De La Gente Coffee Tour Antigua

De La Gente Coffee Tour: From Bean to Brew in Antigua

In Activities, Food & Drink, Guatemala, Outdoors by Sheena24 Comments

Get off the beaten track & experience a day in the life of a farmer on a Coffee Tour with De la Gente – find out how this cooperative is changing the lives of local communities around Antigua, Guatemala.

Who are De la Gente?

De la Gente means “from the people” in Spanish & that’s exactly where their coffee comes from.

De la Gente is a non-profit organization based just outside Antigua, Guatemala – under a cooperative venture, they work with local coffee farming communities to improve production & reap better rewards from their harvest.

De La Gente coffee

De la Gente coffee is literally “from the people”

By connecting members of the cooperative directly to consumers & roasters, De La Gente helps farmers receive up to 250% more for their coffee than they otherwise would.

Along with assistance through training & financing, De la Gente also offers local farmers the opportunity to supplement their income through tourism.

The community is involved in running Coffee Tours, amongst others, giving them the opportunity to share their stories & connect directly with interested patrons.

At the same time, visitors learn more about coffee production in Guatemala & contribute financially to improving the local quality of life.

While in Antigua we here at DIY Travel HQ took a Coffee Tour with De a Gente – find out how it went!

San Miguel Escobar Volcan Agua

Looking back on San Miguel Escobar as we walk up the slopes of Agua Volcano

Where to Meet for De la Gente Coffee Tour

The meeting point for the De la Gente Coffee Tour is the main plaza in the town of San Miguel Escobar.

It’s just 6km from Antigua & easily accessible by taxi, tuk-tuk or chicken bus.

Our tour started at 1:00pm & we were greeted by Gustavo, a local farmer, and Joe, his Spanish-English translator.

Together with another group of 4 Americans, there were 7 of us on the tour altogether.

Gustavo gave us a brief introduction to the De la Gente cooperative & then we headed for the hills – literally!

Plaza at San Miguel Escobar

De la Gente Coffee Tour starts at the main plaza in San Miguel Escobar

De la Gente Coffee Tour: In the Fields

We then left the plaza, walking through town, not only towards Agua Volcano but heading up the slopes of the mountain!

It’s an easy-to-moderate walk though, taking around 30 minutes with several breaks in between where Gustavo stopped to talk about certain aspects of the coffee farming process.

It’s on the slopes of Guatemala’s volcanoes that 100% Arabica, De La Gente coffee is grown.

Farmers work hard planting, cultivating & harvesting coffee year-round, although the harvest season is only from November to March, depending on the altitude of the crops.

Coffee tour with DLG

Taking breaks for coffee farm explanations on the way up to the coffee fields

Finally, at the end of the walk we reached some farming plots where coffee was growing.

As we were in the wet season, the beans weren’t ripe yet but Gustavo was able to vividly explain the whole process of how coffee is planted & grown:

  1. Pick the ripest, red coffee fruits from the plants – called “cherries”
  2. Pop out the beans & let them grow for 6-8 weeks
  3. Put the beans in plastic bags (pilones) to grow for another 10 months before planting
  4. The coffee plant should now be about 1 meter long – make a deep hole in the soil & plant
Coffee plots on DLG tour

Reaching the coffee plots at the end of our walk

It takes 3-4 years before coffee plants are ready for harvest.

In the meantime, farmers plant other crops like carrots & beans alongside the coffee plants, to supplement their income.

Many farmers have also started growing large fruit trees in the plots, which not only provide important shade for the coffee plants but are another source of earning as they wait for the coffee plants to mature.

In the harvesting season, family, friends, children & employees of farmers spend long days in the fields handpicking coffee beans, with a basket (known as a canasta) tied around their waists.

Green & red coffee beans

Unripe coffee beans are green, ripe are red

Gustavo explained how before he joined the De la Gente cooperative, he received very little for his harvest.

De la Gente farmers are paid a lot more for their coffee, but they also work a lot harder & have higher standards to meet, to produce a top quality product.

Farmers in the De la Gente cooperative must adhere to much stricter standards than is otherwise necessary.

For example, only ripe, red beans will be accepted by De la Gente, whereas farmers who are not in the coop are paid by the weight, whether the beans are fully ripe or not.

Coffee Plant on DLG tour

A coffee plant waiting to harvest!

Gustavo also shared a lot of interesting facts about the local plants & birds in the area.

Of course the countryside, mountain scenery was superb.

It was a really interesting & informative walk & talk through the coffee fields with Gustavo & Joe.

And between all of us in the group, we probably asked every question under the sun about coffee farming!

After about 2 hours under the sun, out in the fields, we started making our way down the volcano & back into town, to Gustavo’s house where we would learn about the next stage of coffee production.

Gustavo local farmer in Antigua

Gustavo, our wonderful tour guide & enterprising local farmer!

De la Gente Coffee Tour: Farmer’s Home

Gustavo welcomed us into his home, where we also met his wife, Antonieta.

We learnt about the traditional machinery still used today to process coffee in the Guatemalan highlands.

The local coffee production process involves:

  1. One person dumps ripe, red beans into the funnel while the other person pedals the bicycle, removing the red shell
  2. Put the beans into a burlap sack or concrete holding bin (with a water drain) to remove their sticky residue – this takes around 24-36 hours
  3. Wash beans & lay them down on the floor or roof to dry for 5-14 days – rake periodically to prevent further fermentation
  4. Put the beans through a dehusking machine, called a trilloadora, to remove the second, green husk
Local coffee farming bicycle

Will ride for coffee! See Step 1 🙂

Next, the beans are sorted by size, using a large sieve, & then sorted by hand to remove all the defects (spotted, eaten by insects, cracked, etc.).

