Sunday, January 12, 2020

Mexican Coffee By Ryan Erker



Strange title to a blog post, I know. When one thinks of coffee, or at least when I think of coffee, I usually will imagine the fog lined hills of Costa Rica or Columbia. Juan Valdez and his donkey, enjoying the fruits of his labor drinking a steaming hot cup of capitalism first thing in the morning. I suppose this image is a direct result of some genius marketing team not unlike the folks who brought us the Golden Arches. No matter their motivations, I'm thankful.

I have a confession to make. I am a coffee snob. One of the hardest things about prison, aside from everything, is the lack of quality coffee. Due to drinking freeze dried swill for over half a decade has unfortunately resulted in a ruined palate that was carefully cultivated over years by being quite decerning over my choice of coffee beans. However, this is not a sad story, nor is it a story to make you feel sorry for my lousy life choices that led me to this dump. No, this is a story full of hope. A mythical tale meant to bring a bit of magic into dreary lives. For this you are welcome.

I was approached a week ago by a friend of mine who originated from a small village in Mexico in the State of Sinaloa. Evidently his village, which is accessible only by donkey and comprises of only around 100 people on a busy day, has an abundance of coffee trees that grow a specific type of bean which is unusually strong. The villagers roast them in a big kettle, turning them with a large wooden spatula that is over 140 years old. I was told that my friends grandmother learned the art from her grandmother, who in turn is teaching it to the younger generation. The coffee has never been for sale. They make it for themselves, other small villages that they trade with, but most importantly, once a year, they load up bundles on a few burros and begin the long journey to a much larger town. Once they reach their destination, the load is switched from the beast of burden into the bed of an old pickup truck to begin the long drive north to America. Once the individual packages arrive, they are sent out through the postal service to villagers who have come North to work. The packages of coffee are a direct connection to where these hard workers came from. A beacon in a crazy world reminding them that there is always a home for them to return to.

The reason my friend approached me is that the village has decided to allow, for the first time, an outsider to to try the coffee and wants that person to help them bring the coffee to a limited market for the direct benefit of the village. I am happy to report that a bag of these magical beans are now waiting for my family to pick up. I am hoping that this coffee will taste as good as the intentions behind this beautiful story behind them. Every once in a while folks need a reminder that there are people who love and miss them. And sometimes this message is delivered in a way as simple as a good cup of strong coffee.

By Ryan Erker

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