Warning - this story takes place in the mountain highlands surrounding Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and may offend lovers of and drinkers of coffee ... so basically the entire world. I however think people should drink tea like a civilised person. Yes, I am joking. Or am I? (wink, wink)
As an apology I have included this beautiful sunset picture of Lake Atitlan. Enjoy.
One of the greatest joys of travel is you grow as a person. You try things you swore you never would and discover things about yourself you NEVER thought possible. Me, I had one such experience turning my world upside down, blowing my mind and seemingly making the impossible, possible.
What is this life altering occurrence? Don't laugh, I drank coffee. No big shock you say. Well, I don't think you understand. I Drank Coffee. Those that know me are probably curled up in the fetal position rocking back n forth muttering to themselves "the world is going to end. The end is nigh" over and over again.
For those of you who don't know me I shall introduce myself. Hi, I'm Bel, seen here in traditional Mayan dress wearing about 5m of thick fabric wrapped around my waist, not comfy at all, and a life long tea drinker. With my trusty new best friend street dog that adopted me that day, Spot (original I know). Coffee has passed my lips precisely twice. Once, mustering cattle in Tenterfield, NSW early one frosty morning... after breaking through the ice covering the cattle's water troughs, with the cold settling into my bones so thoroughly I think I would've tried anything. Even then something in me revolted at the taste and after a mouthful one very appreciative cattle dog had a nice warm cuppa. He loved it.
The second time was when the skipper of a dive boat I worked on thought it would be funny to hand me a cup after returning from a 40min dive in a thermocline, during winter. Brrr, half frozen he seemed to think it was the perfect time to play silly buggers. Thinking it was a cup of delicious pumpkin soup, trustingly it went straight to my mouth. Argh, once again, one mouthful and the rest went over the side of the boat - along with the mug. Don't worry, the mug was retrieved on the next dive - I say no to polluting our oceans. But the look on the skippers face was priceless.
This is why much to my surprise, actually being able to stomach coffee was so much of a shock. Partaking in a Guatemalan homestay and living with a family up in the small town of San Jorge La Laguna in the highland mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan seemed like a good idea until - they bought out the coffee. Not wanting to be rude, whilst inwardly cringing, my mind was saying "you are expected to drink it, right? I mean, it's their culture". This wonderful family was gracious enough to accept that I was a vegetarian and the whole family was going vego for the night to accommodate me so I had to just grin and bare it as they say ... and hopefully not throw up. Oh God.
Preparing myself mentally, I opened my mouth for the first sip and then ...
It was good. (All my friends just snapped out of their reality into an upside down world too.) Yes, you heard me, it was good. I, Belinda, drank coffee and I liked it ......Yes, I liked it OK. My tastebuds didn't revolt in my mouth at this raw coffee as I've come to call it. I think mainly because it's made from green coffee beans, well that's what they told me. Beans ready for harvesting are a deep reddish brown like t his picture.
Not like a strong, roasted or processed coffee, it looked like tea. Very pale, no milk, just a mild coffee flavour. Sweetened. So it's coffee tea. Something every member of the family enjoys, even the young ones, at least in that household anyway. Maybe I liked it because it's served before dinner with a sweet bread.
Nonetheless, it was like I had entered a parallel universe where everything was similar but not the same. Upside down world. In this world, I drank coffee, well, coffee tea. In my universe, I think it tastes like dirt and wouldn't ever dream of touching it. Even the smell offends my nasal passages. Sorry coffee lovers. I find coffee tea delicious but normal coffee - wakala. Now this is a word in Spanish spoken locally and basically means gross. Like if a baby vomits all over you you'd say 'oh wakala'. Ha ha ha they may make a Guatemalan out of me yet.
No doubt for all you coffee lovers out there you're dying to try this new way of drinking coffee, or are at least curious. I mean let's face it, if a life long tea drinker can enjoy it then it has to be something special.
Even my lovely hostess giggled as she stoked the fire to make our tortillas to go with the evening meal. Always smiling, this lovely family and the time I spent with them during the homestay is something I will always cherish.