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Guatemalan Coffee: Part 1

- Hannah

Have you ever thought about how coffee is made?

Many don’t even know how it grows.  We all have the ability to go to the store and buy our coffee, drinking it within a few short hours. But who’s on the other end of the line? Who is making our coffee for us? More importantly, how is it made?

While living in Guatemala last winter I had the opportunity to learn the process hands on, as the highlands of Guatemala produce coffee for shipment around the world, and I happened to have some growing in my backyard.

When our gardener first showed me the coffee plants, I had no idea that what I was looking at was coffee. I had expected conventional coffee beans, not the bright red and green pods that hung in abundance from one of the many bushes surrounding our house. Add to that my limited understanding of the Spanish language, and I was thoroughly confused.

 Luckily, the gardener was patient.

He showed me how to pop the outer red casing (but only if it’s red) and extract the two green beans inside each one. Soon we had a major coffee production taking place on our porch, with a great pan of slimy green beans soaking in the first stage of the week long process.

After the beans soak for three to four days, they are set out in the sun to dry for another three to four days. I was worried that the birds and lizards might eat them, but Adong assured me that at this point they are not edible for any creature.

When they are finally dry there are still two steps to go before they are finished and ready to be ground and made into coffee as we know it. After being dried they are left with a white, papery shell. This will add a bitter flavor to the coffee and has to be removed.

 This is my least favorite part of the coffee making process.

We didn’t have a machine to take the husks off and so we had to do it by hand. It’s a long, boring, difficult job that tends to take hours and the efforts of the entire family.

 Luckily, after that, it gets easier.

The final step is to roast the coffee, which my Dad did in a cheap metal pan. The delicious aroma filled the entire house. After grinding it by hand with a mortar and pestle, we all gathered around as Dad tried our first attempt at coffee. He swirled it in his cup, gravely considering it, and we all held our breath as he took a sip. His face wrinkled unpleasantly and he promptly spat it into the sink.

Well, so our first try was a failure; the next was better and after a few months we were pros. We all really enjoyed the experience of learning how to make our own coffee at home.

Happy Trails!




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