I have been a coffee devotee for years. I had considered dedicating my masters thesis to the Khalid, the legendary goat herder, who had discovered the plant hundreds of years ago. (Did I bring this up just to have an excuse to look up goat gifs? Possibly).
Suffice to say, I am a fan of the magical coffee bean. Spending time in Guatemala, naturally, meant that I could drink buckets of coffee harvested steps from where I was staying.
To learn a little bit more about the special high-altitude coffee grown around Lake Atitlan, we went on a coffee tour. We started with a short hike up into the mountain side with our local guide, who showed us the coffee plants and described how the berries were harvested by hand in this mountainous area. Most local families have several coffee plants, but on the lake there are no huge coffee growers.Yes. There were goats. Despite the abundance of coffee growing in the area, until a few years ago, you could not get a local cup of coffee in San Marcos or the nearby villages, as there was no local roastery for the small coffee growers. Most were selling the green beans cheaply which were shipped out of the community. That changed with the creation of Shangri-la Atitlan is a boutique coffee roastery in San Marcos. Shangri-la Atitlan was established in several years ago by a Tim Reher, a German migrant to Guatemala. At this facility, local growers can drop off their beans for maturation, processing, roasting, and packaging.
Our local guide brought us to the processing plant and roastery. In the processing area, you can see large tarps on the ground covered in beans that are being dried and matured in the sun, lying on the wide patios. This drying method is an age-old approach to coffee processing. Once the cherries have dried to a certain moisture content, they will then The beans would then move through a machine that removes the cherry from bean and a series of water channels that sorts the ripe beans from the broken or unripe ones. The final step is roasting, which is also done on site. We were given cups of coffee as we watched Tim and his staff work, watching the white-green beans turn into the rich coffee bean we know and love.It was great to see the passion and care that went into the production of the coffee, resulting in high quality, incredible results.
One of the perks of the tour is that you can purchase coffee at a discounted price. We obviously went wild and bought bags and bags of coffee for our friends and family, including an organic bean from the Women’s Cooperative. We had a massive bag of freshly ground coffee to fuel the rest of our Guatemalan mornings, and I took half a backpack of beans home with me, to share with my friends in London, and to ship to Lisa & Cat Facts’ family as delicious Christmas gifts.If you find yourself in San Marcos, you should definitely go on this fun, informative, inexpensive, and deliciously caffeinated tour! (You can book it at the Circles Hostel in the heart of San Marcos).