The Coffee Process in Guatemala, a labor of love

Photographer Alexander Zoltai submitted this article.

Photo | Alexander Zoltai

Coffee production in Guatemala is a timeless process. For the most part, coffee farmers produce coffee the same way their grandfathers did. It is a long, arduous and beautiful process.

The problem associated with coffee production in Guatemala lies in the small amount that farmers receive for a very labor-intensive product. Fewer that six families are responsible for the majority of coffee production in Guatemala, a monopoly on coffee that allows the families to dictate the price of coffee in the country.

Nestled on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala's mountainous region, San Lucas is a small town in the process of changing Guatemala's coffee injustice. The San Lucas Parish set up a small coffee co-op over 15 years ago to buy coffee at a price dictated by the farmers. Asking what farmers think their product is worth, the parish pays the same price of 200 Quetzales ($26) no matter the world market price, even throughout the coffee crisis when an influx of Vietnamese coffee caused the price to plummet in the market. This steady income allows families to earn dependable income as long as they produce a quality product. This price provides incentive.

The co-op has grown from 15 families to over 450, now buying over 750,000 pounds of coffee fruit annually. The project is set up to be self-sustaining, since the majority of money made from the project goes back into the farmers' pockets.

The coffee process is something consumers in the U.S. know little about. To take the husk, dry, store, toast and grind adds up to close to a month. For a product that has become the second most valuable in the world, behind petroleum, it is essential to understand where our products come from and how they are produced.

San Lucas Mission

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