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Despite the small footprint of the country, Guatemala punches well above its weight when it comes to specialty coffee production. In fact, while many people may not be able to locate Guatemala on a map, few coffee drinkers are surprised to see the name on a bag of single-origin coffee beans. That's probably because of Guatemala's long history of commercial coffee cultivation - since the 1850s - and the fact that it is actually the 10th biggest exporter of coffee in the world, overall, despite its small size.
Guatemalan specialty coffees have a reputation for being reliable. They are of a high quality and predictably pleasant to drink. They may not offer some of the wild flavours of other origins (though this is a generalisation) but the best lots are extremely enjoyable and 'classic' in their flavour profiles.
While 44% of Guatemalan coffee is grown by smallholders, much of the Guatemalan coffee that we enjoy, particularly on the specialty end of the spectrum, is grown on single family-owned estates, like La Bolsa where this one was grown. These coffees are highly traceable, and produced by farming families that have been growing coffee for generations.
Our friends at Origin Coffee Roasting have always found and shared some of the very best Guatemalan lots, so we are always excited to try one of their offerings from the small Central American country.
Phaedon's tasting notes
I'll admit it; in the early days of CCB, I found Guatemalan coffee a little boring (at least most of the time). I was enamoured with bright, acidic, fruity flavour profiles, the wackier, the better. I didn't understand the appeal of something smooth, pleasant and easy to drink. Over the years, that's changed. As my palate has gained more experience, I've learned to appreciate the more subtle pleasures of a classic flavour profile. I think that's why I really enjoyed this coffee.
The character of this coffee is quintessential Guatemalan to my mind. It has a relatively heavy body, a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and the dominant notes are of the nutty variety, with a little bit of dark chocolate to make things more luxurious. Still, on the backdrop, there are some other flavours to distinguish: some subtle fruit notes of orange perhaps. If you'll permit me one of my questionable metaphors, this coffee is not rock'n'roll, EDM or whatever the kids are listening to these days. This coffee is definitely laid back, smooth jazz.
I found that this coffee benefited from longer contact times (think Chemex) and higher brew temperatures (think siphon) to enjoy it at its very best, though it also made a delightful V60 pour-over.
This particular bourbon lot comes from the El Cabro plot on the La Bolsa farm. It was pre-fermented in bags, which creates an intensely fruity cup profile. The coffee is fermented for between 18 and 24 hours, then cleaned of mucilage, graded in channels and soaked overnight.
- Flavour: Stone fruit, dried orange peel, dark chocolate, marshmallow (in milk), lemongrass-rooibos, well-balanced & very clean cup
- Body: heavy & juicy
- Roast: Medium
- Acidity: Soft, stone fruit
- Brewing: versatile but less recommended for siphon
Finca La BoIsa was bought by Jorge Vides in 1958. Jorge won a number of awards for coffee production and for services to the region of Huehuetenango (he had the main hospital in the coffee growing community named after him).
La Bolsa is Rain-Forest Alliance certified. Sections of the farm are reserved areas, to promote biodiversity and reduce exposure to winds and prevent soil erosion. Inga trees are used as a shade trees and to fix nitrogen in the soil, which is essential for plant and cherry growth. There is on expansive composting operation to make use of waste products, using redworms.
- Farm: Finca La Bolsa
- Owner: Jorge Vides
- Varietals: Caturra & Catuai
- Processing: Anaerobic washed
- Altitude: 1,800 masl
- Region: Huehuetenango
- Country: Guatemala