I pour coffee beans into the grinder and press the button for thirty seconds. The whir of the blades sends the cats scurrying for the door and the lovely smell of coffee fills the kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil and let my mind wander back to where I purchased this coffee, at the coffee museum in Chiapas, Mexico.
I followed the smell of roasting beans down the narrow cobblestone side streets of San Cristobal de las Casas to find the museum, located on the ground floor of an old hacienda. The entrance was through the small café that sold cups of freshly brewed coffee, bags of beans, and a variety of souvenirs. I ordered a small mug of decaf, paid the twenty-five peso entrance fee, and entered the first room. A large mural on the wall depicting the history of coffee from its arrival with the Spanish conquistadors to the present day was the first thing to catch my eye. As I sipped the rich brew, I wandered slowly from room to room, reading the signs in Spanish. I looked at old photographs of coffee trees in bloom, Mayan natives bent almost double from the weight of lugging giant canvas bags full of beans on their backs, and maps of the different coffees grown in Chiapas.
The piercing whistle of the tea kettle brings me back into the kitchen and I hurry to turn the burner off. I fill the one-cup filter with the ground coffee and pour a small amount of the hot water over the grounds, just enough to cause them to swell and bloom. They turn frothy white as I wait for the water to drip into my mug. When the water is gone, I add some more and wait again.
I remember looking at displays of coffee equipment in the museum, such as a coffee bean sorter, numerous bean grinders as well as the rake-like tools used to harvest the beans. In one of the last rooms, there was a display on Fair Trade coffee. It showed how selling their coffee via the Fair Trade business has helped the local Maya people earn more money which they use to provide better food, clothing, and education for their large families.
My coffee has finished dripping into my mug and I place the filter in the compost. I inhale deeply and sigh…the bag of beans is just about empty and I have no idea when I will get back to San Cristobal to buy some more.