A Wet Trip to Chajul, Guatemala

Post submitted by SCAA member Desert Sun Coffee Roasters
Written by Glenn Lathrop

Oh the places we will go to in search of the relationships necessary to get great coffee. It all began with a 5 hour wait in my home airport not further than 15 minutes from my house. Oh well! Just tryin’ to get to Guatemala. So I finally get into Guatemala City 24 hours later not knowing that a Volcano is about to erupt, killing 12 people and closing the airport for the next week. Well couldn’t tell because it was raining so hard with a cloud cover barely over our heads. Which come to find out was caused by a sweet lady named Agatha ( 1st tropical storm of the year) who proceeded to drop 36” of rain and killing 100’s, (not kidding) over the next 3 days. Well needless to say that created a whole other set of issues for a very poor country. Things like washed out bridges, mud slides, land slides all of which closed major road arteries in the country. All this stuff put together made it a bit hard to get from place to place and we ended up spending at least 25 hours in a vehicle over three days attempting to meet up with the rest of our travel partners, who never did make it into the country. We were very fortunate to be taken well care of by Arcadio and Miguel of Associacion Chajulense (Chajul) the coffee coop we buy or Guatemalan coffee from.

Miguel, Shannon, Glenn

So what was I doing in Guatemala in the first place? I was traveling with Coop Coffees, the green bean importing coop that we are a part of, to accomplish two things: 1. visit Chajul to build relationship and learn more about their processing method and 2. Consult in a Marketing Seminar put on by CRS- this did not happen due to roads and airport being closed. So in spite of all we endured Shannon, my travel partner and I had a GREAT time and quite the adventure. We accomplished all we had intended to with the visit to Chajul and then some. The experience of spending 25 hours in a truck with Miguel and Arcadio over three days was invaluable. You certainly get to know someone after sharing such an intense time together. Dodging mud slides, waiting for roads to get cleared, finding alternative routes due to bridges being destroyed by the flooding etc. I came away with a great deal of respect for their level headed approach to dealing with such devastation. No wonder they are survivors of the coffee industry.

Rain and Mud

As for the learnings from our visit to the actual coop of Chajul they were many. We learned of many of the cultural challenges of managing 1500 individual farmers from some of the most traditional and conservative indigenous areas of Guatemala and how that affects what they can do as a coop. We gained understandings of their processing methods and were able to offer a few recommendations around sorting and distinguishing the altitudes at which the coffees are grown to help maintain consistency and improve quality. These are just a few of the many things we discovered. Next trip will be to Colombia in July!

Glenn Lathrop is the owner, green coffee buyer, and master roaster for Desert Sun Coffee Roasters

READ MORE from Glenn at Slurp.

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