So how does that morning Cup ‘O Joe, so prized in Europe and North America, go from being a red berry that is a parrot’s favourite treat, grown on a steep rainforest slope, to the dark brown sludge that forms the basis of a heavenly morning treat??? Follow along and I’ll explain…
Hiking through this particular tropical rainforest area of Peru on our fourth day, we found ourselves in an area of the jungle where coffee was the main farming industry.
With valley bottoms at 2100-2400m, it was an area with incredibly steep slopes and lots of tree growth, creating just the right conditions for coffee to thrive.
Days are warm enough and humid enough for the plants to grow well, but not too hot, or too wet, so that the coffee fruits retain their alkaloids.
Growing on small, bushy plants that produce for about 15 years, Arabica coffee beans are the best quality beans grown in Peru. Each plant can grow 3 kilos worth of coffee per year.
According to our guide, the Caturra coffee that is grown a lot in Costa Rica and Colombia has yellow beans and grows on a much taller plant that produces far more berries (about 6-8 kilos/plant/year). But it is the kind of coffee that Nescafé is made from and as he put it, “Nescafé is no es café” (Nescafé is not coffee). Ha ha!
Parrots LOVE coffee beans. Just listen to this video clip. You can hear them throughout the forest the entire time you’re in the coffee growing areas. They are such pests that the farmers set off air bangers that sound like the air canons we use here in Canada to keep the geese from eating the wheat in the fields when they are freshly planted in the spring.
Our trekking adventure passed right through this area during the harvest season, so we saw coffee picking, soaking, drying and roasting in progress as we hiked through. Our timing was impeccable, so it was a very, very neat experience.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!