Typically spreading our purchases between two distinct regions in Guatemala, we favour Huehuetenango for our filter purchases where the coffees can be winey, floral and juicy, whilst preferring the chocolate-driven profiles from Fraijanes for espressos, such as San Ramon and La Pila & Friends. This year, however, we discovered a coffee that we couldn't pass up for an espresso run, despite it coming from Huehuetenango. Travelling in the region with longtime Guatemalan partners, Primavera, we were happily introduced to Francisco Morales for the first time.
His farm, Finca La Esperanza is located in Cipresales, named as such due to the wealth of Cypress trees in the area, and we were really impressed with his processing and drying set up. Typically dried on patios in full sun, Francisco has installed a structure around his rooftops and terraces that allow shade netting to be drawn over the coffee. This reduces the impact of the sun and slows the drying process to ensure parchment remains intact, meaning the seeds don't degrade too quickly once milled and exported. Using an infra-red thermal gun, Francisco checks the temperature of the parchment as it dries, and told us that in full sun, the seeds typically see temperatures of around 37C whilst drying. This is lowered to about 25C when the coffees are dried under shade, making for a more gradual and controllable drying process.
All varieties grown at Finca La Esperanza are always kept separate through harvesting, processing and drying before being bulked together to make bigger lots such as this one. At the lower elevations of the farm grows Catimor, but this lot we have is comprised of the higher grown Caturra, Bourbon and Pache. Francisco has some plots planted with another variety referred to as 'Otro', but he isn't entirely sure what it is, other than that it has an unusually large screen size. We're assuming it is a variety with some Maragogype heritage.
Over a hearty lunch of Caldo de Gallo de Rancho (farm-style chicken broth) with Francisco and his family, we discussed the challenges he is encountering this year. "The coffee crop has been good, and we do our best to process and dry the coffee as well as possible, but ourselves and other farmers in the area are suffering a shortage of workers. The skilled ones like the patieros and cortadores (those turning the coffee on the patios and selective pickers) are in short supply as a lot have left Guatemala to try and find work in the US." Francisco is working hard to ensure his pickers and patio workers return year after year, paying higher wages and hopes the younger generation also turn up to work at his farm.
Working with coffee for the last 40 years, Francisco and his wife have now seen their eight children continue in the family tradition. Having bought land nearby, Francisco currently does the processing and drying of the coffees his children produce to help them get started in the industry, and lives in hope he'll get to see some of his twenty-two grandchildren continue to work with coffee in the future.
Cipresales, Huehuetanango, Guatemala
A concentrated, juicy espresso packed with flavours of cooked cherries, cocoa & honey roasted pecan. In milk expect chocolate chip cookies.