Green Coffee Offerings : Central America : Guatemala
Upcoming Crop Comments
New-crop Guatemalan coffee has arrived! We're super excited to be able to list these first few lots much earlier than expected. It's going to be a great year for us in Guatemala. Make sure to take a look at our in-depth and detailed description of our "Proycto Xinabajul" project that we started working on in Huehuetenango.
About Guatemalan Coffee
Guatemalan coffee is arguably the crown jewel of Central America coffees.There are diverse growing regions within the country that have the altitude, soil and climate conditions to produce great coffee. Antigua coffees are well-known and highly rated. Huehuetenango from the north highland can be exceptional and have distinct acidity and fruited flavors. Acatenango, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes and Quiche can be nice. But the key to a great coffee isn't in the regional demarcation, but in the characteristics specific to the farm itself, and the farmer that works it. Is the health of the soil maintained with good agricultural practices? Is the picking done with care, excluding under-ripe and over-ripe fruits? Is the wet-process performed with diligence and consistency? Is the coffee tree a sustainable variety, or a newer over-producing hybrid?
Political instability has often interfered with the quality of Guatemalan coffee, and more importantly the shared success of the coffee farmer great and small. The current issues affecting rural Guatemalans and those from the city is crime and general insecurity. But there is a dynamic and democratic process in place, and we hope to see peace and prosperity return to the countryside. Many of Sweet Maria's coffees from Guatemala are bought with direct contact from the farm, and prices negotiated with the farmer per our Farm Gate Coffee program.
Way back, I did one of my first travelogues for a trip to northern Guatemala. More recently, my notes and pictures from the 2006 Guatemala Cup of Excellence competition are uploaded and 2 trips from early 2008, linked from our Coffee Library page. And sundry newer trips 2x a year at leas that I now neglect to fully record, sadly. - Tom
Acatenango is one of the under appreciated growing regions of Guatemala. It has always been overshadowed by nearby Antigua, and in fact many Acatenango coffees were sold as Antigua lots for many years. In mill-mark Antiguas, this is still the case, since farmers who sell cherries or the collectors who round it up and bring it to the mill rarely respect such boundaries. But Acatenango coffees come from some of the most beautiful farms I have seen in Guatemala, and San Diego Buena Vista is a case in point. I have visited this farm and was impressed with their practices, the way they have separated all the cultivars on the farm, and the beautiful condition of the mill. When I was there, all the harvest was in, and they were reconditioning the mill, replacing bearings, cleaning and painting. Reinvestment and pride are always good signs at a mill! Cleanliness doesn't hurt either, and the SDBV mill, while quite old, was beautiful, even down to the flowers rimming the office alongside the drying patio.
It's a really classic Guatemala coffee too, a balanced and well-structured flavor profile. The dry fragrance of the SDVB is mild, restrained, and with notes of milk chocolate and roasted almond. There's a refined sweetness that builds momentum when adding hot water. The wet aromatics have a pumpkin pie smell to them that is sweet, and spiced with nutmeg and all-spice. There is a sharper sweet scent in the break, like toasted caramel, along with a note of raw almond. In the cup, the body is a key feature here, with a distinct thick, dense mouthfeel. The cup is Guatemala all the way. It has that great relationship between sweetness and bittersweetness, as well as brightness, body and cup flavor. At City+, the flavors are sugary sweet, with a note of raw pistachio in the background. Apple and raisin pair with notes of cinnamon and other warming spices, and a hint of Zacapa shows between the caramel-vanilla and spice notes. There's a citric brightness at these lighter roast levels that is obscured by a dark chocolate 'tang' in dark roasts. In terms of this great balance of cup qualities, this is the expression of Bourbon cultivar all the way. This has always been one of our favorite Guatemalan SO espressos; lemon-zested chocolate velvet!
