If you visit Antigua Guatemala, you're certain to romanticize the volcanoes that guard the old colonial city. Just south is the towering Volcán de Agua; further southwest are Acatenango and Fuego, joined with each other to form a complex known as La Horqueta, the pitchfork. Locals speak of all three with a level of appreciation and reverence.
Finca Santa Elisa Pachup lies on the lower western slopes of Acatenango. At 506 hectares, it is the largest individual farm we buy from outside of Brazil. Around 360 hectares are planted with coffee—an area just slightly larger than Central Park. Elevations on the farm range from 1,200 to 1,700 meters—quite good for 14° latitude—and coffee benefits from the shade provided by native trees as well as cultivated grevillea.
As recently as 2017 Santa Elisa was struggling to produce more than 700 quintales of coffee cherry—around 140,000 pounds, but meager for a farm of its size. But owing to recent upgrades to the farm's infrastructure and a new approach to its management, it now produces around 34,000 quintales of cherry on the same amount of land. The farm currently employs around 300 seasonal harvesters between October and February, making it a significant source of income for residents of the nearby town of San Pedro Yepocapa.
The farm cultivates two main varieties, marsellesa and sarchimor, but it also grows smaller plots of bourbon, gesha, catimor, catuaí, H1, and tekisik. This lot is a selection of 100% red bourbon, an older variety that is more susceptible to pests and disease but has the potential for incredible quality, especially at higher elevations.
Once coffee is harvested it is trucked to Benefício La Esperanza in Antigua where it undergoes a familiar fully washed processing. The volcanic ash can cause issues for the depulping equipment, so the staff at La Esperanza must exercise strict diligence in rinsing the coffee cherries with clean water first.
After processing the coffee is moved to one of La Esperanza's two drying patios. The team at Benefício La Esperanza and Los Volcanes Coffee are incredibly intelligent and precise in their approach to drying parchment coffee—something that's not celebrated as enthusiastically as more detailed fermentation practices, but crucial to good flavor and stability over time.
We've been partnered with Los Volcanes for many years for core blend components and we're thrilled to offer a seasonal single origin from them again. The heart of their business in Guatemala is Finca La Esperanza, an experimental farm that they operate adjacent to the benefício of the same name. Here they carry out agronomic experiments—largely focused on organic and sustainable agriculture—to identify or critique best practices. When a new tactic proves successful at La Esperanza, they gradually test that approach on one of the other farms they manage to evaluate its efficacy under other soil conditions, elevations, and microclimates. In doing so, they are able to absorb much of the risk inherent to experimentation before making recommendations to the thousands of producers across Guatemala who supply coffee to them.