by Jen Mathis
Coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world, second only to oil. The only place where coffee will grow is in the “bean belt”, which is the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In this zone, coffee growers have created tours where you can go to see exactly where the world’s favorite drink comes from, places that embody “fair trade” values and bring the label to life. Following are three very popular coffee tours in Guatemala that you should consider if you would like to plan one of these trips.
Cultural Antigua and Fair Trade Coffe Tour, Guatemala. Photo courtesy of www.gunyah.com
Cultural Antigua and Fair Trade Coffee Discovery
Antigua is a top destinations in Latin America, rich in tradition and culture. On a trip to this historic city, you can take a Cultural Antigua and Fair Trade Coffee Discovery tour. Learn about its colonial past and experience their fair trade coffee industry while visiting some of their independent coffee farmers. you could spend 3 days and 2 nights exploring this incredible environment.
On this trip, you will stay in at the Earth Lodge hotel 20 minutes away from Antigua. Your first day is reserved for your travel and to let you relax and enjoy the beautiful views of the volcanoes that surround the city. On day two, you will tour the streets of Antigua for half of the day, visiting the Cathedral Museum, The Capuchins Convent, La Merced Museum, and the Colonial art Museum. All entrance fees are included as well as your breakfast. After four hours of touring with an English speaking guide, you will have the rest of the afternoon to relax and explore. Day three is the fair trade coffee tour. You will get to interact with the local independent coffee farmers while you learn how to pick, process, and roast your own coffee.
Nueva Alianza coffe tour, Guatemala
If you’re in Xela and the western highlands of Guatemala, don’t miss a coffee tour at Nueva Alianza. This organic coffee and macadamia plantation is owned and operated together by forty Guatemalan families and is located about 45 minutes north of Retalhuleu. On this 300 acre plantation, you will see natural tropical forests, waterfalls with crystal clear water, and a gorgeous view of the volcanoes Santa Maria and Santiaguito. (Santiaguito is an active volcano that erupts every hour, on average.) When you visit this plantation, you will hear about their struggles and triumphs, and experience so much more.
Currently, the families on this plantation are participating in many projects in order to generate income.
1. They grow, maintain, and process organic coffee and macadamia nuts.
2. They offer attractions for tourists, including hikes, tours of the community, and educational opportunities to learn about their coffee processing plants.
3. They are using environmentally sustainable tools to help them bring energy to their homes, office, and some of their processing plants. They are also making biodiesel on their plantation to operate their diesel generator and diesel trucks.
4. They are selling the purified water from the natural springs in their community to the nearby towns and cities.
5. Finally, they make bamboo furniture and other arts and crafts, including necklaces, rosaries, and other bamboo souvenirs, to sell for a profit.
Tours of this plantation can be provided when you contact various tour operators in the area or by contacting the plantation directly. (English translation is available only with advance notice.) You could take a weekend tour, which includes hiking, tours of the plants, and meals at a lodge where you will stay. If you would rather take on the experience on your own, you could inquire about their other tours. Highlights of the itinerary include:
- Tour all of the community projects – This one hour tour will allow you to see the processing plant, including a detailed explanation of how they turn the raw product into the coffee we drink. The tour also includes a tour of their other projects (macadamia processing, micro hydroelectric plant, biodiesel workshop, water purification system, and bamboo furniture workshop).
- History talk – Learn about the history of the community’s struggle to get their legal title to the land.
- Nature hike – Walk through the plantation and tropical forest and learn about their coffee, macadamia, and local medical plants.
- Waterfall hike – Walk through the tropical forest to a beautiful waterfall, and spend some time relaxing, swimming, and enjoying the experience.
Guatemalan woman harvesting coffee. Photo courtesy of flickr/deCadmus
Los Tarrales Reserve
Finally, experience a sustainable tourism coffee tour in the Los Tarrales Reserve, located in the breathtakingly scenic Lake Atitlan area of western Guatemala. It produces highland Arabic coffee, which is one of the most aromatic types of coffee grown today. After they pick the beans, seven steps must be passed in order to get their beans ready to export. On your guided tour, you will be able to see all of the steps they take to produce their coffee. Whenever you decide to visit, you will be able to see some fruit on the coffee trees, but the best time, they say will be in November.
This reserve is run by 60 families who all live in the protected area. They sustain the reserve with the production of coffee and ornamentals as well as with their tourism service. They employ many young guides will be able to explain the coffee and ornamentals production as well as the reserve’s wildlife. You could explore this reserve for days, finding new adventures around every corner. You can also enjoy meals prepared with fresh ingredients from the local market.
The culture in this country is sure to provide an experience like any other. Whichever trip you choose, you are sure to experience more than just a tour.
Jen Mathis is an author who writes guest posts on the topics of business, credit cards, and personal finance. Additionally, she works for a website that focuses on educating readers about credit cards for fair credit.