This welcome and openness became increasingly important to me as I grew up, moving from Somalia to the UAE, and later to Denmark. You greatly appreciate it when you receive a warm-hearted reception in a new country.
MOHAMED NOUH GES, a director of the Somali Coffee Association and advisor to the Somali Ministry of Agriculture, recalls the warm welcome he received on his recent visit to the Central American country in Issue 3 of 25 Magazine.
On arrival in Guatemala City for the SCA’s Avance sustainability conference in October, the warmth of the locals was the first thing I noticed. This is a country of unparalleled natural beauty, with a people who are friendly and kind, who go that extra mile to make sure you feel welcome. My Airbnb host, Vilma, treated me like a son. Staying with her was the highlight of my trip; I don’t think you will find a better host in Guatemala City.
Exploring the city, the Guatemalan welcome was evident everywhere I went. One of my first stops was Café Divino near the famous Oakland Mall, which is the biggest shopping center in Guatemala City. At Divino you will find a team of friendly baristas ready to chat while you sample their brews.
The capital is home to a bustling coffee scene and one of its stars is Paradigma Coffee Roasters, owned by the 2012 World Barista Champion, Raul Rodas. Located in 4 Grados Norte, this cultural district is full of life, packed with bustling restaurants and coffee shops.
Just two blocks from Paradigma you will find Coffee District, a charming café with great food, owned by Roberto Cobaquil. Roberto is a wonderful ambassador for Guatemala, and is brimming with helpful suggestions for where to go and what to do during your trip. It was he who introduced me to El Principe Gris, which is the best craft brewery in Guatemala City, located a mere 90-second stroll from Coffee District. If you are looking for a fun night out, then this should be top of your list.
Visiting coffee farms is always worthwhile when you travel to a producing country. The day after the conference we were fortunate to be brought on a tour by Anacafé, the national coffee association, which also hosted the Avance event. One of the farms that stood out was Las Flores, Anacafé’s research farm, which is highly advanced and uses the best technology. It was interesting to see what state investment in coffee research and extension programs can achieve.
Following a friend’s advice I took a day trip to Antigua, the beautiful UNESCO heritage town less than an hour’s drive from Guatemala City. If you have time to spend a few days in the area, you may like to visit the local coffee farms or hike to the nearby volcano but if, like me, you only have a few hours to spare, then aim for the evening and find a good spot to unwind. The sunset in Antigua was one of the most beautiful I have ever witnessed.
Lake Atitlán is a longer drive from the capital but worth the journey – in terms of natural beauty it is hard to beat. In the town of Panajachel on the lake’s north shore, you’ll find a great coffee shop, Café Loco, owned by Diego Kim, a Korean barista who has embraced the Guatemalan way of life. He works with local farmers sourcing coffee to supply to South Korea, and in his café you’ll find another warm welcome and coffee menu that changes regularly. It is surprising to find this little gem of a specialty coffee shop in a small town in the Guatemalan Highlands, but my trip to Guatemala was surprising all round. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the country as much as I did, but I will never forget the kindness of the people and the beauty of the country.
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