Coffees of GuatemalaGuatemala is a land of fierce beauty. Two contrasting civilizations live side by side, one European, the other Mayan. There is a tragic tension here made all the more dramatic by a landscape seemingly sprung whole from a fantastic dream.
Coffee has been grown in Guatemala since the 18th century. It is grown throughout the mountain ranges, the best known growing regions being Antigua, Coban, Huehuetenango, Atitlan, Fraijanes, New Oriente, and San Marcos. There is great diversity of soils and microclimates, even within a single growing region.Coban, often cloud covered and rainy, is legendary for its unique flavor profile. It is very hard to get a fine quality Coban coffee, however, because of the humidity, which makes proper drying and storage extremely difficult.
Antigua is still more famous, producing coffees of great finesse. It is a valley surrounded by three volcanoes, one of which is currently active. Rainfall and water availability vary considerably, depending on where the farm is locateded in the valley or on which slope. Huehuetenango, to the north, sharing the border with Mexico, has precipitous mountains, many peaks being over 12,000 feet. Coffee is grown at extremely high altitudes here, given its northerly latitude, 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Dry and hot winds from the lowland Tehuantepec plain of Mexico protect the region from excessive cold and create a unique microclimate. Its soil is limestone. Coffee from Huehuetenango is famed for its distinct liveliness.
Arabica varieties include substantial areas of the heirloom Bourbon and of Caturra. The coffees are always washed. The finest coffees are SHB, strictly hard bean, which grow at altitudes over 4,000 feet. The best grades are carefully sorted by distinct sizes for even roasting, with defects and low-density beans eliminated.