The Mighty Bean That Unites the World

Lessons from a Costa Rican Coffee Farm

Lisa Lau


Image by Joe from Pixabay

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it is attached to the rest of the world.” — John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club and Father of the National Park System

A pickup truck rumbled over the road as a small ball of light illuminated the horizon. The cawing roosters scattered as the truck careened onto the path towards me.

“Buenos días Chinita! Adelante!” A young man reached over the back and hoisted me into the cargo bed.

In the huddle of people, I wiggled into a space next to a young family from Nicaragua. The son poked his head from under his mother’s arm and ducked back into her bosom.

As if the truck had entrapped a genie, clouds of dust and debris spun into the air at each pick up. As the haze settled, new passengers appeared until the cargo bed was filled elbow to elbow with people. We were heading to the finca for the final harvest of the coffee picking season in Costa Rica.

Coffee filtered into my life in various shades and zest growing up in New York City. I used to hop into the car with my father, excited to run errands with him around the city. He would hand me a bag of change to count the amount that we needed to purchase a light snack to fuel us on our way.

I diligently stacked the nickels and dimes and separated out the quarters for the parking meters. As soon as my father found a spot to double park, he reached his hand over to me in the back. I dropped the coins into his open palm. He checked, praised my accounting, and dashed into the Chinese bakery.

After a few minutes, he would return with two baos, an Ovaltine for me, and a coffee for himself. Just a whiff of the sweet earthy aroma from his holy grail propelled him on his way through the commotion of the city.

Fighting carsickness in the back, I grasped my bao and held onto my cup of Ovaltine that splashed at every bump. At each red light we eagerly sipped our drinks in unison. In the midst of the urban wilderness, my father found a moment of escape and tranquility in the warm clutch of his…



Lisa Lau

Insomniac, knowledge thrill-seeker, leisure and cathartic writer