Excerpt from a conversation with Guillermo, a coffee grower in Antioquia, Colombia.
Recorded April 26, 2013. Guillermo and I are seated in white plastic chairs- the kind that populate every café and cafeteria in Colombia- at the dining room table, which should probably more appropriately be called the open air corridor table, since that’s where it is. My phone sits between us on the green plastic gingham tablecloth. The radio plays the news softly in the background. Guillermo wears his straw wide brim Costeño hat, with a pattern woven in black straw.
It’s hard. But coffee- it doesn’t create wealth but it does create a lot of jobs. So, for that, naturally, because we have lots of coffee, we have to work with it, to live with coffee, which is what we’ve done.
You know what impresses me the most about coffee? It’s the only tree that has faith in it. (In Spanish, the word for coffee is “café.” The word for faith is “fe.”)
Right? For me coffee is a mystery. It’s a mystery. It carries faith. And you can ask any coffee grower and no one will tell you what I’m telling you about faith. So, we, as Catholics, have a belief, we believe in God. And it’s for something that we’re in awe of him.
You’re right. I’ve never realized that about “caffaith” before.
Because no one else has realized it either! That coffee has the name of faith, what we live from. What did the Lord tell Peter? Live in faith. And look, we’re living from cofFAITH. It’s true; it has the name of faith.
It’s the only tree…
The only one! And look at it, you see a cherry on the ground and you just have to pick it up. So it, I don’t know, it has something. You pick up a coffee bean, just one bean that’s drying, and you peel it and you pop it in your mouth. Just because. It’s provocative to people, right?
Yes, of course.
Unique. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and having a good cup of coffee. Nothing.
[Pause. Hum and buzz of mountain insects.]
And your aunt? Is her finca near San Gregorio too? Because where we are now is your dad’s finca or…?
Look. The farm you visited yesterday, the house right where you took all those pictures, that’s her house. My father had another farm near San Gregorio. Our family’s caficultora comes from my grandmother. From both grandparents we had two fincas. For example, from my grandmother, named Nieves, her father had a farm. She left that farm to my father. My father sold that farm and ended up with this; he sold that one to buy this one. And there, at my aunt’s, I went to work on that finca. I left at 15. I went at 12 and left at 15; I stayed 3 years.
That’s where I met the misses. After my aunt’s I came here. And I kept working. I kept going to my aunt’s too, visiting there. And I kept seeing [my wife]. And when I was 18 I saw her in San Gregorio and I convinced her! And I married her, 33 years ago.
And I’ve lived all my life on this farm, all my life. I’ve left some- I’ve also had some businesses, but I went bust and came back to the farm. So I’m living with coffee and living from it. And from it they’ve been able to study. I have 5 children, 4 girls and one boy. And they’ve all finished high school. With the change from a few coffee trees.
[Pause. The news has changed to crooning corridos, lamenting love songs and stories of woe. Guitar strings.]
To read the full interview with Don Guillermo and more stories from other coffeepeople, advance order a copy of the book, “When Coffee Speaks” via Kickstarter.