Diving into the world of Guatemalan coffees
The world of Guatemalan coffees is vast and complex. And delicious of course! Guatemala has long been known for its deep coffee heritage and the quality of our producers, who day in and day night work towards sustainable, shade-grown productions. This last point is crucial to the quality of our coffees, as the diverse shade structure helps protect the farm’s complex ecosystem, provides the plants with an abundance of organic material to supplement its growth with vitamins and minerals, improves the soil structure, and allows coffee cherries to mature more slowly, which leads to better sugar development! It’s complex, but it really allows our coffees to stand out, especially as our coffees are equally as complex, with each region having unique cup profiles that develop a sort of cult following among consumers!
The 8 Guatemalan Regions
The Guatemalan Coffee Association, ANACAFE, aimed to emphasize the unique conditions that characterize each producing region, leading them to profile them to distinguish their microclimates, growing conditions, and cup profiles. Check out the country’s 8 producing regions!
Antigua Guatemala is one of the country’s oldest coffee-producing regions, characterized by three surrounding volcanoes: Acatenango, Fuego, and Agua. The volcanic activity makes the region’s pumice soil rich in minerals and helps retain moisture, which is convenient as it counters Antigua’s low rainfall. The coffees from this region are known to be well balanced, aromatic, and sweet.
Huehue is one of three non-volcanic regions, and also the highest and driest of the three. Its microclimate is quite unique as it receives dry, hot winds from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain. The region’s remoteness and unique growing conditions make its coffees highly coveted in both local and international markets, which features a pleasant acidity, winey notes, and a full body.
Welcome to San Marcos, the hottest of the 8 regions, and also the region with the highest rainfall patterns, reaching up to 5,000 mm. The rainy season comes earlier than in all other regions, which produces the earliest flowering and leads to coffees with floral notes present in both their aromas and taste, matched with bright acidity and good body.
The Acatenango valley lies under a dense shade, which presents an ecological gift for the region’s farms! As you can imagine, the Acatenango volcano keeps the sandy soils packed with minerals to fuel coffee production! The result? A highly aromatic cup with marked acidity and clean finish.
You are now entering the rainy region of Cobán, where it’s cloudy, raining, and cool pretty much all year long! Cobán’s Chipichipi often creates a fine mist that falls in the rolling hills that characterize the region. This is your go-to region if you’re looking for an aromatic coffee with distinct fresh fruit notes and a balanced body.
Nuevo Oriente is a relatively new coffee-producing region, where production started around the 1950s. However, this vibrant and rainy region is located on a former volcanic range, where its soil is made of metamorphic rock which is balanced in minerals and pretty different from what you’d typically find in other producing regions. Coffees from this region are chocolaty, full-bodied, and well balanced.
Fraijanes is another one of Guatemala’s volcanic regions, residing near the Pacaya volcano which supplies the region with a mineral-boosting deposit of ash every few years. You’ll find coffees from Fraijanes to have a bright acidity, pleasant aroma, and a defined body.
Last but not least we have Atitlán. This is probably one of the most well-known regions (perhaps on par with Antigua) as the region’s most distinguishable feature, Lake Atitlán, is a world-renowned tourist spot. Most coffee is cultivated along the slopes of three volcanoes that surround the shores of the lake and the soil is the richest in organic matter out of all other volcanic regions. Coffees from Atitlán are known to be very aromatic, with bright citric acidity and a full body.
What makes Guatemalan coffees special
As we can, each region has unique microclimates, different soil profiles, and geological features, which combined create a unique terroir that’s highlighted through its coffees.
However, these 8 regions do not include every single part of the country that produces coffees; these are the most well-known as per ANACAFE. However, we are lucky enough to work with producers within Guatemala City. It’s worth mentioning that while these mentioned above are the most well-known regions as per the associations’ profiling, the altitude and over 360 microclimates that Guate has to offer make it the perfect place to grow coffee and our producer’s constant innovation keeps our palates ready to taste what’s next!
Beyond Guatemala’s clean coffees
Guatemalan coffees have been historically processed using the washed method due to its abundance of rivers, lakes and bodies of water. While this is still the most common processing method across all producing regions, producers haven’t hesitated to begin exploring new methods such as naturals, honeys, and even new types of fermentations.
To give you the perfect example of how producers are innovating in these ways we can take a look at our partners over at Finca Santa Isabel, where Alexander Keller uses biodynamic practices to produce and process coffees in creative ways that highlight the farm’s terroir. Amongst these methods, you’ll find Alexander innovating in the world of anaerobic fermentation, which means the coffee is fermented in an oxygen-deprived environment. The coffee is pulped and placed in sealed containers with a valve that allows degassing. This process alters the cup profile of the coffee and can lead to exciting notes such as bubble gum, poached pear, cinnamon, and in Alex’s case, wild berries.
How this information can benefit roasters
As Importers based in Guatemala, we work closely with our producers to build a relationship based on like-minded goals and hopes for the industry. At this point, all of our producers are considered family, and we’re invested in transmitting all of the value from their farms to your roastery. While ANACAFE has profiled specific regions, it’s worth mentioning that coffee production varies immensely even within the region due to the country’s 360+ microclimates. Finca Vizcaya, owned and operated by our partner Francisco Quezada, has steep hills where coffee is cultivated. However, what makes it truly unique is that you can find three microclimates at the different elevations at the farm, and thus coffee lots can be distinguished from other lots within the farm.
Use this diversity in your favor. Rest assured that your Guatemalan coffee is different from that of neighboring roasters, unless you’re all purchasing the same lot, and therefore you can promote your offerings as the unique product that it truly is. Stay in close contact with your importers, as they are your direct link to origin and learn what makes that particular coffee one-of-a-kind, learn about the producers behind it, and the growing conditions.
As the industry currently stands, consumers and wholesale clients demand are increasingly demanding transparency and traceability for each coffee offering, meaning that the more you know about your coffee, the biggest competitive advantage you will have in the market. In our case, we can assure you that our knowledge and relationship with our producers will allow roasters to boast even the tiniest detail about our coffees and everyone in the value chain will be able to make a positive impact in the Guatemalan coffee landscape!
Work with us to add new, exciting offerings to your roastery!