Source Report: Guatemala, February 2011

| March 3, 2011
Last week, I was in Guatemala visiting our friends at Finca Nuevo Vinas and also exploring the diversity of coffee within this beautiful country.  My journey began with some intensive cupping as a starting point for the direction I would take.  Guatemala is blessed with a number of distinct microclimates, soils, and varietals, all which can result in a staggering breadth of coffees.  I cupped coffees from Antigua, Huehuetenango, Atitlan, Fraijanes, Santa Rosa, Sacatepequez, Jalapa, and Acatenango, just to name a few.  Alex, my gracious and knowledgeable host, explained certain trends to notice in the cup depending on soil composition and elevation, and that some years the distinct flavors of each region are clear and pronounced, and others they are muted. 


After cupping we took a short plane ride to his farm, and it was great to be back!  I visited him a few years ago and was eager to see how his efforts in increasing biodiversity, improving compost, and increasing shade had impacted his farm.  His harvest was near its end, so the trees were at their weakest, drained from the energy they required to produce fruit.  Still, the care and health of the farm was evident in their structure: sturdy trunks, branches, and healthy leaves.  Small buds were forming on the branches, all waiting for a nice rain to spur flowering. 

Next, we took a hike up to the bio-reserve which occupies over forty percent of his land.  This land boasts pristine forest, home to native and endangered species including gray fox, armadillo, anteaters, parrots, and butterflies, just to name a few.  Alex explained how this diversity is key to improving the quality of the soil at the plantation.  He often scours the forest floor for rich decomposed fungal matter to add to his composting system, increasing the diversity, and terroir of his soil. 

We also witnessed the impact tropical storm Agatha had on his land: huge trees had been torn from the ground, the landscape altered. Though the record breaking rains had their negative impact such as an increase in fungus problems, and a raising water table cramping the root structures, Alex was also optimistic that the storm had stirred up the land to erode and release valuable minerals into his soil.  The impact of Agatha would be a recurring theme on my trip.

We had a delicious dinner of isote flowers, black beans, fresh cheese, and tortillas, which was deeply satisfying, and exactly what I needed after my long first day in Guatemala, and sleep came easy.

The following days in Guatemala included visits to farms in Antigua, Atitlan, San Martin Jilotepeque, and Santa Rosa.  I was able to meet a handful of wonderful, dedicated farmers, and plan on bringing Caffe Vita a few exciting new crop offerings in addition to our delicious, celebrated Finca Nuevo Vinas coffee.

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