Yesterday's morning started out a bit earlier than usual, with the daily gym-goers heading to "Nico's Fitness Gym" at 5:00am to be ready in time for the 7:00am bus. After an hour-long bus ride up through various plantations and Costa Rica's scenic, green landscape up to Palmichal, we were all eager to taste the country's famous coffee. We started out with a small tour of the town, learning about the city's history and rural tourism industry from our knowledgable guide Hérnan. Then we were given the opportunity to learn from Manuel, the happy 79 year old owner of Cerco Don Manuel. He showed us his coffee plants, let us try his coffee, offered us his wife's delicious cheese empanadas, shared stories about his life on the plantation (he is the ONLY one that works on it!) and played us a few songs on guitar.
After lots of laughing and learning, we got to see the other side of Costa Rican coffee production as we visited the coffee roasting and packaging factory in Palmichal. We all walked around in our fancy hairnets while breathing in the burnt coffee scent, watching humongous machines spit coffee beans around. After the tour of the factory we all purchased bags of Café Don Manuel (for our parents of course...).
It was a valuable experience for us to connect with our coffee's farmer and understand this important "farm to fork" relationship we often feel is lost, yet have been learning so much about in both our International Environmental Politics and International Development classes. I know I'll be thinking about Manuel and Palmichal when I make myself a latte back home in Texas.