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As it is snowing in Massachusetts, I can’t help but say Puchica and reminisce about my last trip to Guatemala. When in Guatemala, it is ok to say Puchica which basically means Damn and Guatemala coffee is Damn good 🙂 Guatemala is one of my favorite countries to visit, it has amazingly beautiful landscapes and is rich in culture, food, and of course great coffee. It is also a special place for me since it also where my fiancé’s family is from and each trip back contains some family time as well as pursuing great Guatemalan coffees for our upcoming Airis Offerings.
When I’m in Guatemala City, one of my favorite cafe’s is Paradigma Café. Third wave coffee culture is alive and prospering in the many great cafes scattered throughout the city and Paradigma really shines. This café is actually one of about 4 café’s on a single street. The owner and barista was the 2015 World Barista champion. The café has a modern design and the slogan “COFFEE It’s always a good idea”. It’s more of a coffee bar featuring a choice of coffees brewed in various ways by baristas who have a passion for coffee and know what they are doing. It’s a refreshing experience.
My journey into Guatemalan coffee always seems make a stop in Antigua. Antigua is a famed Spanish colonial city about 1 hour to the south of Guatemala City. What is astonishing about Antigua is that every spot in the city is a post card view. It’s a city of cobblestone streets filled with artisans, quaint restaurants, cafes, street markets and the most beautiful hand carved wooden front doors that you have ever seen. The town is flanked by 3 volcanoes; Fuego (fire) Agua (Water) and Acetenango. When I was there, Volcan Fuego was erupting, spewing lava 100 meters into the sky, thus giving me new meaning to the heavily used coffee term “ coffee grown on volcanic soil”.
Antigua is a famed coffee growing region. It is made up of 34 farms which has a governing body called APCA (http://coffee.antiguacoffee.org/portal/index.php) . It’s main objective being to promote Genuine Antigua Coffee and protect the name. There is a large problem of coffee being and roasted and sold to the consumer claiming it is Genuine Antigua Coffee when it really isn’t. The members of the APCA also work to better their community, providing health and education services for their people.
Fraudulent labeling is a pet peeve of mine and it happens a lot with famed coffee regions like Antigua. No matter where coffee is grown, to truly know that you are getting what you pay for, a roaster should have no problem opening up his or her roasterie and showing you the bags of coffee. We do this with our clients all the time. Genuine Antigua Coffee will have that written directly on the bag itself. There are many regions throughout the world where fraud in coffee is rampant. Consumers are being overcharged and taken advantage. For example, based on present coffee prices if you are paying anything less than $75 / lb for Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, you probably are getting a diluted blend or not the real thing.
Thank you Carlos and Finca San Rafael for the hospitality!
Visiting coffee farms is an incredible experience. I’m always in awe and inspired after seeing the effort that goes into making a cup of coffee. After having the privilege of visiting several farms, there is a common denominator among farmers that always impresses me. That common thing is pride. The owning families and farmers are extremely welcoming and eager to show off their coffee, their land, their farm, and how they process their coffee. It really is a beautiful and inspiring thing.
Carlos picked us up from our hotel eager to show us his farm and the coffee that he produces. Carlos and two brothers are third generation farmers on the largest farm in Antigua and produce amazing Genuine Antigua Coffee. The farm is situated between two volcanos which create a microclimate that is perfect for growing coffee. This farm also processes their beans onsite using the wet processing method. They are fortunate enough to have a pure spring which runs through the farm which hey are able to tap into to for their coffee processing.
Upon arriving at the farm, Carlos guides us to a living room that was filled with accolades, history, and pictures of the farm. We shared a French Press and chatted about coffee. I was curious to learn as much as I could about producing and growing coffee as well as the challenges that he faces. Carlos was interested in learning about what the coffee consumers in the US were demanding. We are from different sides of the world but the role each of us plays in the coffee chain really does greatly affect the other.
After coffee, Carlos and his head of coffee production took us out for a tour of the farm. It is incredible how much pride and care they take into cultivating the land, using only natural methods that are both good for the land and for coffee production.
There are over 60 permanent employees of the farm. Many of which are second generation employees of the farm. Carlos was joined by his head of production who was a second generation employee and his son just joined the team. The farm provides a livelihood for all. There is even a large portion of fertile land that is available for the employees to grow their own crops. The farm also provides safety. Many coffee farms are located in countries where safety is not a given right like we experience every day in the states. Many times the coffee farm provides a safe haven for the families that work there.
After touring the farm, we headed back to the kitchen where we all shared a wonderfully prepared traditional Guatemala meal and continued to share stories. Hopefully, we will be able to get our hands on some bags for the upcoming crop.
Visiting farms and experiencing coffee at origin is invaluable to a coffee roaster. It really brings you closer to the process, the people, and the life cycle of coffee.