Venezuela & Brazil, a journey full of pitfalls.
In 2013, the Black Ops Coffee team, consisting of active and former commando soldiers as well as a former paratrooper from Zweibrücken, Germany, set out on a dangerous and adventurous journey to Venezuela. Our goal was to visit the neighboring areas in Brazil where parts of our coffee come from. The trip was not only dangerous, but also incredibly exciting and unforgettable.
Since our arrival in the jungle could be noticed by anyone, we had made arrangements in advance with the army and the rebels to feel reasonably safe. After all, the contacts with business and the services must be good for something. There were eight tall white men in outdoor clothing in the jungle between intelligence agencies, drug cartels and mercenaries – that could quickly lead to unwanted distortions. But with the right preparations and arrangements, our arrival went smoothly.
Our first stop was to climb the Table Mountains, an incredible challenge that demanded everything of us. But the breathtaking view from the top and the feeling of having made it were absolutely worth it. We then visited the highest waterfall in the world, another highlight of our trip.
Our real mission, however, was to visit the coffee plantations, the source of our raw materials for our roasting master back home. We started the coffee journey in the region around Mérida and Táchira. These areas are located in the Andes and offer ideal conditions for the cultivation of Arabica coffee. The high altitude and cool climate ensure slow maturation and high quality coffee. The plantations are often small and run by family businesses, which helps give coffee in Venezuela a special character.
When we visited the coffee plantations in Venezuela, we met passionate farmers who are proud of their work. They told us how they grow, harvest and process the coffee. I learned that coffee in Venezuela is often hand-picked and sorted to ensure high quality.
After my time in Venezuela, I flew to Brazil while the rest of the team sipped cocktails in the hotel pool (time off is a must), one of the largest coffee growing countries in the world. Here I visited the coffee plantations in the regions of Minas Gerais and São Paulo. Most coffee plantations in Brazil are large and industrial, using state-of-the-art technologies for harvesting and processing.
Although the production methods in Brazil are different from those in Venezuela, I felt the passion of the farmers for their coffee here as well. Many of them have years of experience growing coffee and pride themselves on producing some of the best coffee in the world.
Although our journey was full of challenges and risks, we also had some incredible experiences that we will remember forever. The accidental visit of a local warlord / gem dealer / businessman ;) in the border area showed us that you can also enjoy luxury in the deepest jungle, far away from any civilization. It shows us that the will decides. Especially his office which bordered a stuffed anaconda was very impressive!
In the end, it was an incredible journey that not only gave us deep insights into coffee growing, but also connected us with the nature and people of this region. We are grateful for the experience and proud to be part of the Black Ops Coffee team. Even though the diarrhea and parasites we still had about 6 weeks later still showed us the pitfalls of the jungle, it was worth every day on site. Not a place for fun tourists or people with weak nerves.