This post was originally written by Tara in January 2011.
Coffee picking, so far, has been kind of a disaster, because I got sick almost as soon as I got started. But it is beautiful, standing on these mountains picking coffee with the sun filtering through the leaves, getting covered with layers of dust. The women I work with are incredibly strong, and very warm and welcoming to the strange gringa in their midst.
The variety of coffee grown on this farm grows on bushes that are typically about 10 feet tall or so. The coffee fruit looks like cherries, but only the “pit” actually ends up in your cup. The cherries start out green, are a deep red when they are mature, and if left on the plant turn a shriveled dark brown. The best coffee is picked red, so it’s common to go over the plant about three times during the course of the harvest.
Because the trees are bigger than you are, the only way to pick coffee is to grab individual branches and pull them down with one hand while picking the cherries with the other. The terrain is steep and rocky, because they are planted on the side of a mountain. This makes picking coffee really interesting actually, because you have to think about it, kind of like a rat strategizing to get the cheese as efficiently as possible. Everybody else was a lot faster at picking coffee partially because their hands were stronger and faster, but also because they were better at planning ahead so they didn’t end up halfway up a tree with their baskets five feet away. I got pretty decent at making bank shots off of rocks, though, which was exciting.
The title of this post is my phonetic mangling “I like to pick coffee” in the Mayan language in my town. In addition the paltry 25 pounds of beans I can pick in a morning, I seem to amuse my hosts. I’m pretty much convinced that the one truly good and beneficial service that every American abroad can perform is to be unintentional comic relief. For example, I’ve developed a pretty incredible knack for accidentally slapping myself in the face with tree branches when I’m trying to reach the high stuff.
Despite my pretty consistent incompetence, everybody is genuinely warm and kind and welcoming and I'm really happy to be here.