Que Pasa’s Guatemalan Coffee & Chocolate Guide
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Guatemalan Coffee & Chocolate Guide by Que Pasa
What’s in a Cup of Guatemalan Joe?
The imprint of the Guatemalan people and its land are in each cup. Painstaking labor and passion for excellence characterize this exceptional coffee. Coffee is Guatemala’s number one agricultural crop and its largest employer. Its production covers approximately 2.5% of the entire country.
Like Guatemala’s colorful handicrafts, its coffee is also cultivated by hand. Each coffee tree is lovingly tended in the shadow of a larger shade tree; the beans are handpicked at harvest, and processed on the farm.
Coffee thrives in areas where the temperatures vary between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16° to 27° Celsius) at an altitude from 1,500 to 6,500 feet (460 to 1,980 meters) above sea level. The varied topography, numerous microclimates, and volcanic soil are responsible for the different and unique flavors found in each of the eight official coffee-growing regions in Guatemala. All excellent, high-quality coffees, the products of these varied regions make Guatemala unique among coffee-growing countries.
- Acatenango Valley
This coffee is grown under dense shade in areas up to 6,500 feet (1,980 meters) above sea level. Nearby Fuego volcano keeps the coarse, sandy soil full of minerals, and marked seasons allow for it to be sun-dried. A distinctly fragrant acidity and balanced body characterize this coffee.
- Antigua Guatemala
Rich volcanic soil, low humidity, sunny days, and cool nights characterize this coffee growing region. The Panchoy Valley is surrounded by three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Occasionally, Fuego – one of Guatemala’s three active volcanoes – will erupt, adding nutrient-rich minerals to the area’s soil. This coffee is well balanced and known for its sweetness.
Cultivated on the shores of Lake Atitlán and the slopes of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, much of the coffee in the region is grown on small farms by farmers who use traditional methods. The soil in this region is known to be the richest in organic matter. Atitlán coffee is characterized by its aroma, full body, and bright citrus acidity.
- Cobán Rainforest
Coffee from this region is cultivated on rolling hills in a cool and rainy cloud forest. The tree-provided shade in this coffee growing area is likely to be less dense because of the constant rain and chipi-chipi, the fine mist that comes from the cloud cover. This coffee has distinct fresh fruit notes and a well-balanced cup.
- Fraijanes Plateau
High altitudes and volcanic-pumice soil, plenty of rain, and varied climate allow this coffee-growing region – the closest to Guatemala City – to produce a cup that is brightly acidic, with a pungent aroma.
- Huehuetenango Highland
Huehuetenango, on the border with Mexico, is the highest and driest region thanks to the hot winds that blow from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain. Because of the area’s extreme remoteness, virtually all producers must process their own coffee. The coffee from this region has a fine, intense acidity, a full body, and pleasant wine notes.
Coffee from this region is cultivated almost exclusive by small producers and has been transforming what was once one of the poorest and most isolated areas of Guatemala. The Oriente zone is located on a former volcanic range and its soil is balanced in minerals and is quite different from the soil in other regions. Coffee from the Oriente is full-bodied with a tendency toward a chocolaty flavor.
- San Marcos
This coffee growing area is one of the warmest and wettest of the regions. The seasonal rains come early and produce an early flower. Like other remote coffee growing regions, most of the coffees are processed on individual farms, but because of the damp climate, much of the coffee is partially dried in mechanical dryers, rather than in the sun. This coffee is known for its delicate floral notes in the aroma and its distinctive acidity.
As this country is known for having some of the best coffee in the world, when people around the globe think of Guatemala, they most likely think of its fine coffees. Ask any roaster what coffee is essential to complete a fine brew and chances are most will say a Guatemalan bean is what caps off the cup.