That’s how the Finca Hamburgo coffee plantation describes its location nestled high in a cloud forest in southern Mexico. At over 4,000’, the finca (farm) is situated in an ideal locale and climate zone for growing premium organic coffee beans.
When I first read about the many coffee plantations in the state of Chiapas (on the Guatemalan border), I knew I wanted to visit one. Being a coffee addict, I was curious to see where the beans I grind by hand every morning actually come from. Luckily for me, one of the oldest and most prestigious plantations in the region is just a two-hour drive from Marina Chiapas. Thus, we set out with Panache and Jace and new friends Cindy and Adam on Bravo for a tour.
Coming from the coast where daily temperatures are in the mid- to upper-80s, the 65-degree air at the plantation felt refreshingly brisk. Before breakfast, we strolled around the manicured grounds (with our sweatshirts on) and gazed out past the rolling hills of coffee plants to the tropical forest that seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon.
We weren’t the only ones getting a tour that day. A group of school kids waved as we headed down the steep dirt road to see how the coffee plants are grown.
Like in the U.S., you won’t find many (if any) local residents picking crops in Mexico. So each season, 1,000 Guatemalan workers and their families arrive at the farm to pick and process the coffee beans. Finca Hamburgo is supposedly one of the best farms to work for because they pay well, provide schooling for the kids and offer healthcare to all.
Once picked, the coffee beans are processed completely on site. The beans are sorted (by color and weight), removed of their outer husks, fermented, washed, dried, sorted by shape and picked over for defects (mechanically and manually). Only the best beans make it through the entire process and into sacks to await shipment to customers.
In addition to being an organic farm, the finca also recycles many of its by-products back into the production process. For instance, the husks are burned to generate power.
Overlooking the facility. The cables were once used, ski lift-style, to transport freshly picked beans over the steep jungle terrain to be processed. Today, trucks make the uphill trek.
Some of the processing equipment
The finca has a “zero-defect” policy, which means that after a mechanical eye looks for defects, the human eye takes a final pass. Every single bean comes through here! Phew.
The highlight of the tour came when our guide, Ulysses, opened a sack of beans destined for an American client. We were surprised to hear that the client was our favorite West Coast coffee roaster! Seriously? After seeing the operation here, it’s no wonder we like Peet’s Coffee so much.
I don’t know if it was the cool climate, the delicious food, the stunning landscape or the fact that we were on a mini-vacation from our daily boat-lives, but we left the finca feeling completely relaxed and refreshed. Which, come to think of it, is odd considering how much coffee we drank!
We’ve been busy bees here in Chiapas … look for upcoming posts on our inland trip to see blue waterfalls, a city founded in 1528 and spectacular Mayan ruins.
(And sorry for the delay in getting posts up – wi-fi is hard to come by around here.)