The Roasterie’s Travels: Destination Panama – Part 4

Day 10
The next morning we awoke again to the sound of the singing birds as well as the water rushing below us. We all took turns using the bathroom, as there were 4 guys and only one shower. After a short while we were served a regular Guatemalan breakfast of beans and eggs, which is still slightly weird but nonetheless very, very good.

We then went out on these pretty sweet looking jeeps that had been turned into farm buggies. We went around seeing a smaller version of the Bourbon that they had planted which they called, Bourbon enano. This is because the plant is much smaller than the regular Bourbon and gives the same yields. They also prefer it because the people who work on their farm are a little vertically challenged, and it’s easier for them to reach every branch. We also saw a variety of tree they call Elite 14. It’s very different because the coffee cherry turns orange when it matures instead of the usual red. We went around for about an hour and a half looking at all the trees on the farm as we made our way up to the lookout tower. At 1660 meters above sea level it was sure to be a fantastic view. However, we ran into some problems when one of the buggies couldn’t make it up the mountain because it kept on getting stuck in the mud. We all piled into one of them and continued on the journey. Because of our little mishap, though, by the time we made it up to the lookout tower we were too late and the clouds had already started to form, and all we could see in any direction was fog. After a refreshing drink and news that we had missed an earthquake by just a few hours the day before we were on our way back down to view the wet and dry mills.

The mills were very standard to what we had seen in Mexico and were very traditional and very, very clean. After the tour we had a few minutes before lunch was served to get everything in order for our departure. I took that time to lay in a beautiful hammock as everyone was busy getting ready. After lunch we were off to Antigua, Guatemala. It was a relatively short and beautiful drive and we arrived at a farm named Finca Retana. It was amazing, with beautiful macadamia trees lining the street and coffee growing right behind it. We were greeted by the owner, Fernando Cofino, and instantly he and Danny hit it off, as he had a vintage BMW motorcycle sitting in his garage. It also happens that he went to school just 45 minutes outside of Kansas City. He also had the same truck that we were driving as well as the same BMW motorcycle that Danny has… kind of random. So, after a short tour of the farm and seeing some beautiful plants, as well as some that were dying of some sort of root system disease, we were taken back to his home for coffee. There, he showed us some photos of what the farm used to look like and what happens to the coffee trees just a few hours after a freeze– man, was that depressing! After some more conversation we were off to our hotel and get ready for a meeting that Grace had with some of the women from Women In Coffee.

We went to a great little restaurant on the main street and had some great local stuffed hot peppers, as well as some more local beverages. After dinner Estuardo took us to the Hotel Santo Domingo, which was a hotel transformed from an old monastery. It was definitely an amazing sight to see. It was like walking through time: the old ruins were still standing from who knows when, and the church was absolutely breathtaking. After walking though the Hotel Santo Domingo we then went back to our hotel and everyone went to bed.

The next morning we woke up pretty early and had breakfast at our hotel– again eggs and beans– and were off the the the Beneficio Palin, where Cafcom does a lot of its processing. On the way we were surprised to see that the volcano we were driving by was erupting. There was a huge cloud of smoke billowing from the peak. It was pretty cool to see and we stopped to take some photos. After driving an hour or more we made it to the beneficio where we were treated to a cupping and given a tour of the facilities. Again everything was spotless and clean. It was also the first time that i got to see the electronic sorters and see how they work. Everything there was a great learning experience.

After we were done we were taken to meet the bodyguards that would escort us to the border. It was Comendante or Capitan as I called him and the little rotund man named Daniel. We were all very friendly with each other, much more than the last time we had seen them. I don’t know if it was because we had a bag of open candy that we had given to the kids at the school earlier, but Daniel was much happier to be in the car this time than he was last time.

During our drive we stopped and had lunch at this little roadside stand. We again had the usual lunch fare: grilled meats, beans, guacamole, lots and lots of spicy sauces. This time they tricked me into piling on this green sauce that was supposedly “not too spicy,” and after they saw my face after the first bite, they both bust into laughter. my mouth was on fire for at least 45 minutes after that bite. Even the hard candy that the waiter brought didn’t help. After another hour or so in the car we were at the El Salvador boarder. It was not a hassle at all getting out of Guatemala, but getting the car import permit was definitely not fun. I waited in line for about 50 minutes before someone talked to me, then I waited another 30 minutes while they did the paperwork and went through my passport about 10 times. They said that they didn’t need my resident card, but one girl asked if i was a US resident , even after I had already told her three times that I was. We finally got everything in order and then were on our way… or so we thought. When we presented the documents to the guy at the gate and he said that we had to go back and get some other stamp. I’m not sure if he was looking for a bribe, because we had the stamp and he still insisted that we needed it even after we showed it to him. He then called someone on his little radio and made us wait 10 minutes, then came and told us that we could go.

After a short drive we went to the office of Cofizinas and met Terasa and Marcos Batres. We were given a tour of their dry mill and then were treated to another cupping. It was great: 2 cuppings with 2 professional cuppers in one day! After the cupping we were taken to the Farm called Teresa 3, on the way there I rode with Marcus. The whole time I was wondering why the heck the car door weighed so much. Once we got to the farm he told me that the vehicle was bulletproof and that just a few months back someone had put 100 bullets into his car. I guess that would have been good to know before I got into the car with this guy, but nonetheless it was fine.

When we got there we were blown away by how amazing this place was. The whole farm and wet mill is run by geothermal energy, and they have these amazing hot springs as well as Central America’s biggest geyser. The farm had 3 houses and 7 pools that were all at different temperatures to cool the water. One was ridiculously hot and almost boiling, but the ones at the end were more like hot tubs. After putting everything in our room we went down to the main house where we had some drinks and appetizers before we all got our bathing suits on and went into one of the pools. Danny and I went into the wussy pool, which was still pretty hot. After about an hour or so in the pool and a few more drinks, dinner was served, we had an amazing lasagna with an even better salad. After dinner we sat and talked some more about the coffee business of El Salvador and how it had changed as well as the coffee market itself.