Mountain Shade Grown Coffees
Guatemala is the most northern country in Central America and experiences some of the most diverse climates in the region. Its varied terrain and climate provides many advantages to growing coffee, including volcanic soil, temperature and a high altitude, all beneficial to the production of high quality Arabica coffee. In fact, within the small country of Guatemala there are seven distinct regions, each producing its own unique coffee characteristics.
The country’s SHB (Strictly Hard Bean) grade of coffee beans are the highest quality produced within Guatemala. Each primary coffee growing region (Antigua, Coban, Atitlan, and others) provides its own unique taste and quality and are graded and approved by Guatemala’s national coffee association, ANACAFE. When a crop does not meet the specific region’s taste profile and grade, it will not be approved to be sold a SHB with a regional designation. These coffees are quite different than, say an Ethiopian coffee from Africa.
Guatemala coffee beans are known for their high quality and unique bourbon varieties giving them their regional characteristics. Most of these coffees are shade grown varieties from both the larger production farms to the local small growers in remote mountain villages. You’ll find Gualemalan coffees are used in many high quality office coffee services.
Antigua provides one of the country’s most well known growing areas respected for its high quality Arabica coffee. Surrounded by volcanoes, some still active, the valley maintains a climate ideal for coffee growing. It provides a balance of wet and dry climates with soils constantly nurtured by the volcanic soils and sitting at an altitude of around 5,000 feet. The rainfall is ideal enabling growers to produce coffees with full body and rich aromas, and a perfect balance of acidity. Between January and into March, harvesting takes place for the beans grown in this area: Caturra, Catuai and Bourbon.
North of Lake Amatitlan surrounding the valley near Guatemala City, lies the region of the Fraijanes Plateau. Again the soil is volcanic and contains a high Potassium thereby creating coffees with a medium body. The ongoing volcanic activity continues to add nutrient rich minerals to the soils in this region. With a year-round average temperature of slightly more than 70 degrees and an altitude just below 5,000 feet, coffee is cultivated in an environment conducive to high quality beans. Typically described as having full body, good acidity and a mild aroma, these Guatemala beans receive the highest rating (SHB).
Coban is the rainforest region with very humid subtropical forests located in the northern lowlands. This region receives must more rainfall than the mountain regions and, in fact, gets rainfall all year long, with much less sunshine and a high humidity between 85-95 percent. Even the soil is different, being mostly limestone and clay rather than the volcanic soils of the mountainous regions. Being near the Caribbean creates a microclimate that together with its lower altitude and relatively high humidity results in what’s called hard and strictly hard beans that, when roasted, have a medium body with fruity flavors, light wine notes and a light acidity, quite different from its high mountain counterparts. The harvest season runs from December into March.
Huehuetenango highlands lies along the border of Mexico where coffee is grown at higher altitudes above 5,000 feet with humidity between 70 and 80 percent. The warm winds from Mexico keep the frost away and creates a unique microclimate with an average temperature of around 73 degrees. This subtropical climate results in high quality beans that give a very good cup for these Huehue, Bourbon, Catuai and Caturra coffee beans. This higher altitude moves the harvest season up to January through April.
Lago Atitlan is a beautiful area surrounded by volcanoes with altitudes reaching almost 12,000 feet. This mountainous region gets a lot of rain enabling good high altitude coffee grown with organic fertilizers and sun dried. Mostly made up of small farmers who harvest their coffee between December and March. These coffees tend to be full bodies with good acidity.
Nuevo Oriente where the weather is mirrors Coban is in a volcanic range in an altitude averaging around 5,000 feet with average temperatures in the low 70’s. With less rainfall than other areas the coffee tends towards an aromatic bean with good acidity and a full body. Farmers grow Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai beans with a harvest season that spans December through March.
Any of these Guatemalan coffee regions can produce a high quality gourmet office coffee.