Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Caffeinated Weekend in Guatemala

Last weekend on October 13 -14, 2018, I had the pleasure of working at Coffee Fest, which took place at Anacafé in Guatemala City. I wrote about my experience learning more about Guatemalan coffee and my friends' new business, Cafeto Mío, in an article for Coast to Prost: An Introduction to Guatemalan Coffee and Cafeto Mío. We were even featured in the national newspaper, Prensa Libre!
I thought it would be fun to give you a more personal behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into this event, at least from my perspective, even though I know that Karin and Andrés put in many, many more hours than I did in the weeks leading up to Coffee Fest. Note that this was Cafeto Mío's first big event of this nature which means they also had to design and build the booth; rent or borrow equipment like an espresso maker, industrial-size coffee grinder and a mini fridge; decide on a menu and pricing structure for the food and beverages; and much more.

Friday, October 12, 2018

I used Indriver to get a ride about 20 km north from where I'm living in Linda Vista to Karin and Andrés' condominium in Mixco Zone 8 on Friday afternoon. Karin had already spent several hours in the kitchen preparing coffee-infused desserts like flan, gelatina and helado (ice cream) while Andrés was at Anacafé setting up the booth. I arrived around 3:00 p.m. and my first task was to come up with a recipe for crepe batter and then test out my skills on their 13" round electric griddle. I quickly realized that we did not have a couple of the ingredients I would need, so Karin and I walked to the grocery store to pick up some supplies. When we returned, I made a test batch of crepes and then practiced spreading the batter (harder than you would think) until I could do it at the right quantity, temperature and speed.
My first attempt at making crepes; I should have
melted the butter more but otherwise they were delicious!
Next I washed and sliced pounds of strawberries, red peppers, and eggplant.
We took a break to eat dinner around 10:00 p.m. Karin had made a delicious cow's stomach (tripe) soup earlier in the day and a neighbor had brought over some homemade tamales.
Then I attempted to cut out the sticker labels for the coffee bags but found it a bit tedious, so I delegated that task to Andrés and sauteed the eggplant slices and helped Karin make another batch of pickled peppers instead.

I continued to work until after midnight, when I made a quadruple batch of crepe batter. Note to whomever might attempt something like this: When scaling up this particular recipe, do not use the same ratio of eggs to milk and flour. It will be too thick, so reduce to approximately 2 eggs per 1 cup flour and 1 1/2 cups milk). Finally I took a shower and went to bed around 1:00 a.m.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

We all got up at 5:00 a.m. to finish preparing the food and to load everything into the car. I also weighed and filled a couple dozen coffee bags with one pound each of fresh roasted coffee beans and applied the labels.
It took two trips to haul everything to the event site at Anacafé, which is only 15 km from the house to the city center (Zone 14) but easily can take one hour or more each way due to traffic. Once there, we set up the booth and prepared for our first customers. My job was primarily to be the cook, so I made display samples of a crepe with Nutella and fresh strawberries, and a panini with sliced deli meat, mozzarella cheese, and homemade pickled peppers and onions. When it wasn't too busy I had a chance to walk around the venue, check out the other booths and vendors, and watch some of the barista competition.
cafeto mio coffee fest guatemala
Me and Andrés working at the booth on Saturday. Photo credit: Coffee Fest
The event ran from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. both days, but on Saturday night we stayed later to hang up some lights, secure the booth, and pack up the food to keep refrigerated at home overnight. We finally got back to the house around 10:00 p.m. and I took a shower and went straight to bed.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Since everything was already at the venue, we didn't have to get up so early on Sunday morning. I slept until 7:00 a.m. and then got ready and cooked an omelette for the three of us for breakfast. Thankfully there was very little traffic so we were at Anacafé well before 10:00 a.m. and had plenty of time to set up again without rushing. I was a bit surprised to discover that we had new booth neighbors on Sunday who were not there on Saturday. Check it out:
More family members and friends of Karin and Andrés stopped by the festival on Sunday so, besides practicing speaking Spanish with them, I was busier making food as well. I did get to watch part of the barista competition semifinals and then got to see the judging and awards given out after the final. This was even more exciting because Andrés' barista instructor, Oscar Obando, won second place overall in the AeroPress competition and he came to our booth afterward to make a live video of his award-winning technique.
We did not start breaking down the booth until after 6:00 p.m. and it took almost two hours to get everything packed up. Then it took two carloads to haul everything back home. I stayed at the condo after the first trip because there really wasn't room in the car for three people plus all of the booth materials. So I ate dinner, washed all the dishes, and was in bed by 10:00 p.m.
Tasting one last cup of specialty coffee at the end of the festival.
Monday, October 15, 2018

I slept in until 7:30 a.m. while Andrés cooked a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains, toast, and, of course, coffee. While we were eating, Karin and Andrés asked me to spend one more night with them, as they wanted to invite Karin's parents over for dinner. They gave me the option to stay home and relax all day, or to go out with them to run errands. I decided to go with them, as it would give me the opportunity to see more of the city.
I took this picture from the back seat of the car while stuck in traffic. It is
common for workers to ride in the back of trucks and other vehicles like this.
One of our errands was to deposit the proceeds from the weekend's food and beverage sales. I've noticed there is always a line at every bank no matter what type of transaction you're conducting, and the branch at Centro Comercial Los Próceres was no exception. While we waited for Karin to make the deposit, which took more than 30 minutes, Andrés and I walked through the mall which boasts four levels and 250 stores. However, we quickly discovered that most of the stores sell what appears to be almost the exact same items of clothing and shoes. Even though there was nothing particularly interesting to look at, I had fun learning/practicing the Spanish words for every article of clothing, body part (on mannequins) and color that we could find.
Andrés treated me to some soft serve ice cream
while Karin was in a business meeting.
With the traffic and multiple meetings and other errands, we ended up being out all day, from around 9:00 a.m. until after 7:00 p.m. By then we were too hungry and it was too late to cook anything, so we grabbed all of the leftover panini supplies from the condo and took them to Karin's parents house nearby and ate dinner there. We got home around 10:00 p.m. and everyone went straight to bed.
L to R: Karin with her mom Judith and her dad Cesar next to Andrés

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We all got up pretty early on Tuesday as Karin had a lot of work to catch up on for her graphic design business and Andrés had plans to go to TOP Barista to practice his coffee-making techniques in preparation for a barista competition in a few months. Karin and I also had an appointment to get our hair cut by her friend, Anyelo, who did a great job!
Afterward, Karin drove me out to a shopping center in Zone 11 where I picked up a few groceries and then caught another Indriver back to Linda Vista.


Overall, I really enjoyed spending time with Karin and Andrés and helping them launch their new business at Coffee Fest. Even though I was thoroughly exhausted after four days of being on my feet for hours, attempting to understand and converse in Spanish, and sitting in traffic, I am very thankful for the opportunity to get to know them and some of their friends and family members better, as well as learn more about Guatemalan coffee.

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