Guatemala Origin March 2016—Part One
The Road to Finca Villaure
Written by Dan Paggi, Roaster
The road to Finca Villaure is possibly the most beautiful road I’ve ever seen. There were 6 of us traveling with Sisters Coffee to visit our long time direct-trade partner, Aurelio Villaure in Guatemala. We met Aurelio the previous day and he showed us around the city of Huehuetenango. Now it was finally time for us to see where the coffee we had purchased for the last 12 years was grown and processed.
Aurelio picked us up in his Mazda pickup truck and all 7 of us piled in. Three of us were in the bed of the truck and it was fairly cold in the morning due to our high elevation. We headed Northwest on the Pan American Hwy and watched the sun come up over the hills and mountains of Guatemala. Nearly every other vehicle on the road was some sort of Japanese pickup truck with at least a half dozen locals in it.
We drove for two hours and went through a dozen pueblos. Each pueblo looked very similar with a few cinderblock tiendas (corner store) and a small church. We were following the Rio Sacuma and gradually ascending from a dry and hilly landscape to a dramatically steep and lush terrain.
Finally, a few kilometers from the Mexican border, we turned off on a tiny, one lane road and headed straight up the side of a mountain. Over the next hour we saw the steepest and most amazing farmlands any of us had ever seen. Now we were watching locals tend their coffee shrubs on some of the most extremely steep farms imaginable. These weren’t terraced farms. These were nearly vertical farms.
The road itself was exceptionally rugged. We often had to back up or squeeze by oncoming trucks because the road was so narrow. At times we were thousands of feet above fertile valley floors and we could see for miles in many directions. We could actually see a 20 foot wide, treeless line that separated Guatemala from Mexico in the distance.
The air was thin and hot. Those of us in the bed of the truck were dusty and half nauseous. After an hour of driving extremely slow, we stopped at the top of another mountaintop and got out of the truck. Aurelio pointed below to his farm and it was absolutely stunning. 2,000 feet below was the small town of Hoja Blanca surrounded by thousands of coffee shrubs and abundant jungle.
We were about to meet and learn about the people who grew and processed this incredible coffee.