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El Regalito is a newer farm in the region of Cuilco, Huehuetenango, that has come up from the hard work and supervision of the Villatoro family who are 2nd and 3rd generation coffee farmers. Regalito means "little gift." This particular farm is focused on "specialty" coffees, which is due in part to the prime conditions of Regalito's locale. The farm is situated in a valley between two steep mountain sides, providing perfect topography for growing coffee, and ideal shade provision from the surrounding natural forest. El Regalito is planted with a mix of Caturra and Bourbon varietals, and the altitude varies between 1,300 to just under 1,700 masl.
Aromatically, this lot from Regalito has a great mix of dry fruits and developed sugar sweetness. Grinding the coffee brings about a smell of dried apple and apricot, as well as honey. Baking spices linger, especially in dark roasts, developing notes of clove and cinnamon. The wet grounds have a super sweet smell of vanilla and caramel. There's also a scent of butterscotch brownie and a floral note of chamomile tea. This provides an accurate glimpse into the cup profile, with fruits building in the cooling cup. Date, currant, golden raisin, white peach, nectarine - this lot is definitely more fruited than last year's. These fruits provide amazing flavor and the clean, crisp finish adds an overall elegance to the cup profile. This coffee is very sweet, all the way through to the long aftertaste which is like caramel and raw almond. Full City roasts retain much of the fruited profile found in lighter roasts, but with an accompanying flavor of dark chocolate. This is the kind of solid Guatemalan coffee that's not only "approachable", but "preferable" (to me)! This will work great as a SO espresso too.
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El Turbante is one of several small towns perched on the spine of a mountain in Huehuetenango. The area has produced some really nice coffees, but the opportunity finds its way to large farms who can market their coffee and enter competitions rarely spreads to their small-scale neighbors. We partnered with locals to try to reward these small farmers with better prices than they had ever seen, if they could grow and process coffee that meets our ideas of quality. This lot is testament to the fact that they could do it, and did do it. In the past the only options to local farmers was to sell the "coyotes" who drive around offering cash for coffee, or to sell the bigger farms and mills in the zone. But neither rewarded the farmer with a better price for quality coffee.
The dry fragrance of El Turbante has vanilla and toasted sugar, along with a very sweet smell of raw honey. Hot water brings up a smell of praline nut in the steam, with a mingling of butter and sugar caramelization. There is a smell of dark fruits as well that translates to red raisin on the break. This is a nice, sweet coffee with a range of acidity from tartaric (green grape) to malic (red pear). And while not 'explosive' by any means, the acidity remains clear and present from light to dark roasts. Fruits like raisin and plum are subtle and pleasing. El Turbante cools with a red apple sweetness along with an underlying flavor of green nut. The finish is sweet and with a nice bittering allusion to citrus rind. This is what we call 'approachable' in every sense of the word, and will also make a great dual-use coffee.
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Hacienda Carmona is located in Antigua at 5200-6100 feet altitude. They call the single-farm coffee from Carmona "Cafe Pulcal" which is the name of their mill as well. The farm dates to early colonial times, but coffee was planted 1800s when the farm was acquired by the Zelaya family, and first exported in 1918. Carmona is run by Maria Zelaya Aguirre since 1959, and she is the third generation that works and lives at Hacienda Carmona. While Maria certainly cares for her coffee, she is also so fond of her herd of cattle that she has named each one after a name of her friends (human friends, that is), so she is indeed quite a character. Luis Pedro Zelaya helps to manage the coffee at this point, and in fact we tried to visit after I finished my duties at the Cup of Excellence this year, but the explosion of Volcan Pacaya followed by torrential rains meant all routes to the farm were impassible. Carmona is said to have a unique micro-climate in the Antigua valley as well as hillside exposure and well-draining soils. To form this lot, we cupped too many small "day lots" to count, selecting those that had the best sweetness and brightness. Day lots are small harvest batches from particular areas of the farm. We opted for middle-of-the-harvest day lots since even and abundant ripeness means better cherry selection, and these are also from the higher reaches of the farm.
