By Rosa Angelica Sarabia
I could hardly believe my eyes as we drove down the winding two-lane road from Xalapa to Huatusco. With the golden hour sun to our right, the scene became a glow of green as the light illuminated steep fields of coffee plants growing beneath the shade of tall trees.
This July, we had the honor and privilege to travel 2,500 miles to visit one of Pachamama's owner cooperatives in Huatusco, Veracruz, Mexico. We met the small-scale coffee farmers who produce Pachamama’s organic coffee.
In the municipality of Huatusco, 90% of its inhabitants make their living from coffee. They have tended these fields for generations, a work passed down from their parents and grandparents. Huatusco enjoys a spectacular view of the tallest mountain in Mexico, an inactive volcano named El Pico de Orizaba. This coffee region is geographically positioned in the Sierras of Veracruz, surrounded by deep green valleys at an altitude of about 1,300 meters.
In the course of four days, we were hosted by La Union Regional Cooperative. We learned about its history and the importance of the cooperative as a community resource for coffee farmers. More importantly, we got to see the origin of coffee’s incredible journey. Walking into the coffee fields for the first time, I was enveloped by the emerald green of rows and rows of coffee plants taller than myself.
Our guides were the small-scale organic coffee producers. They received us with open arms as they shared with pride and joy their extensive knowledge of growing coffee. They also shared the great challenges that they face as small-scale producers including climate change and global market forces.
Coffee, as most of us know it in our morning cup, takes a laborious journey that requires tremendous care and attention before getting to us. There are hundreds of people involved at each stage of the production from seed to cup. Simply at origin, there are people like Señora Panchita, Rene, Juan de Dios, Señora Selsa del Carmen, Jacobo, Araceli, Señor Lupe, Señor Hugo, Jose Inocencio, and many other producers who tend to the young plants as they grow and harvest the first beans. It was an honor to see that first hand.
It is also a privilege to be at the receiving end of all that work, to enjoy organic coffee that took years to get to our cup. Just as we receive this offering, we also have an immense power as consumers to give back. It is upon us to continue to learn, to ask questions about where our coffee comes from, where the profits go, to understand our interconnectedness with the people who produce what we consume and to understand the challenges they face. To buy directly from farmer-owners is to invest in the sustainability, equity, and well being of those who work the hardest to produce a product that brings us together.