We had a taste of this & we can certainly appreciate how it’s a very time-consuming process.

But a small amount of defective beans, along with the altitude at which its coffee grown, is the reason why De la Gente is classified as Specialty Grade coffee.

Specialty Grade Coffee sorting beans

Sorting through coffee beans with Joe the translator (in black shirt)

In Guatemala, the traditional way to roast coffee at home is over a fire, on a hot cooking plate, called a comal.

We watched Antonieta do this in her kitchen & also helped to push the beans around.

Then we took turns grinding the roasted coffee beans with a stone. This was not at all as easy as Antonieta made it look!

Fortunately, some of the De la Gente cooperatives have access to large roasting machines.

Grinding our own coffee beans

We got to grind our own coffee beans, it’s a hands-on tour with De la Gente!

After roasting, grinding & brewing our own coffee over a fire, we finally got the chance to taste the fruits of our labour!

Antonieta served us our coffee & it tasted fantastic.

Maybe it was our new sense of appreciation of the hard work than goes into a cup, but it was definitely the best coffee we had while backpacking in Guatemala!

Coffee tasting on DLG tour

Enjoying the fruits of our own labour with new amigos!

De la Gente Coffee Tour Wrap-Up

Taking a Coffee Tour with De la Gente is an excellent opportunity to find out everything you ever wanted to know about coffee.

It’s also a wonderful insight into the life of a Guatemalan coffee farmer & how a cooperative has improved the quality of life for many local communities.

For an authentic & meaningful cultural experience, don’t miss the Coffee Tour with De la Gente in Antigua, Guatemala – we guarantee that you’ll never take for granted a sip of coffee again!

Drinking De la Gente Guatemalan coffee

Cheers to De la Gente for the awesome tour & producing some of the best coffee in the world!

In a Nutshell

Location: San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala (10 mins from Antigua)

Price: Q200 for the Coffee Tour

Duration: 3 hours +

Other tours available: Cook Pepian, Peanut Butter Workshop, Huipil Bag Workshop, Burlap Bag Workshop, Woodworking, Iron Workshop

Contact:

  • Phone:    +502-7834-0142
  • Email:      info@dlgcoffee.org
  • Web:        De la Gente

 

*** The Final Word – Experience a day in the life of a Guatemalan coffee farmer with De la Gente! *** 

Have you taken a coffee tour anywhere in the world?

* Thank you to De la Gente for hosting us!

Visited in October 2016

 

Comments

  1. I have not taken a coffee tour, but I think more people should. I don’t think a lot of people realize what it takes to get that cup of coffee everyday. I would love to take this tour! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I would love to do all of these classes. I find eco-tourism to be essential to the understand ing of our planet. Love, love, love this article.

    1. Author

      Thank you! Yes, De la Gente offer many other interesting tours, we wish we had made more time in Antigua to take some other ones too, especially the Peanut Butter Workshop!

  3. I love coffee and experiencing such a tour would have been mesmerising. Walking in the estate is awesome

  4. I think I will have a ton more appreciation for my morning cup of coffee after reading this. Though I have not seen the inner workings of a coffee farm, I did visit a small coffee shop where I currently live that is trying to rebuild their coffee plants after a Typhoon several years back. I was curious why it seemed to be taking so long for it to be back up and running but seeing as it takes 4 years for the plants to reproduce it makes perfect sense now!

    1. Author

      I know, I can’t believe it takes years for the coffee plants to harvest, I would not have the patience to be a farmer! Big respect to all the farmers out there, especially here in Guatemala, they really work hard all-year round.

  5. As someone who, until recently, refused to drink straight coffee, this is really interesting to me. What De la Gente is doing with the local farmers is especially cool. It seems like you had a really good time!

  6. I absolutely love supporting local businesses, such as this one. I love that the name itself reflects what they are trying to achieve and that is help the people. 250% more than what they would have gotten is an incredible statistic! It’s awesome that you really got to understand the process of producing coffee, even brewing it and trying it at the end!

    1. Author

      I really respect De la Gente, as they help local communities by giving them the tools & training to be more self-sufficient, rather than just direct charity. Many tourists who take the coffee tours also end up contributing by buying coffee to donating funds for new machinery, etc. – when we visited our guide’s house, we could see how this really helped his family directly.

  7. Only 200q to learn everything you just learned?! My sister is currently in Guatemala I will have to tell her about De La Gente! And as you said, it’s great to be able to appreciate the insane amount of work that goes into making good coffee!!

    1. Author

      Q200 + you get a bag of coffee to take home with you after the tour! Tell your sister that they have a lot of other tours too, I really wanted to do the Peanut Butter workshop!

  8. The journey from bean to brew is indeed a fascinating one. I am sure you enjoyed the entire experience tracing this journey. The aroma of coffee wafts tantalizingly in the air in your post.

  9. I’ve visited a coffee plantation before, but we were only given a few facts. A tour like this fascinates me – the process and the product – and how it benefits locals. Great recommendation for someone visiting the area!

  10. I love food tours, and would love to take a coffee tour! What a fantastic experience! Antigua has long been on our travel wishlist, so we’re bookmarking your post for future planning! Thanks for sharing!

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