July 1, 2002 - Coffee-Tea-Etc.: Our community project in Guatemala

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: Peace Corps in Guatemala: July 1, 2002 - Coffee-Tea-Etc.: Our community project in Guatemala

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 01, 2003 - 4:43 pm: Edit Post

Our community project in Guatemala

Our community project in Guatemala

While working as a Peace Corps volunteer with coffee farmers in the high hills near Coban, Guatemala, I found one of the great paradoxes. Even though it rains often, (called Chipi chipi by the Mayans), drinking water is scarce. The women carry water in buckets for many miles every day. Talita Kumi, the non-profit organization I worked with, were helping some of the farmers build concrete cisterns to collect rain water from the roofs of their huts.

The Peace Corps does not give financial help, but encourages volunteers to help non-profit organizations solicit financial help. Being a longtime Rotarian of Thomaston, CT, I asked our Rotary club to take on the project of building 48 cisterns in a small town called San Luis Tontem. The total cost to Rotary was about $12,000 and each family in San Luis Tontem contributed $250 in addition to that. The people in the community build the cisterns.

Rotary international shared half the cost and many Rotary clubs from Connecticut made contributions. The funds were sent and the total number of cisterns that could be built increased from 48 to 63. Over 40 have already been built at the time of this writing.

The Thomaston, CT high school has an Interact club (under the umbrella of Thomaston, CT Rotary club) and the students worked hard to earn a substantial contribution for this project.

We’ll keep you up to date on this project. There are some great snapshots in the photo album Guatemala cistern project.

Our venture was inspired by a passion for the highest quality coffees and teas of the world. Our passion led us to study the industry from seed to cup. What we learned painted a bleak picture of the lives of coffee farmers. The changing economies have forced the farmers to abandon their age-old practice of growing coffee under a canopy of rainforest trees without the use of chemicals. To increase production farmers have cut down these trees and now grow coffee fully exposed to the sun while using various chemicals at different stages of the growing cycle. This increase in production comes not only at the expense of the quality of the coffee but also of the health of the farmers and the environment.

Isolated on top of a beautiful mountain is the home of a farmer living a very harsh life. I stayed with them for a few nights. Chickens, cats, dog, three kids and husband and wife all in one room full of smoke from the cooking fire. Here I am with the kids. One had polio. The only toy was a torn up plastic football that they played with all the time. Hard to imagine such a harsh life in such a wonderful setting. They followed Indian rituals and had great late night laughing sessions with friends that came to visit.
As successful business owners for more than 18 years, my wife and I decided to pursue a more personally satisfying career. We sold the business in 2000, and I joined the Peace Corps. Working in Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer with five cooperatives of coffee farmers I learned first hand about the production and processing of coffee beans. I also witnessed the desperate plight of the farmers.

After returning from the Peace Corps, I visited India to research the production of coffee and tea. After a careful analysis, we decided that a business of roasting coffee and selling coffees and teas would be an ideal endeavor for us. It gives us the satisfaction of being active in educating consumers and helping farmers while offering great products.

Having dinner with the host family. For most people breakfast, lunch and dinner are the same. Corn tortillas and beans. Sometimes only tortillas and salt. They drink the worst coffee that cannot be sold. Very weak and sweet.
We purchase our products from carefully selected farmers and their cooperatives. We pay them a fair price for their product, a price that will allow them to live with dignity and provide for their families and communities. Most of our coffees and teas are:

1. Fair Trade Certified - products that assure producers fair prices.

2. Certified Organic - to protect the farmers and the environment from harmful chemicals.

3. Shade grown - to protect the natural wintering habitat of birds and to produce more flavorful products.

Mission Statement

1. Provide customers with the best quality products at fair prices.

2. Bring farmers and consumers closer by educating consumers about coffee and tea and by educating farmers about consumers' needs.

3. Pay farmers a fair price so they can provide for their families and communities and live with dignity.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guatemala; Service



By Colleen (px1.terra.com.gt - on Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 6:52 pm: Edit Post

It was nice to read this article. I am a PCV in Coban, Guatemala. I am working for a tea cooperative, Cooperativa Te Chirrepec. In the future they are thinking about exporting to the US. The tea is excellent quality, all natural. Would you have any suggestions on how and where to enter the American market?

By M. Lerman (c-68-40-153-64.hsd1.mi.comcast.net - on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 12:03 am: Edit Post

Bring Te Chirrepec to the US! :)
I spent a little bit of time in Guatemala, most of it in Quetzaltenango (Xela). My host family served me tea from Te Chirrepec, and I loved it!

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