We love Guatemalan coffees. We adore that there are so many passionate small hold farms producing some really amazing coffee. Coffee from Huehuetenango is often of very high quality, and exemplifies what we look for in Guats: it is balanced and clean with a predominantly nutty flavour profile. But this coffee surprised us with a really juicy sweetness that made us think of a mimosa; it has a bright orange sweetness with a hint of raspberry.
Information on the farm from our Importing partner, Shared Source:
Huehuetenango is a beautiful place to grow coffee- limestone soils, searing high altitudes, cold nights and hot days all come together as the ingredients to allow traditional varietals (bourbon, caturra and the likes) to produce high-quality coffee. Our coffees from Guatemala sometimes arrive a bit later in the year because we’re waiting for the coffees from Huehuetenango to ripen and be processed, and we’re committed to waiting for partner producers’ last pickings to dry so that we can pay premium prices for their high-altitude lots.
Traditionally, this is an area where small farmers process and dry their own coffee, as opposed to selling red cherries to the local coyote. Selling dry parchment coffee allows smallholders to take the biggest piece of the pie possible. Some of our most valued relationships are with associations and cooperatives who are bringing smallholder farmer members together to farm more ecologically, improve coffee quality, and access buyers. The ASIAST association in San Antonio Huista- where Alan Ochoa is a member- is a special one for us because we were the first importers to purchase directly from ASIAST, and we’re proud to maintain a special relationship with them.
We’ve watched as they’ve been featured in news articles as a success case, the first cooperative in the region to sell microlots directly to the final buyer. The group is also implementing ecological processes on members’ farms, in some cases some really interesting and revolutionary changes! In this drought-prone area, many farms are isolated and only accessible by foot and services are very restricted. We’ve seen terracing and planting in contour lines to capture water and avoid soil erosion; planting of shrubs in between rows of coffee plants to retain water; high percentage of shade cover; planting native shade trees; composting systems, brews for organic fertilization and a community-run recycling program. The group sees these practices as the only way to combat climate change, which has devastated production in recent years.
This caturra lot came from Alan Ochoa, a member of the ASIAST association. But Alan traveled to the US in search of greener economic pastures, and his mother Elvia Monzón- an internationally-recognized coffee producer in her own right- processed this lot on his behalf. Elvia has worked in coffee since she was 16 years old, and taught her children to farm coffee as well. (Elvia is also the former president of a different association in the region- when she joined, she was the only woman member and first woman president. She also keeps bees! Elvia has been widely and appropriately celebrated in the industry for her efforts to promote women coffee producers and create space for them to thrive in the industry- but for now, we’ll focus on her work to produce the coffee from Alan’s farm.) Alan’s farm (that Elvia helped him to manage this year) is around 1600 masl, and you have to reach the farm on foot. They manage the farm with a combination of organic and synthetic chemical fertilizers, though they’d like to fully transition to just organic products. Elvia makes some organic products on the farm, mixing coffee pulp with dry leaves and weeds to create a spray that adds nutrients to soils and keeps them healthy. Shared Source exports from Colombia and Guatemala and imports into the US. We are farmgate purchasers, paying in-full directly to producers or their independent associations, upon delivery of parchment, in local currency.
We pay prices that we know are socially impactful, and we are not externally financed. MUCHAS GRACIAS ¡QUE DISFRUTEN! Working alongside ecologically-focused smallholder producers to cultivate unconventional coffee. To process the coffee, Elvia and the pickers cut cherries until around 1pm- from there, they de-pulp the coffee and bring the parchment down to the house where there’s a shaded tank. The fermentation starts around 4pm, and she leaves it for about 12 hours until an early AM wake-up to check on it around 4am to see if it’s time to wash the coffee. Unlike other producers in the region, Elvia doesn’t add water to the fermentation tank, which likely influences the fruit-forward profile of the coffee. She takes the coffee to dry both on a patio and in a covered dryer.
In the case of producers working with cooperatives and associations, we purchase parchment coffee directly from the association, transferring quetzals straight to their bank account upon receipt of parchment at our chosen mill. The co-ops and associations then pay the individual producers. Our price floor for ASIAST this year was 1275 quetzales per quintal, and the weighted average for coffees from ASIAST was 1375 quetzales per quintal (a quintal is around 100 lbs of parchment coffee). The cost of production in Guatemala has been calculated to be around 700-800 quetzals/quintal, though of course that can vary widely based on labor costs, farm inputs, and farm management. The 2021 harvest was our fourth year buying coffee in parchment directly from ASIAST, and our first year buying coffee from Alan and Elvia