It’s a quiet afternoon, I hear chickens cackle behind me, while in front of me I can hear women talk. As I walk towards the four women, I see them sitting in the shadow of the storage building, straight backs and busy hands. They are dressed comfortably in Tracksuit bottoms, with sports T-shirts and a jacket. One of them has a T-shirt wrapped around her head to protect her from the sun.
Pai Tai (36) is one of the women that works for Silaa Coffee. She has the friendliest smile and a quiet and shy appearance. She is one of the workers of the first hour for Silaa Coffee. And as she sits, she recalls those first years of hard work: ‘I was there from the start, when we still worked inside the house of Rien and Maaike [the owners]. We didn’t have any machines and we had to select everything by hand. First, we had to find the bad beans, then the peaberries [a special type of beans] and then select the sizes. I was so happy when Rien made the ‘shaker machine’. Now I’m not so tired after work anymore, we only have to sort the sorts. Before we had to select and select and select until we were very tired.’
Having to do this tedious job that seemed to have no end to it, made her almost depressed. The machine selects the sizes for them, the women only have to find the different sort of beans. Selecting beans is now Pai Tai’s favorite job in the whole process of coffee making, ‘With this, I cannot make any mistakes, but when we package the coffee, I have to concentrate very hard, because I shouldn’t make any mistakes.’ All she has to do is look at the shape of the bean and put it in the right bowl, it’s not a very complicated task. After this part of the process, the beans will be roasted into their well known dark brown coffee color and packaged.
As the afternoon continues and the hours go by the women talk, Pai Tai gives me one of her best laughs when she tells me what they talk about. It’s not the children, or the work. It’s most likely to find them talking about their husbands, complaining when he is not helping them. ‘But‘, she quickly adds ‘we also share the good stories, we really do.’
Even though the first years might have been hard work, Pai Tai still works for Silaa Coffee, which provided her and her family with a steady income