During the month of October, El Meson Sandwiches is celebrating “Manos al Cafetal” (“A Hand to the Coffee Farms”), an initiative to raise awareness about the lack of workers available to harvest Puerto Rico’s coffee crops.
The initiative will run for three Saturdays this month at coffee farms in Lares and Adjuntas, during which more than 500 restaurant employees will volunteer, lending their hands to pick the coffee beans. During the first outing last Saturday, participants collected 1,724 pounds of coffee beans.
This is the second year in a row that the company sponsors the event, which donates the money from the harvested coffee to create a scholarship that will be awarded to an outstanding student of the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez Campus’ School of Agriculture.
“We’re proud to offer our customers the coffee we’ve picked with our own hands,” Felipe Pérez-Grajales, president of El Mesón Sandwiches said referring to the 100 percent Puerto Rican Arabica coffee bean that is roasted and packaged 24 to 72 hours prior to arriving at the restaurant to ensure flavor and freshness.
For his part, Ricardo González, marketing director for the local sandwich chain, said they plan to invite restaurant patrons — including schools, organizations and private businesses — to next year’s coffee-picking event.
“We want the public to know the importance of supporting the local coffee industry. This is work that is done manually, as there are no machines that can identify grains that are ready to be collected,” he said. “By supporting coffee farmers, we help to make sure crops aren’t lost.”