Coffee in the mountains

I probably shouldn’t mention the excellent meal we had last night at a pasta place just up the road from here called ‘Passion’. I won’t touch on the salmon ravioli with almonds in a lemon sauce which I had nor the portobello mushroom and interesting salad including pears poached in wine that Christine put away. You might be envious of the Oreo cheesecake and the chocolate mousse that followed and might think us extravagant if I refer to the bottle of excellent Cava that was the cheapest wine on the menu. But hang it all we’d walked six kilometres in torrential rain and cold, so we’d earnt it.

Breakfast this morning was coffe and two slices of toast just to show I am not a total Hedonist! Then we set off into the hills to the south of San Jose to meet with some Fairtrade coffee producers. We rendezvoused at a log cabin which was in fact an organic cafe.

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We met with Christian who was a local organiser for Afaorca the local co-op who own the cafe as well. We heard from a local grower how explained how he and his fellow farmers had benefited from Fairtrade. Small farmers particularly find real strength in getting together with Fairtrade     in marketing their coffee. Here thay not only sell the beans, but also roast it for local consumption. We sampled a cup and very good it was too!

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Then we set off to a farm in the mountains. The roads were vertiginous and Gatto swung the bus around the bends with glee! The views were stunning as we climbed up to the tops and then worked our way down into the valleys and the streams that filled them. Finally after a long climb we reached the farm and the processing plant for the 25 farmers that belong to Afraorca.

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It is an impressive operation producing Fairtrade and mainly organic coffee. We were shown the whole operation from start to finish. It is very sustainable and great care is taken not to damage the environment.

From there we came back to the cafe for lunch, which was excellent, although rice and beans featured again.

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More coffee followed and then Marco from Shared Interest explained how they help local farmers with loans to tied them over until they are paid by producers or to enable them to buy equipment. Shared Interest was established by Traidcraft and anyone can invest in it to enable it to support farmers around the world. Returns on investment are small, but your investment does a lot if good. Certainly we shall be looking at it when we return.

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Throughout our stay at the cafe our nostrils were teased with the delightful smell of coffee roasting from the room below. Needless to say we spent a fair bit on coffee beans and chocolate as well as other gifts.

We hit San Jose at the beginning of rush hour but managed to skirt around the edge back to our hotel. Most of us needed a bank so we strolled up the quiet street our hotel us in to the frenetic main road at the end. Turning our backs on the large McDonalds (a break, I assume, from rice and beans for the locals) we found the ATM and milked it for dollars. Christine had spotted a chocolatier on the otherwise of the road, so we prayed, took a deep breath and crossed. The chocolate was worth the risk, but very expensive! We then walked back to the hotel, not a risk free journey considering the state of the pavements. These are not for the elderly who must presumably remain housebound once they reach seventy!

Tonight another meal! I may not be allowed on the plane!

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