A return to Guatemala this January, we spent some time in Fraijanes and Guatemala City before flying to its most famous coffee growing region, Huehuetenango, to visit El Pajal and San Antonio Huista. We were eager to reconnect with José López, who is working with Primavera on the ground as an agronomist but also manages Finca El Mirador, from whom we’ve bought coffee for the last four years.
After some delicious tacos, we traveled up into the mountains to see how this year’s harvest was coming along. Right at the top of Finca El Mirador is the plot we usually buy from, Los Altares, which comes from a specific selection and is processed and dried in a ‘Kenyan’ fashion. Lots of the coffee cherries were still green during our visit, as the temperatures at the higher altitudes are a lot cooler, meaning the cherry takes longer to ripen and mature. This year they had felt some very cold snaps, and some of the trees had experienced frosts whereby the tip of a branch blackens and shrinks back, which is an act of self-preservation for the plant.
Near José’s grandmother’s house is the area where they dry their coffees on shaded patios, as well as raised beds. Last year there was an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Chiapas, Mexico, which lasted for one and a half minutes, the after effects reaching Huehue and causing a lot of the drying beds to become distressed and partially collapse, as well as creating a massive crack in the drying patios. They will be renovating this year to keep the facilities in top shape to do the best job possible with their coffees. The building where the dried parchment was being warehoused was utterly destroyed, so José has moved this facility along with his coffee roaster and café to a new shop in San Antonio Huista town, where you can buy coffee from Finca El Mirador marketed by different varieties and processing methods.
When samples from Los Altares were available to taste once we were back in London we were relieved to find that their coffees still taste amazing this year. Despite the challenges of adverse weather and natural disasters, the López family attention to detail and quality has not diminished. As ever we’re tasting plenty of winey, berry fruit in this lot, and that rare combination of both clarity and concentration of flavour.
A syrupy, sweet cup, laden with notes of blueberries and baked nectarines. In the finish expect candied pistachio and caramel.