Brit risks life finding finest coffee beans in world’s most dangerous places – Daily News

Brit risks life finding finest coffee beans in world’s most dangerous places  – Daily News

  As gangsters approached his car and pointed their machine-guns at his head, Will Corby was convinced his time was up  The 33-year-old was already used to ­risking his life working as a coffee buyer in the world’s most dangerous places  And he thought his end had finally come after witnessing a car crash involving a ­notorious gang member in El Salvador  The “serious hombres” surrounding his vehicle were from the MS-13 drugs gang – said to be the most violent in the world  But the thugs decided not to execute Will and his travelling companions after finding they were in a Red Cross car   He recalled the most terrifying moment of his career as being like a scene from the Netflix crime series Narcos, about South American drug kingpin Pablo Escobar  Will told the Sunday People: “I was sourcing coffee from farms and made friends with some Europeans staying at my hotel  “I was going to take a taxi to the capital, San Salvador, but my new friends, who worked for the Red Cross, offered me a lift  “Driving after dark is a big no-no, it’s very dangerous, but we hit heavy traffic and were still in the car at sunset A 4×4 drove up the hard shoulder, pulled in ahead of us and crashed straight into the car ahead  “Red is the colour of MS-13. No one wears red there apart from that gang. Just wearing red could get you shot  “This 4×4 had a big red circle on it. A big, dangerous-looking guy got out talking on the phone and suddenly two motorbikes arrived – armed with automatic rifles  “We were about one metre away from them and they were pointing at our car.  “I thought they were going to kill us I was shaking, adrenaline pumping.  “They saw that we were in a Red Cross vehicle so they left us alone  “I think they would have killed us as ­witnesses otherwise.  “The Red Cross has helped improve prisons in El Salvador, where many of the crime bosses are, so they have immunity and protection in the country from gangs ”  Will, dubbed the Caffeine Kid, sources beans for London ethical coffee firm Pact  He said: “Sourcing coffee brings you to some of the most dangerous places in the world Coca – used to make cocaine – grows perfectly in the same conditions as coffee. It really is like the series Narcos  “Most of the coca is produced in South America but transported through Central America to reach its biggest market – the US    “So these transportation routes have led to a lot of gang activity and violence in Central America, particularly places such as Honduras and El Salvador  “In El Salvador violence is so endemic that most people have bullet-proof glass in their cars One of the farmers was burned out of their home which I believe was by a drug cartel who wanted to use his land for coca cultivation  “He and his family escaped and returned, defiant, to grow their coffee. Now we work with them, paying a good price for their coffee and working with them to improve what is already an excellent product  “We hope that paying farmers a decent price to produce quality coffee can give people a good sustainable living and a route away from crime and poverty ”  Before travelling anywhere, Will consults security firms which analyse the risks he faces They arrange his security, which can include bullet-proof jeeps with armed bodyguards  “At a minimum we take an ­incognito armed security guard with us but in the most dangerous areas we travel as part of a ­motorcade with armed police in armoured vehicles  “We take bullet-proof vehicles whenever we need them.  “They’re very heavy with lots more metal and glass than a regular car has and they’re not very comfortable so we try to avoid them if we can  “The larger farms often have heavy ­security at their farms with guards carrying automatic rifles to keep gangs and drug cartels out  “And our suppliers will tip us off if there is any hassle locally with gangs.  “They know that I’m risking my life to work with them so they try to protect me  “And we try not to deal with renters – farmers who are paying protection money to local gangs ”  Despite the constant threat of violence, Will has chosen not to carry a gun himself He said: “Ant Middleton, from SAS: Who Dares Wins said that unless you’re highly trained, carrying a gun actually increases your danger  “Ant’s advice is to run, hide, tell, and I’ve taken that advice on board.  “The key skill is to be vigilant and prepare  “I always carry a go-bag that contains my passport, cash, water, some food, my pen knife with a multitool and a towel, just in case I have to run for my life ”  Recalling another brush with death, Will explained how he was once stopped by militia while travelling through a remote part of El Salvador  Instead of fearing for his own safety his thoughts were with his local ­companions, who had risked their lives to help him find coffee beans  “Armed soldiers stopped my car. They asked me what I was doing there and told me to give them my passport  “They laughed as they told me that when the ransom came in, they’d know it was for me  “I was terrified. I knew that when foreigners are taken hostage everyone else is killed  “I didn’t want to think that I was putting the people who were trying to help me in danger but moments later they let us go on ”  Will’s quest to find the perfect coffee bean has brought him far from the South American tourist trail  He said: “Norte de Santander, in Colombia, borders Venezuela and is part of a smuggling route Deep in its highlands are the best places to grow cocaine on the planet.  “But it’s also a region that has the terroir to produce ­incredible ­coffee and ­dedicated ­farmers who are proud of their produce  “I travel there in a 4×4 with blacked out windows and try to go as under the ­radar as possible  “Many of these people face danger on a daily basis but they are so resilient and they keep fighting to grow great coffee It’s amazing seeing the level of pride they have.  “Coffee is grown in some of the poorest parts of the planet  “But by paying these farmers fair prices and helping them improve their crops we’ve seen them and their communities thrive Forty-two thousand people buy our coffee, which has allowed us to positively impact 10,000 people’s lives globally  “We want to be as big as possible so we can change the world for the better.  “Often when you buy coffee you buy rotten beans that have been damaged by insects or chipped  “But we carefully select our beans and have them expertly milled.  “It makes a huge difference to the taste and flavour so you can get different ­characteristics, like orange marmalade or caramel or biscuit  “Where we go can be very dangerous and it’s important not to normalise that in your head You need to remember your situation and stay switched on so you can make the right decision at the crucial moment  “But I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s my dream job.”

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