Pulcal is consistently a balanced coffee in sweetness, body, and acidity. There's a perfumed sweetness in the dry fragrance along with dried dark fruits like raisin and fig, and a not of cacao. Adding hot water brings up nutty smell in the steam, like candied pecan, and a sugary note of brown sugar and butter. Wafts of black walnut and baker's chocolate are released from beneath the crust on the break. The cup is sweet and silky. There's a delicateness to the acidity that comes off as refreshing in mouthfeel, and with notes of mandarin orange, blackberry and red currant. The finish is long and carries with it a dark cocoa flavor as well as red berry. This is a versatile coffee that makes a crowd pleasing cup and also makes great SO espresso at more developed roast levels.
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As you descend into the picturesque town of Antigua on the road from Guatemala City, you will see an old brick wall and the unlikely gold script lettering that reads "Cabrejo." This is the entrance to the home of Agustin Fashen, and the gateway to the lower part of Finca Cabrejo that lies between the one-way roads in and out of Antigua. To get to the higher part of the farm, you will find a much less ornate sign, if you can find it at all. It spans a wide range, from 1,585-1,920 meters, and the trees seem to be in various stages of care, various types, various ages. That is why the farm is undergoing renovation, adding better road access and replanting some parts. The current shrubs are mainly Bourbon, Caturra and some Catuai. Actually, we found some very old Arabigo (Typica) plants as well, and some had yellow fruit! The crop was much smaller from Cabrejo this year, but the cup quality is outstanding again.
Cabrejo is a juicy coffee with much in the way of fruit complexity and sugar browning sweetness. The dry fragrance verges on floral and is intensely sweet with the smell of honey, along with slight hints of apricot, peach, and marzipan. Caramel notes play a large part in the wet aroma and is layered with suggestions of vanilla bean and cinnamon. It's such a sweet set of scents and provides accurate allusion to the cup profile. As a brewed coffee, Cabrejo has such clarity, and the compilation of flavors making up the profile are pristine in flavor and finish. Malic fruits such as red apple, Bosc pear, and plum are central fruited characteristics in the City to City+ roast range. Cabrejo has a honey sweetness that is expressed in flavor and also defines the silky mouthfeel. Sweet fruits continue to pop up as the cup cools, with notes of black currant and raisin to name a few, and really add to the overall complexity of this coffee's profile. This coffee finishes with an expression of prailine candy, which hangs around long in the aftertaste. Darker roasts are deliciously juicy with lots of fruit juice and dark chocolate. Full City roasts and beyond make great SO espresso as well - so viscous and sweet.
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Finca Rosma is a small farm near Michicoy town in San Pedro Necta area of Huehuetenango. It's not far from other farms we have bought from, like Finca Huixoc and La Providencia Dos. Finca Rosma is owned by the Rosales family, managed by the son Fredy Rosales. The name is in honor of his grandmother, Rosemarie. It's located on a high ridge where you drive in to the farm at nearly 1900 meters, then descend down to the mill at around 1600 meters. When Alejandro Rosales bought the farm in 1963, the only way to get there was by foot, or horseback. It's not that easy of a trek by road, either. The farm is quite steep, typical for the high ridges of the Sierra Los Cuchumatanes mountains. I found the plantings to be quite a jumble of cultivars. There were certainly a lot of old Bourbon trees, but I saw a lot of Typica (Arabigo), and some Caturra and Catuai as well. There were red and yellow varietals. Processing is wet-process, traditional fermentation, but they are working with a very tight space; there is not a lot of flat areas in this topography. So they have to manage their batch sizes carefully or they will rapidly run out of patio space for sun-drying the coffee. Regardless of the details, they are producing an amazing coffee, and I wouldn't suggest that they change a thing! Since it's reached as high as #2 at past COEs, it seems others agree.
