Guatemala Origin trip 2014 -
In late March Peter Dupont and I (Samuli) travelled to Guatemala together with our wholesale customer and friend Martin from cafe Aroma in Herning. This was my first trip to Huehuetenango and the two farms we’ve bought from in Guatemala, Finca Vista Hermosa and El Diamante.
This was a highly anticipated visit for me since I’ve been enjoying the Vista Hermosa the last 6 years and I had the pleasure to spend some time with Edwin Jr in 2008 here in Copenhagen.
Also the beauty of Diamante that Peter and Rasmus had been telling about from last year really made me look forward to see the farm and nature.
We arrived late on saturday evening and spent the first night in Guatemala City. We were greeted by Edwin Jr and Sr, father and son. Early next morning we went to Huehuetanango city and from there to the farm in the mountains. One of my favorite things on origin trips is to stand up in the back of a pick up truck and just enjoy the beauty, sounds, scents and all other impressions of the surroundings. One of the most powerful things one notices in the coffee regions is the intense and sweet smell of fermenting/rottening coffee pulp from the recieving stations. The smell is not pleasent but at the same time it’s a reminder and a statement of were you are, in the middle of ”coffee country” in the mountains! Wonderful!
Anyways, during our stay at Vista Hermosa we got to experience the farm on various hikes, processing, cupping and a lots of talks with Ed Jr and Sr. One of the major issues this year was that the Roya had reached their farm and brought a minor devastation to their lower lots. Last year it hadn’t got there but this year the evidence was clearly shown in all the unripe dried cherries lying on the patio, drying and getting prepared for the local market. A business plan that is not deliberately chosen and not viable financially. The reason is that the fungus (Roya) makes the plant loose its leaves and therefore not able to transport enough nutrients to the fruit and making it able to ripen. The lots at higher elevation were still not affected and will hopefully not become.
One of the higher lots, El Bosque, starting at 1800masl had seven year old plants. Normally at that age they would have given yields of a substantial size but these were still quite small and only a very small yield was expected. The slower growth is probably due to the slightly colder climate. Coffee grown at that elevation has often shown a more complex cup profile with floral notes in addition to the fruity sweetness and we are happy to say it has also been displayed in those high grown lots from Vista Hermosa in our cuppings here in Copenhagen. This lot, amongst the others at high elavation, was not affected by the Roya and in some sense they represent an hope for the future with the increasing problems with Roya and climate change. There is though many initiatives taken all around the globe to deal with the Roya and some of them are showing good results.
Edwin also showed us some new lots to be planted and revieled that they are thinking about trying new varieties (for the farm, not newly bred varieties). It’s really nice and important to see that father and son aren’t just satisfied with their current position and quality but actively trying to develop and improve their farm.
Before we could cup there was business to be taken care of, to start with Edwin Jr and Peter had to inspect the sample roaster and later on the Danish team had to hull and screen the coffees before our american friend Lucky, from Insight in Sacramento, roasted it.
On the cupping table the coffees proved to be exactly what we hoped for, ranging from the full bodied, sweet and balanced to the complex, floral and fruity. There was also a fermented-to-the-border-of-acceptable sweet tropical thing that was my and Luckys number two favorite on the table. Clearly a coffee that split the connosieurs in two camps. The americans and me vs the Scandinavians.
From Vista Hermosa we drove for four hours to El Diamante. The nature on the way was really beautiful. So diverse, ranging from rain forest, bamboos and mountainious. It was amazing to see how they make use of the lands fertility. We saw a man planting in a small crack between two rocks. We arrived at El Diamante thirsty, tired and Peter with a new hair colour from all the dust.
Their Finca, patio and wet mill is very charming with lots of flowers, lemon trees and different plants. Everything is kept in mint condition and I even didn’t know were to drop a piece of parchment. We where shown around the farm by Jorbino, the patio manager. The first thing that strikes you is the looks of their lower lots. No rows and loads of plant life. It really looks wild and it was good to see the healthy condition of the plants. Jorbino told us that the lot was kept in the same way as they used to do it back in the days in Guatemala. Later at dusk we went for a walk in the higher lots. There they stood in rows, almost, and not the wild growth all around. The scenery was amazing and to see it at dusk just created an amazing atmosphere.
Jorbino was kind (and brave) to let Peter and me play with his machete, we were quite thrilled (razor sharp!) and for a short while I think both of us turned five years old and imagined to be lost in a wild and dangerous jungle with a machete in our hand. At least I did.
We told him that in Denmark we are only allowed to carry a 6cm long blade and he sincerely felt sorry for us.
The next day was time for cupping and it was clear that there was some tension in the air since last years crop hadn’t been as mindblowing as the previous year. To be commited to Direct Trade has lots of advantages but some of them can be tough to deal with. We wish to have a direct and close relationship with the producers but what do you do when you realise that the quality hoped for is not there. And to top it of, you are standing at the farm with the producer… Many things are taken into consideration.
But all these thoughts quickly vanished after the first round of cupping. We found the delicate and aromatic profile we first fell in love with.
It had been a big pleasure to visit El Diamante and Patricia, her daughter, mother and Jorbino. The hospitality was wonderful and the coffee amazing.
Thanks to El Diamante!
Btw , she gave me seeds of a small and fierce chili variety that hopefully will be found growing at the window at Jægersborggade during the spring and summer.
We continued with Sr and Jr Martinez towards Guatemala City but made a stop at Finca Santa Felisa in Acatenango. The farm is owned by Anabella and Antonio Meneses and has been in the family for 110 years. It’s a very special farm in many aspects. One of them is the fact that Anabella is an Agronomist and has also studied bio technology but is running the farm using many organic and some biodynamical principles. The latest years they are going crazy in trying out varieties and different processing methods. We cupped a lot of coffees and there where some really nice cups. The time was short so unfortunately there wasn’t time to go in depth with them about their coffees and their farm but surely it would be really interesting to continue the contact with them.
At the end I wish to give Edwin Sr and Jr and all of Finca Vista Hermosa a huge thanks for taking care of us, all the good moments and for driving us around. It was a great pleasure and I really hope to see you again in the future!