A sourcing trip to the Central American heartland, GUATEMALA…
When you talk about coffee producing countries in Central America, Guatemala is regarded as a powerhouse, considered for a long time as the leading producer, until it was overtaken by Honduras.
Our trip to Guatemala coincided with the seasonal harvest, and it was an opportunity to not only taste and select coffees, but more importantly forge relationships with producers.
There are many regions in which coffee production excels in Guatemala, such as Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes, New Oriente, San Marcos and Huehuetenango. The latter was the main focus for our trip, considered the most prized of growing areas within Guatemala.
Huehuetenango is located in the western part of the country, sharing a border with Mexico. It’s high peaks, low valleys create a unique temperate climate that in part benefits from dry winds that blow in from the Plains of Tehuantepec during harvest season.
The remote conditions of the farms, and with many producers only managing small pieces of land, many pick and process their own coffee. Fortunately, the area has abundant water sources, making it easier for producers to setup their own mills, however in some areas the scarcity of water does mean the producers have to change how they process or use their water.
The practice of water saving processing methods such as natural or honey processed coffees are still not common in Guatemala, but due to climate change and a market demand, producers are diversifying into these methods.
In general farmers of this area are too small to produce large quantities of coffee, and with the help of coffee exporters, many small producers work as a collective and manage to get their coffees to market, some as unique microlots and others as a community collective blend.
It was not uncommon to come across a community of growers, that coincidently were related, all sharing knowledge and support to harvest their coffees and continually develop a better quality coffee. This is where support from exporters becomes crucial, particularly when it comes to sharing new techniques and know-how in improving the coffees cup quality.
As with most producing countries, there are continued challenges, both from climate change and also price suppression. The producers still comment on the low price of coffee, and it’s with trips such as ours that we identify where we can help as a company.
Identifying producers that need help in getting their coffee to market, shedding light into their wishes, ambitions and setting long term purchase goals, we can help communities and individuals continue producing coffee whilst elevating their livelihoods.
After a few days in the coffee highlands we returned to Guatemala City and got to work in cupping a large selection of samples that were continually arriving into the lab. It is at that time you manage to see the potential of the harvest, and from what we tasted, we can look forward to some tasty coffees.
We cannot wait to share more about our trip, the coffees that we have selected and the connections we have forged when the coffees arrive later this year.