Today I am going with Aegean and Angelica on a 4-hour tour to see some cool things outside of Antigua. The first stop is a coffee plantation belonging to the fantastic Fredy Gonzales located in San Miguel Escobar. He is one of the founding members of this cooperative that produces coffee for De la Gente. Fredy takes us into the farm to see the vast fields and plants.
They can pick the beans when they become red in color; it takes 6 months to be harvest ready.
We go back to his kitchen where we try the bike that makes husking the beans easier.
You get your exercise, and husk coffee beans! Perfect! Then Fredy and his wife have us roast the beans in a large pan on the oven.
Then we crush them with a roller…it’s really hard work!
Once that is done, Fredy’s wife puts the beans into hot water and then boom…. we have some amazing coffee to drink. These coffee farmers use the best techniques available at a high standard, and De La Gente offers them stability and opportunity for growth…a great company to get behind, so of course I bring some of their coffee home!
The next stop on the tour is Valhalla Macadamia Farm. This farm is fully organic and they don’t waste any parts of the nuts. As we enter the farm, there are these signs…
No problem! The farm has planted over 350,000 trees all over the country, and it affects the communities and environment in so many positive ways. Macadamia trees can counteract the greenhouse effect and reduce carbon footprints. They are edible and highly nutritious, providing food for communities and opportunity for income if a family owns a tree. The trees can produce for 150 years, which prevents negative farming as they don’t need to be disposed of as often. And since they need regular pruning, they are a good source of firewood. All of this is amazing and I am eager to learn more. First, they collect the nuts from the trees and the ground and lay them out on a large table to dry them out.
This takes around 2 weeks and must be done away from sunlight. They have this cool nut sorting device; drop the nuts down the ramp along these grates and they fall into the bags below depending on their size.
Then they get shelled and are ready to eat; the farm sells plain nuts and all kinds of food made with nuts…there’s even a restaurant that serves all things made with macadamia. Nothing gets wasted on this farm…they use every part of the nut! We don’t get a chance to eat here, but we do sample some nuts (they are YUMMY – the best I’ve ever had), and get a quick massage with macadamia oil. Overall, a really great experience.
The next stop is a small jade factory- the jade found in Guatemala is some of the rarest and hardest to find in the world.
There is a lot of symbolism in this stone, and it is made into jewelry and ornaments (in ancient times it was also used for tools and weapons). The guy at the factory shows us how they find this jade -you have to bang on the rocks and if it’s jade, it makes a specific sound.
He tells us it is like a surprise and a gift! After this short demo, we head to our last stop at an artisanal chocolate factory in San Juan del Obispo. There are samples of every flavor…I’m not gonna lie…I went a little overboard with the sampling but I did buy some chocolate so I can justify it. And before leaving, we get a chocolate ice cream for the road!
Now it’s back into Antigua to enjoy the rest of the afternoon- I had heard about a place called Rincon Tipico that offers cheap Guatemalan food and is super popular with the locals. A few others from the group join me, and it’s such a fun place.
A large room with a bunch of tables and you get a big plate of food for $5. It is BBQ chicken, melt in your mouth potatoes, veggies and a glass of horchata.
We then set out to explore the city again…. first stop is Casa Santo Domingo, a hotel that is built among ruins of an old convent that was destroyed by the earthquake in 1773.
The hotel was developed to rescue and preserve the remains from the rubble. Fun Fact: it is the only 5-star hotel in Antigua. And it is a super cool place. Anyone can wander around and have a look and there are several small museums inside that showcase the items that were retrieved from the rubble.
We walk through the pretty gardens, past the crumbling tombs and old fountains, underneath the monastery archways.
The hotel also houses a bunch of rescued macaws; they are fun to watch and just as we are leaving their handler comes out with a large pole to round them up to go to bed. So cute!
On the way back to the hotel, we stop at the beautiful San Jose Cathedral in Parque Centrale.
It was partially destroyed in that big earthquake, but the two towers in front survived. I have a quick peek inside, and then it is time to explore the market in the square. This market is not here all the time but it is Revolution Day, a national holiday in Guatemala. I have so much fun looking at all of the tables, and I’m able to complete my souvenir shopping. I’m ready to head back and I spot a woman with a large silver tub of hot liquid…could it be? It is! She’s serving atol de elote, a sweet warm corn drink!
I have been wanting to try this but couldn’t find it anywhere. It is delicious; a thick hearty drink served in a Styrofoam cup.
I meet up with a few people from my group again, and this time we head to a place called Frida’s where they serve Mexican food. Of course, this is Pedro’s choice (he’s Mexican) and this will be my final dinner with him. I order the nachos and they come with cheese and guacamole and red, green and white sauce drizzled in this circular pattern.
Interesting presentation for sure. I’m still feeling a bit ill so I say farewell to Pedro and make it an early night. I still have one more day to explore Antigua!