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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
- Pick the ripest, red coffee fruits from the plants – called “cherries”
- Pop out the beans & let them grow for 6-8 weeks
- Put the beans in plastic bags (pilones) to grow for another 10 months before planting
- The coffee plant should now be about 1 meter long – make a deep hole in the soil & plant
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.
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.
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.
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:
- One person dumps ripe, red beans into the funnel while the other person pedals the bicycle, removing the red shell
- 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
- Wash beans & lay them down on the floor or roof to dry for 5-14 days – rake periodically to prevent further fermentation
- Put the beans through a dehusking machine, called a trilloadora, to remove the second, green husk
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
- Phone: +502-7834-0142
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.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