This remote area in the Western Highlands, adjacent to the Mexican state of Chiapas, is the highest point of coffee cultivation in Guatemala. At this distance from the equator, 1,800 meters might be too high and too cold for coffee except for a series of unique climate features: currents of warm air move south from Mexico and mix with the cool air from the even higher Sierra de los Cuchumatanes peaks. The resulting conditions provide the perfect temperature patterns for the maturation of coffee: warm days and cool nights.
The municipality of Todos Santos Cuchumatán contains the town itself as well as six smaller villages and dozens of tiny rural communities. The population is primarily indigenous peoples of Mayan descent and most speak the Mam language (but little, if any, Spanish). Todos Santos is unique in Guatemala as one of the few places where indigenous residents still wear their traditional clothing of distinctive colors, patterns, and materials. The town is home to an annual festival centered around All Saints Day, with celebrations involving traditional dances, music, and a famously rowdy horse race.
El Esfuerzo (fully, Asociación Desarrollo Integral El Esferzo Tuiboch y Todos Santos, or ASODIETT) was formed in 1995 by ten founding members seeking to pool their resources for the betterment of the coffee growing community. We were introduced to this group by Josue Morales of Los Volcanes, our export partner in Guatemala. Nearly all of our Guatemalan coffees (including staple components of Brooklyn and Manhattan) are delivered intact in the fruit to be processed at their beneficio (wet-mill) in Antigua. However, Huehuetenango is so remote that producers here must depulp their own coffee and dry it down to parchment to improve stability during transport and storage.