Having bought from Agusto Armas last year, we were intrigued to visit him and his family on our return to Guatemala this January. Wanting to witness the great work they are doing first hand, we hoped to better our understanding of what it takes to produce such great coffee.
Our first introduction to Agusto and his brother Pedro, along with several relatives and workers, was as the sun was setting in rural El Pajal, around 15 miles from the Mexican border. We could instantly tell who of the two brothers was Agusto as he had a hand-tooled leather belt emblazoned with “AGUSTO” holding up his Wranglers. It was then that we realised we’d spelt his name wrong last year; our apologies Agusto!
Their father had bequeathed his farm, “Finca El Recuerdo”, to the brothers, who have been rather unimaginative in what they call their, now distinct, farms: Finca El Recuerdo 1 and Finca El Recuerdo 2. Growing Pache Verde, which is a dwarf mutation of Typica, just like how Caturra is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, Agusto has also planted amongst his coffee a mixture of other trees: Chalum to fix nitrogen, Gravilea to provide shade and Cipreces to act as windbreaks.
With a natural spring on the farm, the family are lucky in having an unlimited supply of clean water for coffee processing. This water is first used to submerge coffee cherries in a reception tank, which enables them to skim off any floating fruit. Recycling the same water to feed the cherries into the disc pulper before passing through a criba to sort by density, the pulped seeds are finally sluiced down to their fermentation tanks.
Over time, when processing multiple lots per day, this water becomes reddish in colour and laden with sugars, at which point they call it ‘Aguamiel’ or ‘Honey-Water’. Before allowing it back into the water table, the Aguamiel is treated, filtered and cleaned to avoid contamination. Clean, cool spring water is used to wash the coffee after around 40 hours of fermentation, with more fresh water added at this stage, allowing the coffee to soak for a further 24 hours before being dried on Agusto’s patios for around twelve days. Due to altitude coupled with close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, two veils of mist regularly envelop the farm so at 11pm and 4am they cover the coffee each day to prevent dew settling onto the drying seeds.
The crop came a little late this year, the trees flowering in June rather than the more usual April/May time. We believe, however, that this year’s lot is even better than the coffee we had from Agusto last year. Tasting incredibly bright, fruity and intense, it reminds us of the juice from a tin of pineapple rings. Delicious!
A fantastically clean, clear and bright cup with exquisite flavours of pineapple juice and lemon candies. Sweet and complex, this coffee is juicy and refreshing.