Guatemala is a vastly diverse and rich landscape of volcanic slopes and tropical rainforests, with over 300 microclimates, high altitudes, constant rainfall and mineral-rich soils. It’s a recipe for wonderful coffee and the country certainly produces some of the best coffees in the world. Introduced to Guatemala in the 18th century by the Jesuits, coffee has defined the country’s financial pillar and economy for over two centuries.
There are an estimated 120,000 coffee producers today covering an area of 270,000 hectares and coffee cultivation is established in 20 of Guatemala’s 22 districts, mainly covered by small farms working with wet mills, tending to shade-grown Arabica varieties, although independent processing facilities are proving more and more popular with the smallholders.
Since the 1990s The Guatemalan National Coffee Association, Anacafé, has established an innovative system to define the country’s coffee growing region based on cup profile, climate, soil and altitude, identifying 8 districts producing Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) coffee; the Acatenango Valley, Antigua, Atitlán, Cobán, the Fraijanes plateau, Huehuetanango, Nuevo Oriente and San Marcos. Initiatives such as this not only extend the farmer’s knowledge of growing, harvesting and processing practices, but also incentivize future quality production across the country.
This is a country whose biodiversity and history of coffee production, alongside innovation and structure that is sure to keep its coffee's quality up there with some of the best in the world.
Growing Regions: Highland Huehuetanango, Cobán, Atitlán, Volcan San Marcos, Antigua, Acatenango, Oriente (1,300 – 2,000 masl)
Varieties: Caturra, Bourbon, Catuai, Typica, Maragogype, Pache
Processes: Abundant water means coffee processing involves the washed method, but there are some naturals.
Harvest: November - April
World Ranking: 10th Largest Coffee Producer in the World
Tasting Notes: Diverse, medium-to-full bodied coffee with flavour ranges of bright red fruity florals with high acidity and a clean finish, to smokey, spicey and chocolatey creaminess
By Tom Haigh