The Mexigonia Weekly

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Carlos' Coffee

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“We thought you were bringing the machete to protect us from jaguars!” Braden told Marcelo as he led us through the mountains.

“No, just to clear a path,” Marcelo replied as he hacked down branches and vines that crossed their way.

“Oh good,” Elizabeth said.

“The jaguars live just on the other side of the mountain,” Marcelo added.

Braden and Elizabeth had traveled to la Finca del Cisne for a break from the tiring backpackers’ lifestyle only to find an itinerary full of hikes through the mountains, jogs up rocky hills and endless lessons in the production of coffee and cardamom.

Their host Don Carlos guided them around his land on horseback, pointing out the vast acreage belonging to his family. Together, his family owns 800 hectares of land, which is just under 2000 acres, or about 3 square miles. Personally Carlos owns a quarter of that land, on which he runs an efficient coffee and cardamom production, not to mention cattle raising, various fruit cultivation and horse breeding. His hired workers live on the land, including Marcelo, who oversees a large plot of land devoted to coffee production.

All the coffee beans are picked by hand from the hundreds of thousands of coffee trees throughout la Finca. The difficulty of this type of manual labor is compounded by the mountainous terrain on which trees are grown. For this type of management of that portion of Don Carlos’ land, Marcelo earns roughly 5 US Dollars per day, which is above the national average that most Hondurans receive (between 2 and 3 Dollars per day), but still a meager salary.

After the coffee beans are picked from the trees, they are brought to the processing plant. The beans come off the tree looking like ripe red berries, and come out of the processing plant as off-white, dry shells inside which a green coffee bean hides, waiting to be roasted and prepared. Don Carlos showed us how the processing plant uses the water from the mountain and gravity to produce hydroelectric energy to power his plant and the adjoining houses of the compound. The water is then directed back into the plant to wash the beans after they are taken out of their fruit. The shelled beans are then laid out in the sun to dry before they are packaged and sold to a distributor. The leftover fruit is then gathered together with other ingredients to make an organic fertilizer for the coffee trees and other crops. Don Carlos makes sure that he utilizes all that he can to make his coffee production energy efficient, all-natural and organic.

As Braden and Elizabeth return from their three hour hike with Marcelo, they feast on a meal whose ingredients came mostly from the Finca. They then sit down in some comfortable hammocks, mindful, however, that Marcelo had to get back to work after that same hike.