For the most part, this past week was work as usual. I was invited to another cupping session with Ben Weiner on Monday. After the session, I was brought back up the mountain on the company pickup accompanied by a bed full of coffee chaff. Many of this will simply be composted, while others will be used for weed control. One interesting use was the specialty chaff stoves that are on the farm. Last night Luis and I set one up and cooked a plantain. His daughter Wendy “helped”. Fuelled only by chaff, this stove will burn for hours.
On Saturday, two americans came to visit the farm. Since Ben was flying back to the United States, I was placed in charge of showing them around the farm. This originally sounded daunting but seemed to come naturally once we got started. By the end of the visit my voice was just about gone. It made me realize how much I missed speaking in my native tongue. They put up with my rambling descriptions, tangential facts, and even laughed at my bad jokes. Regardless, Shannon and Andrea were a pleasure to visit with for a few hours.
Don Roger came for a visit earlier in the week during which I had the pleasure of spending a good chunk of time with him. Don Roger is an agronomist, or someone who is in the business of using merging the concepts of science and technology with traditional farming practices. We traveled to each section of the farm where he pointed out various infirmities and how to fix them. Julio told me that he learned a lot and filled his notebook with all of the new information.
This coming week will be filled with lots of events as I wrap up my time here. At this very moment, I’m writing from the office for the last time. Tomorrow will be my last day of work on the farm and then on Wednesday I will be catching a bus to Managua where I will spend the night as I begin my travels home. If I have time, I’d like to visit Granada for a few hours and maybe take the opportunity to hike up a volcano! From there, I fly out to Mexico City where I have a long layover and then onto Rochester by Saturday night.
As my time here comes to an end, I have been thinking about the people I’ve met, my experiences, and how they will shape my attitude toward coffee upon my return. I can not thank Joe Bean and Gold Mountain enough for providing this opportunity to me. I never thought that getting back behind an espresso tamp would be more than a way to pay the bills.
What has become increasingly obvious to me here is that as customers, we do not pay nearly enough for our coffee in the United States. Our beans pass through many hands in order to reach our mugs. Few of these people make what would be considered a living wage in any developed nation. While I had some concept of this before seeing it first hand, I now have a perspective of the work needed to produce this product and it is nearly impossible to quantify and translate into words. I have hope that as the coffee industry continues to grow and improve, that our worlds will become more connected and others will gain this perspective. As this happens those producing our coffee at every stage should see their situations improve over time.