From container to cup

Loading coffee in El Alto

Loading coffee in El Alto

Green Bean Coffee Imports received a very special delivery a couple of weeks ago.  With much anticipation, the container of organic and fair trade certified coffee negotiated back in November finally ended its long journey from Bolivia.

Back in early January, I headed up to COAINE`s coffee processing plant in El Alto to observe the coffee being loaded.  The truck arrived with typical Bolivian punctuality (7 hours late) and after much manoeuvring to park, the loading finally began.  This was the height of the rainy season and several of the cooperative`s workers had been held up in Caranavi due to mudslides, leaving the team depleted.  The container consisted of 260 bags at 60kg (132lbs) each.  I noticed a distinct lack of dollies or other loading equipment and soon discovered why.

The loading of the coffee was an impressive show of teamwork.  Five women, with their billowing cholita skirts and identical two long plaits, stood in a circle and together hoisted each bag onto the shoulders of one of five men, who in turn, strode along a narrow plank of wood into the truck, where another two men carefully stacked the sacks.  The entire process took a couple of hours, after which many clinking crates of beer appeared.

From El Alto, the coffee travelled to Chile`s Port of Arica, set sail northwards to Montreal and finally arrived by train at its destination in Clandeboye, Manitoba, where it was unloaded (by an altogether different method) in sub-zero temperatures.

To sample this wonderful coffee, please visit Green Bean Coffee Imports.  They boast a selection of roasts as well as green (non-roasted) beans for sale.  Their website even has handy tips such as how to home-roast coffee beans.  Who knew you could roast your own coffee in a popcorn maker?!  Not I.

Green Bean also wholesale and deliver across Canada.  If delivery is not your thing, don`t despair!  If all goes to plan, this fair trade, organic Bolivian coffee will one day be available from a micro-roaster near you…

Some of the 260 bags, ready for the road

Some of the 260 bags, ready for the road

60lbs of fair trade and organic coffee

60lbs of fair trade and organic coffee

With Green Bean`s logo, to boot

With Green Bean`s logo, to boot

Loading up in El Alto

Loading up in El Alto

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January2013 068

Walking the plank (is it just me or does the guy in the truck look worried?)

Walking the plank (is it just me or does the guy in the truck look worried?)

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January2013 098

Mario Condori of COAINE

Mario Condori of COAINE

The ladies, post-heavy-lifting

The ladies, post-heavy-lifting

Leaving El Alto

Leaving El Alto

Unloading in Manitoba, two months later

Unloading in Manitoba, two months later

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Unloading in the snow (with a distinct lack of ladies)

Unloading in the snow (with a distinct lack of ladies)

260 bags later

260 bags later

Alix Reid,working her magic in the Green Bean roastery

Alix Reid,working her magic in the Green Bean roastery

Roasted, packaged and ready for sale

Roasted, packaged and ready for sale

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17 thoughts on “From container to cup

  1. Brilliant! Can you imagine if mum was there: “Bend from the knees!” “Don’t twist when you lift!”

    • Thank you! This coffee is not yet available in Toronto (though I am working on it!). For now, you can purchase it through Green Bean, who would deliver to TO.

  2. Nice to be able to follow the coffee from it’s source and see where they end up. It’s not the cholitas I am worried about as the weight is spread between them, but the men heaving those heavy bags on their own makes me cringe. Drinking coffee will never be the same again.

  3. Nobody lifts until I blow this whistle…

    Are the fabulous five cholitas available for hire? Tin’s holiday bag is always a struggle. Hope BA is fun.

    • Ha ha. I can always ask. These ladies do the laborious selection of coffee beans by hand, when they are not helping with the loading of shipments.

  4. Wow, I wish it was possible to see a photographic journey like this for every product I buy! If that information was made readily available, the world would surely make different choices and experience a deeper sense of appreciation for even the simplest things.

  5. Wow, I love coffee. Great post, Joni. Hope you’re having a fab time in Buenos Aires; looks like it’s nice and warm there at the moment. Have lots of alfajores and chimichurri for me. x

    • Michele! Thanks for following and commenting. Indeed, Green Bean are doing some great work. And this very coffee is available in your hometown. 🙂 Hi to all at Villages!

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