Guatemala is one of the most sought after origins for coffee, producing coffee at relatively high altitudes, and developing a variety of different flavor profiles due to a diverse microclimate. The microclimate and the flavors every coffee cultivates depends on the region of the farm within the country and even which part of the farm it is grown on. Guatemala has consistently plentiful rainfall as well. These are just a few of the factors as to why Guatemala has the ability to produce high quality coffees that are prized throughout the world.
There are 8 different growing regions throughout the country, each with unique characteristics depending on the exact amount of rainfall, elevation, humidity and temperature the coffee is grown within. One of the most popular regions for Guatemalan coffee is Antigua, which produces a very rich, sweet coffee with plenty of chocolate and a balanced acidity. The region is surrounded by three volcanoes, which occasionally erupt and influence the outcome of the coffee flavor through both the minerals in the soil and dustings of ash.
Another volcanic region in Guatemala is Acatenango, which due to its distance from the Pacific Ocean, has a unique constant stream of breeze that has led coffee producers in this region to choose to sun dry their coffees. The eruptions of nearby Fuego keep the soil rich with minerals while the coffee trees grow at over 6,500 feet of elevation in a dense forest. This produces a coffee with vibrant acidity and fruit like characteristics, while maintaining the balanced structure that Guatemalan coffees are known for.
More than a Buzzword
These aren’t the only two regions where coffee is shade-grown; 98% of Guatemalan coffee is shade grown, enhancing the overall sweetness of the coffee, protecting the crop from harsh sunlight and rain, and saving the plants from damage to their leaves. Shade-grown isn’t just a buzz word—it’s a super integral part of producing high-quality coffees.
Anacafe & Supporting Farmers
The growing regions of Acatenango and Antigua, as well as 6 other regions, are monitored and supported by a local organization called Anacafe. Anacafe works with producers to help them achieve sustainable, high quality production. They do this by providing programming along with helping to develop projects that make coffee better quality, and in turn allow the producers to sell higher quality coffees.
Rachel and Jiyoon, the founders of Bean & Bean, traveled to Guatemala for the Cup of Excellence in June, taking some extra time to visit our longtime producer partner Anabella Menses at Santa Felisa in Acatenango. Although we’ve never stopped buying her coffee, our last trip to visit Santa Felisa was right before COVID, over three years ago.
Santa Felisa was the very first farm to bring the Gesha varietal to Guatemala, and Anabella is revered in coffee processing and farming due to her innovative techniques. Anabella, who is an Agronomist, Ecologist, and Q-Grader, has taken farming to the next level at Santa Felisa. She is in control of every single lot that is processed at the farm–developing different methods of fermentation and drying through many years of research and experimentation. This has led her to outstanding results, having placed 8 times in the Guatemala Cup of Excellence, winning overall in 2017.
We took the 1.5 hour drive from Guatemala City to Acatenango to cup this year's fresh crop with Anabella herself, cupping some of her new experimental varieties. It’s invaluable to be able to cup with the producer herself, becoming calibrated in what we are looking for and experiencing with the coffee, while also being able to give direct feedback.
We’re devoted buyers of Anabella’s coffees, and have several on our menu right now. Of course we have her Gesha in washed, honey processed and the natural heap. While all the same variety, each processing method brings something different and unique to the experience of the final product while maintaining a delicate florality, deep sweetness and structure. Anabella’s Red Pacamara and Orange Honey are outstanding as well, each producing intense fruit like flavors with a clean finish.