The Stories Behind a Cup of Coffee
Life begins early in the La Sierra coffee farm fields. Even before the sun rises, a sweet aroma fills my room, and I can smell the coffee getting fermented as part of its process. I take a deep breath and feel so lucky to be right there; I can’t go back to sleep and wait patiently for the sunrise. The storm that hit the region during the night had finally subsided, and I could only hear the insects chirping. In the distance,
I hear a murmur of laughter and songs; they are the coffee pickers who come happily to begin their work; the harvest season is just a few weeks long, and the workers are nomads; they travel from farm to farm following the ripe fruits. I decided to get up, and I looked for them. They were getting their buckets to collect the coffee cherries; as I listened to their different accents, I knew they came from various regions, and even some were from beyond the borders.
The coffee-growing areas in Colombia are located mainly in the Andes, and early in the morning, they are covered with clouds. The mountains are very high, and their vertical slopes give me vertigo when I look at them. Still, it is there where the gatherers, with their buckets tied to their waists, slowly lower themselves between the plants, looking for the fruits hidden in the shiny and dark leaves of the coffee trees.
There is a small harvest during the first semester, but the most abundant is in September, and it varies according to the altitude and the climate. In addition, not all coffee ripens simultaneously. They need to pick only the red berries and leave the green ones. A few weeks later, the workers return to the same lot to finish picking up the fruits. This is complex and careful work; those with years of experience move their hands quickly and pick almost 300 pounds per day. Those who are just starting can’t pick up more than 50 pounds.
The climate in the tropics is unpredictable, and rain is a constant in the mountains. It rains several times daily, and the gatherers cover themselves in their raincoats from head to toe, even though the heat under their plastic garments must be hard to endure when the sun is shining. They need to be prepared to work in rain or shine, and they cannot put on their raincoats once they are inside the coffee plantation because there is no room to change.
I was surprised to hear their joy as they worked; they screamed, calling each other, making jokes, singing, and telling stories from the ends of the steep peaks, although they couldn’t see each other because the plants were higher than them. From a distance, the coffee plantations seem empty, but inside them, the gatherers work under adverse conditions with infinite patience. Generally, the morning rains are milder, although sometimes they can last for several hours, then the heavier afternoon showers begin, accompanied by lightning and strong winds.
After a long day, the workers are exhausted and deliver their precious cargo to the scale before resting. Every day, millions of people savor their cups of coffee without even suspecting the hard work and the beautiful stories behind their steaming and aromatic drink.
The process was photographed in the Hacienda la Sierra in Fredonia, Colombia. Please follow the link: https://experienceoromolido.com/