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Guatemala Trip #1 – Overview

Guatemala Trip #1 – Overview

When we agreed to accompany our friends from Zion Coffee on a trip to Guatemala, we honestly didn’t know what to expect . Rachel and I knew that we wanted to learn much more about the coffee farming process to broaden our own appreciation for the countless cups we serve in our shop. We wanted to see exactly how coffee beans are picked, processed, and shipped, but we ended up coming home with something much more important.

We returned with a much greater appreciation for the people involved in every step of the process and the value of relationships between everyone in the supply chain. We learned that an enormous amount of work has been poured into every cup of coffee you drink from a lot of very dedicated people.

In this post we want to give you an overview of our time in Guatemala, where we went, and the organizations and people that we interacted with. In future posts, we’ll dive into the details of specialty coffee farming, processing, and our takeaways from the trip. New posts will be published each Tuesday so be sure to follow along and subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already!

The People

Zion Coffee has a direct trade relationship with an organization called De la Gente in Guatemala, which translates to “From the People”. It’s a farmer-focused non-profit cooperative comprising five regional co-ops around Guatemala. We had the privilege to meet and work alongside two of the five co-ops during our stay. The DLG office is based in San Miguel Escobar and is ultimately where all of the beans come before they’re exported to America and us! If you’d like to learn more about the work they do in each specific region, check out their website and social media!

De la Gente's office in San Miguel Escobar.
Working with De la Gente vs regular coffee supply chains.
3 generations of coffee farmers... All named Freddy!
Roasting coffee over a stove.

The Places

In total, we spent 5 days in Guatemala. We started our trip off by flying into Guatemala’s largest city, Guatemala City:

From there, we took a van to San Miguel Escobar (Ciudad Vieja), a small town outside of Antigua. San Miguel is the home of De la Gente, the cooperative that we came to visit. More on them later. As part of their growing agritourism arm of the co-op, De la Gente operates a beautiful guest house which we stayed at during the beginning and end of our trip.

On our first and second days, we explored the town and got to interact with a couple of local farmers, Miguel, Freddy and their families. They were both coffee farmers that were a part of the De la Gente co-op. Seeing how hard they work and just how much being a part of the co-op has changed their lives was really meaningful to Rachel and I. We realized that we, along with you our customers, play a small role in a much bigger picture, and that we have a symbiotic relationship with farmers thousands of miles away.

Our third and fourth days were spent with a second DLG partner collective called Ija’tz in another small town three hours away from San Miguel near Lake Atitlan. The town of San Lucas Toliman is nestled in fertile volcanic slopes on the shores of the lake. We spent a hands-on day picking coffee cherries at nearly 6000ft altitude, helped out as farmers brought their day’s harvest to the co-op processing plant, as well as took a hike in the surrounding mountains for some gorgeous views of the lake and mountains.

Finally, we headed back to San Miguel to the guest house to spend our final night. We had one more excursion to Antigua for final taste of the local coffee before leaving the next morning to Guatemala City and our flight home.

View from the roof of the De la Gente Guest House
Another view from the roof of the De la Gente Guest House.
On our way to the coffee farms in San Miguel.
Coffee plantation in San Miguel.

In next week’s post, we’ll dive into the coffee harvesting process. We’ll take a close look at what coffee trees and their fruit look like as well as the labor-intensive steps involved in harvesting some of Guatemala’s best coffee.