Though it may seem like I was sent to Guatemala to eat and sightsee, my true goal was to continue building a relationship with one of our incredible producers, all while learning a little more about coffee production. My time was mostly spent with the cafe, farm, and people of Bella Vista. Headed by Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora, Bella Vista does just about everything. To name just a few of the things they do: coffee growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, shipping, developing new varieties, sourcing from small farmers, educating said farmers, hosting baristas from all over the world (like me), and fostering an exceptional coffee region that produces better product year in and year out.
I arrived a little past harvest season. All of the outdoor drying patios- usually so picturesquely packed with drying coffees, were barren. The little amount of harvesting still happening showed cherry baskets strewn with greens, yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, and browns. I learned this was to strip the trees of all of their fruit, ripe or unripe, to induce flowering, and lead to a better crop next season. On the farm, I got to watch workers harvest, tour drying greenhouses, eat a pitanga (surinam cherry), and see men much smaller than me easily carry 100 lb bags of green beans over their shoulders. I saw coffee trees so covered with flowers that it looked like it had snowed. I also met some of the most genuinely nice people I have ever come across, and drank coffee that made me ask “How is this so good!?”
A few of my days were spent in the cafe owned and operated by Bella Vista in Antigua. While working in the cafe, I pulled shots, spoke shoddy Spanish with the cafe workers (who are all so sweet and patient), gabbed it up with any English speaker that came through, and tried to show off my amazing latte art abilities (mediocre at best).
If it is not already apparent, the wonderful people of Bella Vista are worth mentioning and thanking. Melanie Herrera, one of Bella Vista’s main operations managers and producers, organized my trip, showed me around and explaining everything ever so patiently. World class coffee taster Dulce Barrera, who leads Bella Vista’s Quality Control department, let me slurp and spit alongside her on QC cuppings. A very busy Luis Pedro, the king of it all, stopped his work to take the time to chat with me about the coffee growing region, introduce me to the small producers that we purchase coffee from, and share a cup of coffee made from a rare variety. A very big Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) to each of them plus everyone I got to interact with on my trip. Luis Pedro and Bella Vista have something truly special going on and I am excited to see what the future holds for Guatemalan coffees.