Engel was invited to attend “Po Shui Jie” (the Water-Splashing festival) which celebrates the New Year and the dousing of friends, families and even strangers with clean water. By this time Engel’s original teacher-student relationship was evolving into one of friendship, and even of a relative.When asked if anything left her with a deep impression, she laughed and said locals are teaching her how to drive a tractor in the mountains. This process made her both extremely nervous and happy beyond measure. This was her first time learning how to drive a tractor, but after some practice she was able to drive off on her own.When Engel mentions Mr. Hu (Hu Zong), she cannot contain her excitement. From her expressions, it is easy to surmise her impression of Mr. Hu. According to Engel, Mr. Hu already owns seven coffee plantations, but he lives an even more low-key life than a farmer.In these recent years, he has introduced new techniques to coffee farmers and is frequently participating in exhibitions on how to improve the coffee market. He wants to help increase the income for the workers and has their best interests in mind.It’s not hard to see the Mr. Hu that Engel holds in great esteem is an ideal representative of the coffee farmers’ dreams. Mr. Hu’s dream is to help farmers improve their lives. He does not do this just for himself, but for the lives of those who work and toil in the same industry.In addition to Menglian, Engel has visited Pu’er, Dehong, Baoshan, and other major coffee growing areas to better understand the holistic methods of planting, picking, and processing coffee in Yunnan. The environmental impact of the industry has also been part of her studies.The capstone of all of her research has been made into the form of a short film. We invite you to see the film, “Stories from the Fields” and to join MJ Engel in a lively discussion.
Well-known Chinese publisher Zhan Hongzhi says in The Way Coffee Should Be: “take my spirit in exchange for a cup of coffee: black as betrayal, hot as a scorned lover, bitter like cancer, scorched like a battlefield, and into an opium-like stupor, I will be just fine”.
What does coffee mean to you? How do you see it in your everyday life?
Where did you imagine it came from?
Article written by: Kitty Huang
Translation by: May Braverman & Jeanee Linden
Photos by: Long Ge