Twenty seven hours is a long time to get anywhere. But the excitement of our trip to Central America made time pass relatively quickly. With a little over two weeks to cover three producing countries, there was plenty to do.
First stop Guatemala and our first day included a visit to Finca Medina in Sacatepequez, Antigua, a cruisy one hour drive out of Guatemala City. We sampled classic Antiguan coffee with plenty of chocolate, brown sugar, some florals and a creamy body.
It was a very good start. “Coco”, the General Manager, and his team have a well-run operation with waste product management, housing and medical programs for the workers and of course, good coffee.
A short side trip to ascend Pacaya, one of the volcanos that encircle Antigua, to shake off the jet-lag and we were ready to head to Huehuetenango. Thankfully there is a new charter flight available from Guatemala City which cuts the 7 hour drive to a 30 minute journey. Our main focus here is to visit producers in Cantinil, La Democracia and La Libertad. We have been purchasing coffee from this area for two seasons now it is an important component of some of our blends. We have been making improvements with processing over the past two years and the next shipment promises to be truly exciting.
Our last stop in Guatemala was a visit to Jaime Rios at his farm Sitio de Maria in Jutiapa. Situated right on the border, half the farm lies within Guatemala and the other in El Salvador. Jaime has created a rather unique moniker for his estate, dubbing it the “Republic of Gualvador”. It was also here we encountered what we agreed to be the most bumpy road of the whole trip.
Our next stop was Honduras. A relatively new origin for us and one we were keen to explore. We had previously purchased Honduran micro-lots, including one of the parainema varietal typically characterised by a medium body, sweet, with red fruits and chocolate. It has a good pedigree with several farms using it to win national Cup Of Exellence (COE) competitions. Parainema was originally developed by the Honduran Coffee Association (ihcafe) as a leaf rust resistant varietal. It now seems this resistance is waning and the recovery rate of plants infected by this disease is slower than other varietals e.g. caturra or catuai. Standouts for us were Finca Monte Vista in Santa Barbara and Finca Cimarron in Merindon with several micro-lots and blenders already on their way.
Finally, onto Nicaragua and what would turn out to be one of the highlights of our trip. With no direct flights available from Honduras, we flew in late to Nicaragua via El Salvador. It was like visiting your next door neighbour by first walking around the block instead of going straight to their front door. Up early the next morning for a three-hour drive to La Concordia, Jinotega for some cupping before a further two-hour drive to Ocotal, Nueva Segovia. In many ways it is obvious to see there is plenty of good coffee to be found here and in large part due to the meticulous work by producers, agronomists and others in the chain. After tasting quite a few samples, one place in particular caught our attention, a producer based near Mozonte. We made arrangements and visited the next day. Near the top of mountain, where the road ends and the farm is a further 500m on foot, we met a small producer (I’m keeping his identity a secret, for now at least) with a passion and clear vision for producing specialty coffee. A previous COE winner, his family operated farm nestled in perhaps some of the most ideal location for producing specialty coffee. He is confident, and we have no doubt he consistently produces what he claims.
Two weeks is a short time but it can feel a longer when so many things are squeezed into it, We have continued development with our existing supply lines, strengthened existing relationships, made new friends and tasted some really good coffee. We are lucky to have secured some of these and we can’t wait to share it all with you.