I didn’t really know what I would see when I arrived at Chanchamayo Highland Coffee. As I sat in the back seat of Jose’s truck, I thought back to everything I had heard about the organization. I knew that Jose worked with many different farmers from all over the region and therefore produced a huge variety of different products. I had even met him the previous month at the SCAA coffee fair in Boston and had seen the brightly colored brochure outlining the different juices and coffee that Chanchamayo Highland Coffee offered. But as I looked out the truck window at the unknown city before me, I realized that I had never once thought to ask about what the jungle or Jose’s business would look like.
I was thinking that we must have been driving to some storefront on the main road when we turned off unto a dusty side street. The truck’s headlights illuminated a big circular sign ahead painted with the Chanchamayo Highland Coffee logo. An arrow underneath the sign pointed to the right. We turned and the road immediately opened up into a clearing with a huge white warehouse with a sign hanging over the two giant open doors. Lights framed the doors, which were also flanked by two tall palm trees. Jose pulled up to the front and we stepped out of the truck. In the morning, I would realize that to the right side of the building was a perfect view of the cloud covered mountains and the river flowing below them. We walked inside and I was immediately amazed by the vast size of the place and the many shelves and tables full of different items. There were jams, juices, honey, purses, and wooden carvings. A section near the front was set up with tables and chairs for people to sit down and relax. Many people were sitting around eating ice cream. As Jose led us over to these tables, I saw one that had a sign reading “reserved for Dan Hildebrandt.” Jose invited us to sit down and Dan and him began talking. I concentrated on understanding as much as the conversation as possible. A little while later we left to eat dinner but over the course of the next few days in La Merced, we would spend a lot of time there.