Huehuetenango is a beautiful place to grow coffee- limestone soils, searing high altitudes, cold nights and hot days all come together as the ingredients to allow traditional varietals (bourbon, caturra and the likes) to produce high-quality cherry.
This blend is made up of coffee from 6 different smallholder farmers, each contributing anywhere from 4 – 15 bags of green coffee into the blend. The 2020 iteration of this blend includes producers who farm independently (and are not associated with any cooperative or association), and producers from the ASIAST group in San Antonio Huista. Members of these groups farm Caturra, Bourbon, and San Ramón varietals. Individual farms range in altitude, but an approximation of 1700 masl is as good of an estimate as any of the average altitude of the farms where the coffees came from.
Erick Perez and Porfiria Martinez each farm independently. This blend includes lots from both of Erick’s parcels- Las Ventanas, and Las Cuevas. His parcels are near Agua Dulce, and he has Caturra and Bourbon varietals. Erick made some quality improvements this year, including floating cherries to removing under-ripe and overripe floaters before processing, and he also installed a screen that more successfully keeps pulp from entering the fermentation tank (which can cause uneven fermentation). Porfiria is getting up there in age, and her son Javier often helps her to process coffee. This year, they’ve been focusing on replanting shade trees on their farms.
Andres Pablo, Crispin Matias, Rosario Alva and Eric Lopez are all members of ASIAST- the Asociación Integral Agrícola Sostenible Toneca (Toneca is a colloquial adjective for San Antonio Huista), a tight-knit group of producers with a strong sense of solidarity, working together to identify processing best practices, and learning about sustainable farm management with an eye towards climate change and their future success. Though some members of the group are still using conventional inputs (albeit in very small quantities comparatively), the ecological processes the group is implementing on every farm are nothing short of revolutionary. This is a drought-prone area, and many farms are isolated, and only accessible by foot with restricted support services. They’re implementing terracing in their farms, and planting in contour lines to capture water and avoid soil erosion; planting of shrubs in between rows of coffee plants to retain water; high percentage of shade cover; planting native shade trees; composting system and organic fertilization; a community-run recycling program; and of course, experimental processing in collaboration with ANACAFE. The group sees these practices as the only way to combat climate change, which has devastated production in recent years.