In my quest to find an apartment around Lake Atitlan, I came across an expat from upstate New York named Mike. He turned out to be the owner of Crossroads Café, a favorite coffee joint among both locals and expats in Panajachel
Although Mike couldn’t help in terms of housing, he did e-mail me a few days later and invited me to go motorcycling to his coffee plantation. Having never been to a coffee plantation and with an itch to get back on a bike, I was revved up and ready to go.
The ride along the banks of the most beautiful lake in the world was exhilarating. The chance to learn about the coffee production process was really interesting. But by far the best part of the day was hanging out with one of the most adventurous, quirky, fun loving, coffee obsessed expats I’ve ever met.
Riding Lake Atitlan
Although you have to keep an eye out for stray dogs, potholes, landslide washed turns, and armed gangs, the ride is totally worth it. It’s so intense that it makes Pacific Coast Highway 1 seem uneventful. The turns, steep ascents, and wicked cliff side descents make riding Atitlan a motorcyclist’s amusement park.
If you’re looking to ride Atitlan yourself, you can rent a bike for around 200-300 Quetzales or 25$ a day. Just be sure to get a bike that’s 200 cc or over.
A Traditional Guatemalan Coffee plantation
The highlands of Guatemala are known worldwide for producing some of the finest specialty coffees. And Mike’s coffee plantation turned out to be one of these production centers.
Mike explained that his plantation utilized a dry fermentation technique, which is the most traditional. He also noted that because of this, any by products could be used as fertilizer.
The whole production process was remarkably more complex than I had ever imagined. It reminded me of my wine tour with Jac Jacobs in Central California. It imparted on me a new appreciation for coffee. And I still hadn’t tried the finished product.
The first sip seemed to flow directly from my tongue to my head. I was buzzing in seconds. I never knew coffee could be so potent and delicious.
On the way back to the Café, Mike and I stopped off at his home where he told me a bit about himself.
Mike turned out to be a life long travel junkie. He lived for a year in the woods in California, and spent 4 months hitchhiking through Japan.He only decided to settle down after meeting his wife while hitchhiking through Africa.
Together they moved to Panajachel, where, with their combined love of coffee, they decided to start a cafe dedicated to producing and brewing the highest quality coffee that Guatemala could offer.
Words can’t explain the legend that is Mike, so check out this video of the trip below!