Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life on a Coffee Farm

In January, I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer on a coffee farm outside of Monte Verde, Costa Rica.  It is a small, organic coffee farm that literally operates because of the volunteers that come to help out.  It was an eye opening experience to learn all that goes into creating this amazing product.  As most of you know, one of my favorite things in the world is coffee.  I will never think of it now without thinking of this week on the farm and the people who do back breaking work for low pay just to allow us all to drink this beverage.

I stayed in San Luis (a 15 minute bumpy/curvy trip down steep gravel roads) outside of Santa Elena (main town in the Monte Verde area)
Just a stunning area!

My home for the week
My room

The porch with the greatest view ever...
The view from the porch - it never got old...

The house at sunset

The back of the house where some of the cooking is also done
William preparing the chicken for the soup
Dinner prep
Guests came to dinner my first night, so a huge bowl of chicken soup was made along with fresh, homemade tortillas - delicious!
The coffee farm I worked on was called La Bella Tica and is an organic coffee cooperative.  Several families work together on land that was given to landless families in order to have the opportunity to grow food for their families and to sell.  The farm runs through the help of many volunteers and produces enough coffee for the families themselves and to sell a bit too.  It is not a huge farm, but it was a wonderful way to see how coffee is produced and learn about this tight-knit community.  Please consider all the challenging work that goes into making your daily cup (or gallons) of coffee.  I urge you to make coffee purchases that pay the growers and workers fair wages!

William (left) and Oldemar (right) work and manage the farm

Baskets that are strapped around your waist and used to gather the coffee berries
My co-volunteers - ready to pick some coffee!

The house where Oldemar and family live - and the coffee trees to the right - convenient!

Coffee berries - they are ready to pick when they are red (or green depending on the type of tree) - but in this case - red is ready!

Coffee trees - also an orange tree in the back - they also grow a lot of fruit in between the coffee trees.

Picking coffee is tough work!  It takes quite some time to fill a basket.
Grabbing handfuls of ripe coffee berries

Very ripe coffee berries

The bean inside the fruit - two beans from each berry - you can see why this is a huge, labor intensive job!
Once they are picked, they must dry (shown here)

The drying area

After several days - they look like this

Now its time to take the husks off

How the husks are removed

And now just the beans - and more time to dry (the overall drying process takes about 21 days)

Coffee beans getting some sun to dry faster

Once they are dried - they can be roasted which only takes about 30 minutes - depending on what kind of roast you are doing

Adding the beans - as a side note, when roasting, the entire farm smelled like coffee - wonderful!

Roasting - beginning

Roasting - getting closer!


Time to cool and then be packaged or ground!

Once packged - it goes into the "store" aka the living room/kitchen of the house

And its ready!  From picking, to drying, to roasting - coffee production is a difficult and labor intensive job! Consider this next time you buy coffee and make sure the growers are receiving fair pay for their hard work!

How you make a lot of excellent coffee when on a coffee farm. I love these coffee makers and have my own smaller version now.  

Best part - a cup of coffee ready and waiting after working

In addition to learning about coffee, I learned about life from William (my host dad) and his family.  He apologized to me about 10 times during the week for not having the nicest house or things.  I never once even thought about that - but thought about the joy and appreciation for life he and his family had, which I soaked up for the week I was there.  They taught me to be happy with what you have and grateful for each moment - a truly perfect way to start a year focusing on gratitude...

The view from William's family's house - often we would just stop what we were doing and watch the sunset or cool clouds coming in.  I was always reminded to stop and enjoy the view here!

Beautiful sunsets every night!

No work on the weekends - so I spent Sunday in the hammock - couldn't tear myself away from this view!

The new community center of San Luis

William showing me around San Luis

Walking through William's farm

And a quick stop for fresh oranges - and yes, they look like limes!

William's farm - beautiful!

View on our walk to work 

Beautiful San Luis, Costa Rica

San Luis school

Walking with William to work - he was always a few feet ahead of me practically running up and down the steep hills

He took a faster way home - and the dog ALWAYS went with him

Beautiful area 
Great co-volunteers at William's house

William - the man who defines Pura Vida - enjoying each moment of every day!

William and his daughter Kimberly
I received a great compliment from William (one of the hardest workers I ever met) - he told me I was a hard worker and appreciated everything I did to help them out.  He then said I had Pura Vida in me - huge, huge compliment!

A sign Kimberly made

The walk to the farm

Kimberly's cousins were visiting my last day - we had some fun!

Everyone loves a good jumping picture

Fresh sweet lemons - you can eat them like an orange!  Yum!

Fresh oranges straight off the tree - delicious!

Had a lot of fun with this great family!