Guatemala’s coffee roots run deep; a fact that cannot be missed as you pass by farm after farm of lush, green family-owned coffee farms. There’s approximately 125,000 coffee farms, or fincas, in Guatemala; each with their own story and their own special coffee. Where Coffee Takes You had the opportunity to visit one of these fincas - high above sea level and at the base of an ancient active volcano.
Following an evening in Antigua, our crew hopped in a van and headed out to an award-winning coffee farm to meet the family behind generations of coffee cultivation. Passing by lush greenery and with the towering Acatenango volcano, known as Fuego, in the background, you’d be remiss not to take a moment and appreciate the surrounding beauty that is quintessential Guatemala.
Arriving at the San Miguel coffee finca, we were greeted by the father and son team that run the operations, Don Estuardo and his son Sebastian. While the farm has been in their family for five generations, the history of the farm actually stretches back to the 18th century - during the time when Guatemala was just getting its start in the coffee industry.
Coffee production in Guatemala dates back to the early 1700s, when coffee plants were originally intended for decor in a Jesuit convent. But by the mid 1800s, coffee production in the central American country began to pick up speed following several government tax incentives. As coffee crops gradually became a staple in helping stabilize the Guatemala economy, it wasn’t long before the rest of the world discovered how good coffee from this central American country was, driving it to become one of the top ten exporters in the world.
As we tour the farm, filled with row after row of coffee plants sprawled beneath the shade of Macadamia and Grevillea trees, we’re able to see first hand the care and expertise going into production. Sebastian explains more about the farm’s harvesting process, “So, at the moment we’re about to do our harvest. We do about three to four pickings because we just want the really ripe cherry. That is what’s going to give you the sweetness, the flavors, and with a good process you get this amazing cup of coffee.”
It’s impossible not to marvel at the great care used by San Miguel workers when it comes to harvesting each and every coffee cherry, an element Kirk discusses as the volcano rumbles in the background, “Obviously, there’s a lot of pre-work,” Kirk remarks. “But when the coffee beans come, their (coffee workers) fingers are that first step making that judgment call in what we’re tasting.” He continues, explaining that these first steps in coffee production are so important, but easily forgotten by coffee drinkers, “When you’re taking that first sip of coffee, you can just forget about how it all starts. But really what we’re trying to show here is we’re all one. You’re sipping this coffee from the hands of the local Guatemalan of Mayan descent, We’re all interconnected.”
Once the coffee cherries are harvested on finca San Miguel, we discover that they are using one of the oldest methods of processing - natural processing. While this method has been around for a long time, it’s not as common because it requires more work than the more commonly used wet processing method. But that extra work is well worth it, a fact not lost on Don Estuardo and Sebastian. Natural processing allows the coffee bean to remain attached to the cherry for a longer period of time, which gives the resulting beans a sweeter, richer, and more robust flavor.
Kirk and the Where Coffee Takes You Crew were excited to sample some of the farm’s coffee following the tour. Next up was a trip to the coffee farm’s headquarters where a cafe, run by Sebastian’s cousin Adrian, had a cupping session, or tasting, prepared for Kirk and Angelino’s brand manager, Brooke.
Guatemalan coffee is known for its rich, full body and balanced taste with a subtle sweetness. This makes it the perfect complementing bean for delicious blends and is one of the most featured origins in Angelino’s coffees. Eager to dive in, Kirk and Brooke are led through the cupping session by Adrian, which begins by breathing in the aroma of the freshly ground beans. Kirk notes that some of the best cuppers will know what a coffee is going to taste like simply by the aroma.
Next, water heated to a perfect temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit is added to each cup and allowed to steep for four minutes. This process allows a crust composed of coffee grounds to bloom on top. Adrian explained that this portion is to allow cuppers to smell the brewed coffee before the final step of tasting.
Drinking coffee during a cupping session may be different than what you expected. Watch the episode to see how Kirk and Brooke did!
The Where Coffee Takes You team left the San Miguel Family Farm with a great appreciation for Guatemalan coffee and an even greater appreciation for the centuries old knowledge and care that goes into its cultivation. From the steady hands carefully harvesting each cherry to your morning sip of coffee, we’re all truly connected from bean to cup - a truth more apparent than ever following our visit.
You can now taste some of the amazing San Miguel coffee for yourself with our newest single origin limited edition, Guatemala Antigua! Procured just for our Angelino’s Coffee family, you'll fall in love with the exquisite notes of citrus, dark chocolate, and hints of spice bursting forth with every sip of this coffee.
Haven't seen our Guatemala episode yet? Watch now!