Journals Through Antigua: Exploring the Rich Culture of Guatemala

Journals Through Antigua: Exploring the Rich Culture of Guatemala - Utopian Coffee

Join Utopian Coffee’s founder, Brendon, as he reflects on the rich coffee culture of Guatemala through a journey in Antigua. Explore the vibrant streets, welcoming locals, and exceptional coffee farms that make Guatemalan coffee a true specialty. Join us in celebrating the unique blend of history, flavor, and sustainable practices that define Guatemalan coffee.

My First Trip to Guatemala
There is a reason why people study history. There is something important about the places we've been, the experiences we've had, and the people we have met along the way. As I reflect on the last decade of the work we've been able to do at Utopian, many of the fond memories have to do with travels in and through countries where specialty coffee is produced. In 2014, I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala and it quickly became one of my favorite cities in the world. There is something unique about the way that the Hispanic hospitality meets the cobblestone streets that traverse this beautiful town.

Jumping into Antigua 
The Guatemalan people are particularly welcoming and I was warmly greeted by so many. There were several experiences that remain emblazoned in my memory even ten years removed from that first trip. I was joined on this journey by my videographer (and surf buddy), Shane, who was there to film the experience. We were staying in the equivalent of a hostel, just outside of the main area of Antigua and would have to catch a bus into town when we needed to grab a bite to eat or explore during our downtime. I remember that bus trip costing the equivalent of $0.17 per ride and depending on the time of day you were riding, you would either have your own seat, which felt like "luxury" status or during the busier hours, jammed in like sardines, so close to one another that you hardly needed to hold onto the overhead bar because any sudden stop wasn't going to allow you to move much anyway.

transportation in Antigua Guatemala colorful bus

The Vibrancy of Guatemalan Architecture and Food
Once in the town, there was a rare combination of colonial architecture with the bright and vibrant colors of Latin America that I've come to know well since then. While the food in Antigua was quite enjoyable, there was one food experience that stood out among the others. I've always been a fan of street food and after a long day in the coffee farms, Shane and I decided to go into town for dinner and because it was late and some of the restaurants were already closed, we found a lovely looking food cart posted up underneath a little tent on a sidestreet. The telltale signs of success were there: a long line of people awaiting their turn for the culinary experience. When we finally reached the front of the line, the crowd had dissipated as some rumblings in the sky could be heard in the distance. We gratefully ordered our tortas (sandwiches) and proceeded to enjoy the delicious flavors...before returning for a second round! As we were finishing our meal, seated on the small plastic stools just outside of the tent, it began. Without much warning, the rain showered down, forcing us to seek refuge alongside our gracious chefs under the small covering. What we thought would be a quick burst of rain continued much longer than expected. Our newfound friends were packing up their wares and getting ready to call it a night, so we decided to race back to the bus, as if we might be able to outrun the downpour. But to no one's surprise, we failed miserably and were absolutely drenched. To provide some needed comedic relief, my orange and black Adidas "traveling” shoes began to lose their sole early on in the run, flapping and slapping in the rain-soaked streets of Antigua. As a financially-challenged (aka poor) backpacker, I tried to be as wise with my resources as possible (which is actually still a Core Value of our roasting company!) and buying new shoes just wasn't in the budget for this trip, so I had to make due. We tucked away for some quick reprieve under an awning of an open business and convinced the owner (in Spanish) to let us borrow a stapler. With my sole now secured to the bottom of the shoe, I was ready for round 2 in the rain. We eventually made it back to the bus and just as the rain stopped, but the memory of running through the streets of Guatemala, laughing while sopping wet will forever be cherished.

a Guatemalan child and man cooking meat

Continuing to Support the Culture and People of Guatemala
I've been able to return to Guatemala a couple of times since that initial visit and each time holds new and special experiences:
We’ve been able to work with a cooperative that is giving female coffee growers land ownership rights for the first time in their lives.
We’ve helped build a house for a family whose daughter has a physical ailment that doesn’t allow her to walk.
We’ve met a multitude of coffee producers who care deeply about this craft and making it a sustainable livelihood.

These are the reasons I'm so excited about this new coffee, Bella Carmona, we're releasing from Antigua. Luis Pedro and his team at the Bella Vista wet mill not only personally manage each of the 18 farms in the blend; they also work like perfectionists at the cupping table to maintain the quality of the blend, shipping what they believe is a true representation of the Antigua valley’s volcanic and bourbon-based terroir.

Thank you!
So, please feel free to explore this amazing part of the world through the work and taste of this coffee. It’s been one of my favorite specialty coffee origins through the years and I think you’ll find that to be true as well! Thanks for helping to support Better Coffee for a Better World.

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