Someone up north commented on facebook that she was envious of our weather right now. Gimme a break, I say. Her weather may be colder outside, but it isn't colder inside, I can guarantee it. I am writing this with two shirts, two sweaters and cold hands. Today the high is supposed to be 18°, two degrees warmer than yesterday, and the low 8°. Okay, okay, it's celsius. Fahrenheit: 64 and 46. And it´s damp and the sky is solid dirty gray except on the mountain Acamalín, directly across from us there is a soft pillow of fog. This has been going on for days. Remember, people don't have heat in their houses. We have a wood stove which heats our main room to tolerable and so we are lucky. We hadn´t used it until this morning, partly because the wood is all damp, even that which has been protected, so it's hard to get going.
The really disturbing news is that the coffee harvest is lousy. This is because a fungus not previously known at our altitude has made its way up to us. It's called la roya. It spreads as a fine dust,and it is wreaking havoc with coffee and with our neighbors' livelihoods.
Normally, the height of the coffee picking season should be about now. Normally,the ejido land which surrounds our colonia you could walk the paths through the coffee, and hear the voices of the pickers, often family memberss, drifting around, You could see the workers carefully pulling off the properly ripe berries, say hi to those you know. Burros and horses would be tied along the path waiting for their masters to load sacks on their backs. Dogs would run through the underbrush. At meal times, people would gather around to have tortillas and salsa and soda, hot beans and eggs, cooked on small fires. Workers who don´t have coffee of their own work for other people, and they move from place to place. Sometimes a pickup waits on the road for them to hurl their sacks of coffee into.
Our area is ideal for growing coffee de altura, coffee grown at a higher elevation. It has plenty of shade, soil mulched by years of harvest remnants and banana plants, cool weather. It is easy under normal circumstances to grow it organically, too. And it tastes delicious. I´m drinking a cup from our own beans right now. But this year, the losses are breathtaking: some people have lost all their plants to la roya. The average loss is apparently 85%. Even if the coffee hasn´t succombed to la roya, the price per kilo has fallen sharply. The coffee de altura is usually high quality coffee. Unfortunately much of both it and the cheaper and not so good and not organic coffee planted on huge numbers of flat acres across places like Vietnam are in the hands of giant food companies.
As you can see in the photo above taken from Revista Industrial de Campo, coffee is labor intensive with the berries, only the ripe ones, picked by hand.