We went on our first group tour of a Finca (coffee plantation) today. Many thanks to Laurel’s (owner of Panza Verde and Villas B’alam Ya) generosity and planning to organize this for us! 
We prefer to go impromptu to finca’s, roasters, cafe’s etc… because then we may find our own way into someone’s craft and profession! Going with a group can mean a multitude of things i.e. waiting for the whole group to be ready to move onto the next piece of the tour, and if the majority of the group are newbies then you will be certain they will control the questions and movement of the tour. But, to our surprise the group interest and tour was quite good. Our guide “Jose Jesus” had a routine that was well practiced but not too slick and rigid, so  he was open to our questions. 
We learnt how to pick ripe coffee berries by turning and pulling the bean as to leave the stem on the branch for future blossoms to take hold. How beans are then weighed, sorted by floatation (good ripe fruit sink), fermented for up to 36 hours (wet process), off gassed for another 24 hours, sun-dried to remove layers, and again sorted by weight and size a number of times with a machine and finally by hand three times to come out with a very high quality green bean that is thoroughly sorted. 
Of course writing about this and experiencing it first hand are obviously very different and I strongly encourage anyone to go and experience this for the sheer beauty of simple but ingenious technology, the labour and attention required to grow coffee bushes, pick and sort coffee fruit, some science and the efficiency and timing of planting coffee to drinking it! One gets to appreciate that the whole process of coffee growing, picking, processing and roasting is labour intensive, requires great knowledge and skill and is subject to the many unpredictable changes in weather and market forces.
At the end of the tour we were served our choice of coffee. We immediately went to the bar to meet the barista and to observe his way of making espressos. As it turns out, the barista, Jorge Canahui placed 6th overall in the National Guatemala Barista competition and was more than happy to make many different espresso based drinks to our specifications as well as he allowed me to operate their machine. Jorge is very good at pulling shots, tamping and latte art. And, he has one of best tampers I have ever felt, so heavy and well balanced! We enjoyed learning from Jorge who clearly enjoys his work and has a big smile to show it.
The espresso was sour, fruity, light in ash with a wee bit of chocolate. Overall a very good espresso that I would go back for many times over… Just too bad they wouldn’t sell us any green beans as we brought our test roaster to Guatemala. I would have liked to roast their beans and write a review from that perspective.

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