Graduate students arrive in Guatemala — energized and ready to take on the world. They plan to follow the path of coffee beans from a peasant coffee-growing community in the western highlands through the chain of buyers, co-ops, exporters, and roasters, all the way to a café in San Francisco.
As the students investigate the profit made at every link in the coffee chain, they confront a series of unexpected events that illuminate globalization in surprising ways. They befriend a coffee-growing peasant family who recount their family stories of fortune and tragedy wrought by coffee over generations of their Mayan family history. The relationship deepens between the family and the students. Then catastrophe strikes and the students must choose how to respond.