Our Trip to Guatemala
At 80 Stone Coffee, we are passionate about all things coffee, that goes without saying. No matter where the coffee comes from around the world, we love exploring its origins, understanding its journey and tasting amazing coffee.
During new year’s in 2010, I was travelling in Guatemala. I wanted to share with our customers and our readers an unexpectedly amazing experience I had at a Guatemala Coffee Farm.
Guatemala Coffee Co-Operative
Guatemala is known for many wonderful things: ancient Mayan ruins, sandy beaches, wild jungles, banana produce and textile production. Amongst these amazing produces, Guatemala is known for one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world – Coffee.
I was travelling for pleasure, not for business. But these closely mingle as I am just as passionate about coffee as I am life. While exploring the villages around Lake Atitlan high in the Guatemalan highlands, I was chatting about coffee with some locals. I was asked If I wanted to go check out the coffee cooperative where they worked, La Voz coffee co-operative. It as in San Pedro la Laguna (also called san pedro la “locura” than means “madness”, because of the towns fame of throwing some pretty crazy parties) on Lake Atitlan. The coffee co-operative was a certified organic back in 1992, they know what they’re doing, and they do it well.
“It wasn’t a farm but a very small cooperative”
It wasn’t a farm but a very small cooperative and went to check out their wet milling plant, or beneficio. The boys were very eager to show me what they do, but also were getting ready for the Christmas eve party.
A traditional coffee tour introduces you to coffee plantations and the growing, harvesting, and roasting process. Some Guatemala farms will explain their own process in more detail, some will handle the process until the wet mill and some will only manage the harvest and others will go over the whole process of growing, picking and selling the bean. Local coffee beans have incredible potential – and more and more of them are achieving that, thanks to an increasing awareness of specialty production methods.
Guatemala Bourbon Coffee
The Main coffee trees that they grow in the area are Paci and Red Bourbon Variety. The bourbon trees were brought in the area in the 50s but the workers told me that because it is a tall tree was now being replaced by the PACI that was shorter and with a better yield.
Bourbon beans are known for their deep, buttery chocolate flavors, as well as their sweetness and very light fruit overtones. They yield well-balanced coffees and are less common than other types of coffee beans as Bourbon plants generally carry fewer coffee cherries per plant than other varieties.
One thing that I found quite interesting is how the farmers incorporate other plants that can be put to beneficial use. Flowers are needed to encourage pollination, but instead of simply planting flowers, avocado and banana trees are used, and all of the fruit is shared among the families. The fertilizer is all manure produced by the local animals
Growing, Harvesting, and Roasting
Right at the entrance of the beneficio is a big weighing scale. This is where local, small farmers go there with the coffee cherries and get paid by weight. In San Pedro a lot of people grow coffee in their garden, selling coffee cherries is considered a good way to make some extra cash.
Shortly after, we walked through the processing facility which is completely outdoors. The cherries are put into big concrete tanks called recibidor. Gravity works its magic and the cherries fall down a big hose into a machine called a sifon. This is a metal container that separates the floating cherries (bad ones) to the ones that sink (the good ones). The bad cherries are used for 2nd and 3rd quality. The local boys told me that the 3rd quality cherries are called pintijo.
After the sifon the cherries go through the huller or ‘despulpadora’. The huller removes the skin and the pulp; the pulp is then used as a fertiliser. The exposed beans are now covered with mucilage, or ‘miel’ and they are left in fermentation tanks for 1 to 2 days, depending on the temperature.
After, the fermented the beans are washed do dissolve the mucilage. At this point we have the washed beans that are still covered with a skin called parchment or ‘pergamino’. The washed beans are now spread on large patios where they are left to dry for 4 to 6 days depending on the weather.
Once the dry the beans were ready to go to the dry mill to get rid of the parchment and then exported.
If you are visiting Guatemala and want to explore some local culture, we would 100% recommend visiting a coffee co-operative or farm. There is no reason to drink anything less than amazing coffee.
If you have any questions about how coffee is produced, or how we roast our beans, get in touch with us at 80 Stone Coffee Roasters London. Or pop in and visit us in our wholesale coffee shop based in South West London.
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