Guatemala Coffee Regions – My First Visit Trip Ever to “Origin”

Before coffee roasters traveled much to “origin” I went to Guatemala at the height of the coffee price crisis of 2001

This one comes from the way, way-back machine. It’s my first trip to Guatemala, and my first trip to see coffee producers. It took several years from the inception of Sweet Maria’s (late 1997) to go to see farms. So-called “origin trips” were not so common for roasters in 2001, at least not on a regular basis. My notes below show my excitement and wonder, and a bit of naivete and self-importance too. I leave them as they were  – Tom

Traveling the Guatemalan Highlands: If you ever want to anchor yourself to one spot and preclude all hope of vacation travel, open a small business. There is no weightier ball and chain to keep you tethered to your workplace.

Then again, if you are in the coffee business you have great excuses to take “business trips” to outstanding places, and I was lucky to accompany some coffee brokers on a trip to some of the finest farms in Guatemala. We ventured north into the far-reaches of the Huehuetenango highlands, up remote 4WD roads, and to more established, traditional family “Fincas” to the west. We visited wet-mills and dry-mills in the old capital of Antigua, a popular tourist destination just and hour from Guatemala City. And we visited the offices and cupping room of traders in the capitol.

Most importantly, I was able to visit several farms that we have already carried, and produce the finest coffees I have cupped: Asobagri Co-op in Northern Huehuetenango, Finca El Injerto in Western Huehuetenango, Finca Huixoc in La Democracia and Finca El Injertal, adjacent to the Huixoc Farm.

Original 2001 Postscript:  I was very fortunate to be invited as a “tagalong” with the 3 gracious coffee brokers who permitted my presence. It was only because I was with some buyers who handle significant amounts of the best coffees that I was able to go to these farms. After returning I was asked by several people planning trips to Guatemala if I could give them contact information to visit these places, and I must politely say “no” with my sincerest apologies. You absolutely should visit Guatemala, and you should get back into the hills. It is simply incredible, and in fact I have found this web site that offers 4WD tours of the country with a focus on architecture. It looks great! But in terms of the coffee market, these coffee producers are in a crises, and need to devote all their efforts to getting fair prices for their excellent coffees. They really aren’t in the tourism market, and likewise there are far to many small roasters (and I certainly hope I was not one of them) who visit producing nations and talk big, give advise, and basically screw everything up. Producers who cannot travel to their market might listen to bad advise from people who buy 10 bags of the 10000 bags they have to sell. These people need to listen to their buyers who are prepared to take big shipments, not pip-squeaks. Sometimes it seems like the web levels out the differences between the big and small a little too much. People read out web page and think we are a big consumer. We are not, and we don’t try to be, nor want to be. What I am trying to say is that I greatly appreciate our hosts, the Co-ops, the farms, the exporters, and if I could wave a magic wand and make the world a fair place, your coffee would be selling for $10 lb. wholesale. I cannot put into words all the effort that goes into getting coffee from the farm to the burlap bag ready for export, and all the care and great human effort the producers put into this endeavor. For our small part, Sweet Maria’s buys quality coffee from our brokers regardless of price, and will continue to support every effort to raise the coffee prices paid to the farmer for the best quality coffees.

Before I went to Guatemala, I read up on the political history of US relations in the Guatemala Archive in the National Security Archives.Thompson Owen, April 2001

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