Claiming our Coffee Culture

Claiming our Coffee Culture

At what point can we call ourselves true coffee lovers? For many, tourists and locals alike, the day does not start until that first glorious sip of the dark elixir. Coffee can feel magical because it is not just something that we drink – it is something we experience.  When it comes to coffee, there is so much that happens even before a sip is taken, like putting just the right amount of coffee to start the brew, the percolating sound, the smell that immediately seals the room, and then the drip, drip and dark colour that begins to fill the pot. The first sip is taken and then a deep soothing sigh is given. Suddenly, we are engaged, invincible, and ready to tackle the day. Is it routine or ritual? In a world where change is the only certainty, the morning coffee ritual is sacred, so much so that it is a prelude to a coffee lover’s entire mood and day.  The elitist coffee drinker may giggle at the instant coffee consumers, snub others for adding milk and flavoured creamer, and scuff at those who are not familiar with their bean variety. All that considered, one does not have to be a coffee connoisseur or sommelier to be a true coffee lover. Similarly, a country does not have to be a major coffee producer for its citizens to have cultivated a special culture and connection to the beverage.

Have you ever heard about coffee-tourism? It is a growing niche market in the international tourism industry that offers travellers the opportunity to directly support local coffee farmers and engage with local communities and culture. Coffee tourism revolves around the world of coffee production. In Belize we import most of our coffee and visitors for the adventure; however, with a couple of local producers, coffee may yet become a bigger part of our tourism offer. Nestled in the northwest jungles of Belize, Barry Bowen owner of Gallon Jug Estate, was the first to defy the odds and grow coffee in our local terrain. The Estate grows a rich blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans with a taste that is considered full-bodied with chocolaty notes and medium acidy. At Gallon Jug, the coffee is hand harvested by local farmers, transported, dried, and roasted to create its 100% Artisan brand. In San Antonio village in the Cayo District, James Mesh and his family have been coffee lovers plenty longer than they have been coffee growers. It was the love of coffee that inspired the Mesh family to take a risk and grow coffee plants. Oxmul Coffee officially came on the market in 2021. The brand comes from the original name of San Antonio village which in Yucatec Maya is Ox Mul Kah. Oxmul coffee is 100% Belizean, organic, and made from love. Coffee tourism comes naturally to coffee lovers since they will often make their vacation decisions around their coffee intake, ritual, and experiences.

Without any major coffee chains like Starbucks or Donkin Donuts, Belizeans still enjoy a vanilla latte, caramel macchiato, expresso, Americano, cortado, cappuccino, and cold brew just as well as anybody else. We have also learned to grow, roast, and package it.  But, does that make us true coffee lovers and coffee a true part of the Belize tourism experience? Perhaps the only way to answer that question is to skip the coffee routines at home, in our offices, and at our hotels and see what happens.

Chat again later. 

Jasmine Anderson

The Belize Tourism Board

Photo Credit: Milo Miloezger