In an effort to expand our offerings in Guatemala, I went down there this past March to do a little discovery. I remember the moment precisely – we’ve all had an experience like this on the cupping table – where one sample just pops. This coffee was totally unlike the others: big and juicy with flavors of nectarine, tropical fruit like pineapple and mango, and subtle floral notes. What made it remarkable was not only those beautiful, crisp flavors but how incredibly sweet it was. An easy 88 point coffee. “What is this and are there any more like it?!” I couldn’t have been more excited. It turned out to be a coffee grown by Edgar Sanchez in Santa Barbara, Huehuetenango. I tasted a few more Santa Barbara coffees and they all had that distinct ripe peach nectar-like profile. I was completely blown away and needed to find out more.
We then went out to visit Edgar’s farm. He has Bourbon, Typica and Pache (a Typica mutation) growing in heavy clay soil along a steep, east-facing slope at elevations up to 2050 masl. Processing is rustic: the coffee is manually de-pulped before being fermented in a wooden tank for 10-12 hours. It is then scrubbed in channels to remove the remaining mucilage and laid out to dry on a small patio adjoining his traditional house. Despite the high altitude sun, drying is slowed due to the shade provided by both his house and the steep hills surrounding it, as well as the cool nights. Not only is this a beautiful coffee, but it is stable – we measured it at .52aW @ 20.4c and 10.2%. Amazing.
Edgar’s farm is typical for Santa Barbara, one of the lowest income municipalities in Huehuetenango. Most producers there grow less than one hectare of coffee which is often bought by coyotes, due in a large part to the difficulty of bringing in coffee from the farm to the receiving stations which can be an hour or two by car, if one is even available. These are then blended with coffees from various other municipalities into large generic ‘Huehuetenango’ lots. We are excited to separate these gems and to have the opportunity to offer them to you.
There are several coffees from Santa Barbara now in the warehouse, including a few single producer lots, bulked village level lots with all the complexity that brings, as well as a larger, 32 bag Santa Barbara lot encompassing a few villages.
One more thing about our Huehuetenango offerings before I let you go. While down there we found a value we just couldn’t pass up: two larger lots from a single estate, Los Arroyos in La Libertad. Clean, sweet and bright, this is a coffee you can drink all day long on its own or use to round out your blends. We’re really psyched to have expanded our sourcing work in Guatemala this year and to be able to offer these coffees, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or sample and booking requests.
Small producers in northern Chimaltenango call Typica ‘gigante,’ or ‘giant,’ for the long curved shape of the bean. Typica is planted abundantly, alongside smaller amounts of Bourbon and Caturra, in an area of northern Chimaltenango defined by San Jose Poaquil, Comalapa, and San Martin Jilotepeque. This region has ideal conditions for growing these older varieties, with elevations exceeding 2050 masl. Often, these smallholders have less than one hectare of coffee planted, and most harvest their own cherries, taking them to nearby receiving stations where they are then processed and dried in Antigua.
Cupping the Los Gigantes arrivals, our flavor notes gravitated to the sweeter, rounder profile. Think milk chocolate, honey, and raisin with a subtle balancing brightness. These coffees will play well with others in a blend, while also shining as a single origin offering. Sweet and clean, they are sure to please.
These lots are also extremely stable, with water activity ranging from 0.52-0.55, and moisture content averaging 10.2%. These coffees will stay fresh. Buy them now and use them as an espresso base or single origin through fall.
We’re very happy to share our first and only Central American offerings of 2015, now clear and available SPOT at the Annex in San Leandro.
Guatemala is veritable treasure chest for top coffees. We love the wide range of cup profiles from its many producing regions, from the clean stone fruit and yellow honey flavor of Sacatepequez to the dark fruit and rich cacao notes of Huehue. When I think of Alta Verapaz and neighboring Sierra de las Minas, I think of their electric acidity. In contrast, the Southernmost regions of Mataquescuintla, Chiquimula, and Esquipulas rely more on depth of sweetness and rich mouthfeel. And there is so much more variation, from region to region and within profiles, very much distinct to Guatemala. Outside of Colombia and Ethiopia there isn’t another producing country that offers as much variety.
As you might imagine, we at Red Fox do have a favorite corner of Guatemala, and that spot is Chimaltenango. Although located smack dab in the middle of the country just a couple hours north of Guatemala City, it also happens to be a region that is less traversed by coffee buyers. We love it so much that it’s the only region in all of Central America that we’re currently working in. We have big plans to develop a specific triangle-shaped zone towards the north of the country beginning in 2016. It’s from this triangle that some today’s offerings originate.
So what makes Chimal so special to Red Fox? Good question. To put it simply it’s a combination of 1800-2000 masl elevation, an almost pure presence of Bourbon and Caturra, and its accessible location — resulting in some of the most complete coffees in all of Latin America. These cups absolutely burst with fruit flavors, from black cherry to crisp red apple to currants of all varieties, alongside mandarin and white grape. They’re complex on the high end. They’re also sweet in the purest way, reminding us of wildflower honey and panela. Top Chimal coffees also offer weight at the back end of the cup with clear expressions of melted butter and fresh cream. Today’s offerings are beautiful examples of lots across this flavor spectrum.