Finca Rosma is very sweet in the aromatics, laced with prized floral and fruited elements. The dry grounds have dark cherry and a bit of pineapple, with raw honey lingering in the background. There's also a nice scent of developed sugars that deepens with darker roasts. The wet aroma has the essence of baked peach, with notes of brown sugar and butter which pair nicely. It's a very attractive set of scents that accurately depicts this coffee's cup profile. There's a clarity to Rosma that is well defined. At City/City+ roast level Rosma is luminescent with the acidity of green grape and a hint of black tea with lemon. This coffee has such delicious fruits like blackberry, raisin, and plum. Dark roasts have the sweetness of concord grape juice, fig and date, as well as a note of chocolate pudding. The mouthfeel is thick and satiny, almost like melted butter at first. The finish is sweet, but with a tannic quality that you'd expect from black tea, adding to the overall complexity of the cup. Rosma is such a unique coffee, and with a slightly darker roast, makes an amazing SO espresso.
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Antonio "Tono" Sanchez's farm is located in the Chichimes region of Huehuetenango. Antonio's been in the coffee trade as a buyer for over 40 years, but decided to buy his own farm, along with the help of his brother. They process their own coffee cherry as well as the coffee from many other small-holder farmers in the Chichimes region. This particular lot is only coffee grown on the Sanchez farm proper, which sits at a range of 1500 - 1800 meters and is planted primarily in Bourbon and Catuai, and Typica. We cupped quite a few amazing day lot samples from his farm and were lucky enough to put together a blended lot of significant proportion.
This lot from Tono Sanchez has a nice fruit syrup sweetness and is uniquely spiced all the way through. Grinding the coffee, smells of apricot and peach hang in the air along with notes of cinnamon and clove. Dark roasts have a layer of bittersweet chocolate that is slightly dominant in a good way. Hot water builds on the fruited sweetness and the aromatics remind me of fruit leather - condensed sweetness of fruit pectin. Breaking the crust releases a note of dark cacao as well as a scent of toasting sugars. The amount of fruit and cocoa tasted in the cup is impressive. Flavors of blackberry syrup, apple juice, and pear come to mind in the cooling cup. These flavors are immediately vying for attention against a growing presence of dark chocolate and cinnamon. It's a nice marriage of flavors which change places more than once into a sweet finish. Acidity is gentle but well defined, and with accents of malic fruits. Our dark roast had much more of a berry aspect as well as very high % cacao. These Full City/Full City+ roasts will make amazing single origin espressos.
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This is a special 20 lbs sampler that consists of 4 different coffees,from Central and South America. With so many regions from these areas providing us with new crop coffees right now, it's a great opportunity for us to pass along variety and volume to our home roasters. Normally when you buy a 20 LB bag of coffee from us it has to be all one single origin or blend, so this is a nice way to split up some of that volume between a few different options. We put in a lot of work in Guatemala this year, so the sampler will consist of two Guatemalan coffees, as well as one-each selection from Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, and El Salvador. Your coffee will ship in our regular mylar 5 LB zip bags, no fancy cloth bags like our full 20 LB bags.
Due to the special pricing for this sampler we cannot honor special requests nor accept returns. Thanks.
New crop Central American coffees are already here, and regions in South America are beginning to trickle in now. This means that we'll be working into new regions and lots as they arrive. And for now, here is an example of the lots you'll see included in this XL Sampler - Please keep in mind we will be doing the selecting and lots will come and go, but trust us, we'll pick 4 great lots along the lines of the following:
- Guatemalal Huehuetenango Tono Sanchez
- Guatemala Huehuetenango Xinabajul
- Guatemala Antigua Finca Retana
- Nicaragua Acopio Suyutal
- El Salvador Majahual - Tablon Tempisque
- Honduras Dolores Merendon
- Peru FTO Cecovasa
To view reviews for out of stock coffees, visit our Guatemala Coffee Archives.
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Tom's Sample Cupping Log | Moisture Content Readings
This page is authored by Thompson Owen and Sweet Maria's Coffee, Inc. and is not to be copied or reproduced without permission