Guatemala: World Class Coffee and a Surprise Urban City Experience
With our Mexican tourist visas expiring at the beginning of August, we needed to leave the country in order to renew them. After doing some research we found that we could take a quick and affordable flight to Guatemala. Since neither of us had been to Guatemala, we figured this was the perfect opportunity to go for a visit. Apparently Guatemala is not a popular destination from Tapachula as we were the only passengers on the plane on the way there, and on the way back, there were a total of 5 passengers.
Guatemala exceeded our expectations and we are already looking forward to another trip back. With this past trip, we limited our visit to Guatemala City where we attended an amazing coffee bean roasting class, visited a brewery, sampled the local cuisine, and took a walking tour of the city. We were surprised with how big and modern Guatemala City was. Our hotel was in Zona 10, which if we didn't know any better, we would have thought we were back in the United States. Malls, restaurants, and hotels were on every corner and the town was bustling. We were spoiled and enjoyed some amazing food and drinks during our visit, not to mention the weather was amazing, at least 20 degrees cooler than what we are accustomed to.
Our favorite venture during our trip was the coffee bean roasting class. Guatemala is known for growing coffee beans and exporting them throughout the world. The Guatemalan coffee bean has been identified as one of the most high quality beans in the world, thanks to the tropical climate, lengthy wet season, and high elevation of the fincas, or plantations. Being coffee lovers, Doug and I were excited to find a unique coffee experience, and after a bit of research we found Teco Coffee House, who offers a coffee bean roasting and cupping class. Coffee cupping is a relatively complex process where you bring roasting, smelling, and tasting full circle. Our cupping class lasted four hours and we learned a lot! After receiving a history lesson on coffee and specifics on the local region, we fired up the small roaster and got to work. The first batch of beans took about 18 minutes, Doug's batch went for 10.5 minutes, and my batch roasted for 9.5 minutes.
After we roasted 7 different batches of beans, we moved on to a smell test which had us identify 7 different aromas that are typically found in coffee:
Earth, Vanilla, Liquid Smoke, Cloves, Carmel, Roasted Almonds, and Roasted Peanuts. Following the smell test, we were then blindfolded for a taste test of several different fruits.
As we completed our smell and taste test, the roasted coffee beans were ground and it was time to move onto the cupping portion of the class. We started off by evaluating the dry fragrance of the ground coffee which consisted of 14 different cups, next SCAA Standard water (heated to 200F) was poured into each of the cups as a timer was set. After 4 minutes, we were told to break the crust of the coffee to evaluate the wet aroma which we repeated a total of three times for each cup. Next two spoons were used to skim off the crust, foam, and oils and after waiting another four minutes we were finally able to taste the coffee. We used a slurping technique to aspirate the coffee over our tongues to engage all the taste buds. Don't worry we didn't finish all 14 cups of coffee!! We learned a tremendous amount of information about coffee and the importance of cupping. We recently purchased green coffee beans and we will begin roasting on Karuna.
On our last day, we went on a walking tour of the city and learned a great deal of history. Guatemala is surrounded by Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The name "Guatemala" comes from the Nahuatl word Cuauhtēmallān, meaning "place of many trees". The landscape is beautiful with lush jungles and volcanoes. From 1960 to 1996 Guatemala endured a horrific Civil War fought between the government and various rebel groups. During the civil war, genocide against the Mayan population occurred and the country is still healing from the decades of civil unrest. During our walking tour of the city we saw photos of missing people, who disappeared during the genocide, which were plastered to random walls across the city.
Our walking tour took us across many zonas of the city visiting government buildings, cathedrals, unique art, and various art deco locations. We really enjoyed our time in Guatemala and it was fun to be in a big city for a few days to take advantage of everything it had to offer. Doug and I even had a conversation of perhaps living in Guatemala someday.
Next up, we discover we have a beehive in our mast and we figure out how to relocate the bees! Never a dull moment on Karuna!