Today, I’m taking a break from my “normal” posts about newlyweds + families + babies to share some images of a recent travel adventure. If you live in Michigan, you’ve been buried in snow for weeks now, so I figured some images of sunshine + warmth would be ok… is that ok? :)
Jonathan + I recently had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with our friends + housemates, Steve + Rachel. Steve + Rachel are in the coffee business. Over the last several years, Steve has worked at a few different coffee shops around West Michigan and this past April, they opened their own shop – a cozy, happening little place called Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge. Lantern is located in the Heartside District of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s been such a joy to watch their dream of owning their own shop evolve and their plans unfold as they created inspiration boards + found an available building + built out the space + opened the shop + kept it running… whew.
In October, the four of us were able to take a trip together to Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala. This was a region where Steve lived for several months after college and, it also happens to be a very rich area for coffee farming. So, of course, we were excited when we found a great rental house right on the lake that allowed us access to coffee farms + adventures. It was a week filled with relaxation, exploration, and coffee drinking (duh!). It was a welcome end to a busy summer season for myself and a great time to rejuvenate + celebrate with Steve + Rachel. Without further adieu, here are a few of my favorite images from the week along with an in-depth look at our coffee farm tour!
When we arrived, we took a taxi, a bus, and a small boat to reach our rental. By the time we arrived to the house, it was dark and rainy and honestly, we had no concept of our surroundings other than the fact that we were in a house on water. When we awoke the next day, we were in awe of our view…
Fishing is a huge “industry” on the lake… and we were greeted our first morning by a crab fisherman who had just emptied his traps.
Coffee plants were LITERALLY everywhere around us!
Coffee beans grow on bushes/trees in cherry form. They start as green fruits and turn to red when they are ripe + ready to be picked. Inside each fruit are usually two coffee beans that can be harvested + roasted.
We took a boat across the lake to San Juan la Laguna for our coffee farm tour.
Coffee plants begin in a nursery before they are transplanted to the farm.
The most interesting fact from the tour was that farmers naturally allow for organic composting to happen. The coffee plants are grown in-and-amongst unharvested avocado trees, banana plants, etc. When leaves + fruits fall from the trees, the soil is naturally enriched for the coffee plants. Also the trees allow for some shade which produces higher quality coffee.
This road intentionally separates the organic coffee plants and the chemically-treated coffee plants. The beans that grow on the organically-raised plants will be shipped to specialty craft roasters (i.e. Stumptown and Intelligentsia) and the chemically-treated coffee beans are sent to mass-produced comodity roasters (ie. store-brands like Folgers and Maxwell House). Lantern Coffee specifically only sources beans from craft roasters with sustainably distributed beans. Their house-roaster is Populace Coffee out of Bay City, Michigan.
Unfortunately, this past season was hard on this particular region of coffee farms because they experienced an epidemic of “coffee rust”. This is a fungus that drastically decreases production and causes the fruit to rot.
Raul, our tour guide, took us to the bean-processing facility nearby. Unfortunately, we were there about a week before harvesting began, so we weren’t able to see the beans being sorted, dried and bagged, but it was still cool to see all the equipment and understand the process a bit more!
These green coffee beans have been dried and are waiting to be shipped around the world. Green coffee beans can last a long time in storage, but once they are roasted, they should ideally be brewed within the first 2 weeks. If you’ve ever had a cup of coffee from a craft roaster, it is so delicious – because it’s fresh!
We ended the tour with a cappuccino at one of the local cafes! Mmm.
What a week! I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to explore Guatemala, expand our horizons, and learn more about coffee with these two. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge… you should definitely do so ;)