up visit to Denver. J.C. is a guru on all things regarding safe travels. His website contains a wealth of information including country profiles, packing tips, and how to stay safe online.

This is his story.

 

Somewhere, Utah. Not far from Escalante.

It was dark. Pitch dark. So dark that watching the road in front of me as I walked was so disorienting that I stopped watching where I was going and looked up at the stars to keep from sitting down and taking a nap.

The three of us were five miles into our starlight walk and had already hiked 17+ miles that afternoon. This was the final test of a week-long survival course with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS), and no one had any clue as to what time it was, or how many more miles until we reached the campsite.

The coyotes in the distance reminded us that we were not alone.

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Onward

So why would you subject yourself, much less PAY to put yourself through an experience like this?

  • Well – for one: I’m a MUCH lighter packer because I know what is necessary and eliminate that which I don’t need… Okay, well, I still pack a luxury item or two when I hit the road.
  • Secondly, you’ll know yourself on a much deeper level. You’ll find your limits and what you can actually
  • Maybe the biggest reason is the boost of confidence. After spending a week with minimal clothes, no tent, flashlights, electronics, backpack or lighter, I know that if I’m stranded overnight while hiking a 14er that not only will I survive, but I will know how to make the experience more tolerable.
  • Bonus reason: Having the added benefit of doing it in a supervised environment will keep you from doing the dumb things and put you on the path to success much quicker while minimizing the chance of injury.

Here in Colorado, we like to call this style of activity “Type 2 Fun”. It’s the sort of thing that you curse most of the way through, then start planning the next one as you drive home.

For me; however, there was a broader reason behind this “fun.” As a serial traveler and ever the curious type, I continually seek out ways to make myself a safer and better traveler. Not every option I look for is this extreme or results in losing ten pounds in a week. It can be as easy as keeping my CPR certification up to date, or sampling random martial arts like Krav Maga, Tae Kwon Do, and Systema and, of course, taking a language class here and there.

I’ve heard study abroad program directors remove self-defense classes from their pre-travel courses because “the goal of the course was not to train MMA fighters.” I found this incredibly short-sighted. If you plan on traveling solo, I highly recommend taking a CPR class and enrolling in self-defense at a local gym or martial arts facility. The result is the same: an increased sense of security and self-confidence. When traveling, whether abroad or here at home, the vast majority of crime is a crime of opportunity; meaning that criminals are going to go after the easiest target. Thus, if you look more confident, aware, and put together this may cause a potential attacker to look somewhere else.

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The Utah wilderness in all its glory

I close out this post with a challenge to you: Get outside your comfort zone; take a CPR class, learn a new language, sign up for a self-defense course, or maybe even a survival course in the woods. You’ll be a safer, more self-confident traveler and person.