Welcome to Guatemala, a land of rich culture and captivating landscapes. Nestled in the heart of Central America, Guatemala is renowned for its exceptional specialty coffee. In this guide, we will be embarking on a coffee lover's journey as we delve into the history, varieties, processing methods, and vibrant coffee culture that make Guatemalan coffee truly remarkable.
The History of Specialty Coffee in Guatemala
Guatemala has a long-standing tradition of producing high-quality coffee. Although grown as a plant from the mid-18th century, coffee wasn’t considered a crop until the 1850s. However, it was in the early 20th century that the concept of specialty coffee took root. Coffee growers recognized the distinct flavours and characteristics of their beans and began focusing on enhancing quality through meticulous farming practices. Today, Guatemala is regarded as one of the world's premier specialty arabica coffee producers.
Guatemala boasts an impressive array of coffee varieties, each offering a unique taste profile. Some of the more prominent ones are highlighted below:
Bourbon: Known for its exceptional sweetness and nuanced flavours, Bourbon beans are a favourite among coffee connoisseurs. They often exhibit notes of chocolate, caramel, and citrus.
Caturra: This varietal is celebrated for its bright acidity and well-balanced flavour. Caturra beans tend to showcase fruity and floral undertones, making them a delightful choice for those seeking a vibrant cup of coffee.
Typica: Considered one of the oldest Arabica varieties, Typica has been cultivated in Guatemala for centuries. It yields a complex cup with delicate acidity, displaying hints of spice, nuttiness, and even wine-like characteristics. A natural dwarf mutation of Typica is Pache, this has a smaller plant which allows it to be planted more densely.
Maragogype: Also known as "Elephant Beans" due to their large size, Maragogype beans are a rarity cherished for their smoothness, low acidity, and distinctively rich flavours.
Hybrids: Guatemala boasts a plethora of coffee hybrid varieties, all with their own distinctive characteristics. A prominent hybrid being Sarchimor, often mistaken for a variety but is in fact a group of many different varieties with similar parentage.
The meticulous processing of coffee beans greatly influences their final taste. Guatemala employs various methods to ensure the highest quality. Some notable processing techniques include:
Natural Process: As Guatemala is a very wet nation (34th highest annual perception in the world in fact), natural processed coffees are more scarce. In this traditional method, coffee cherries are dried intact, allowing the beans to absorb the fruit's sugars and imparting a rich, fruity sweetness. Natural processed coffees from Guatemala often exhibit notes of berries, dried fruits, and chocolate.
Washed Process: This method involves removing the cherry's outer layer before fermenting and washing the beans. It results in a clean, bright cup with pronounced acidity and a wide range of flavours. Due to its damp climate, washed coffees are more prominent in Guatemala’s specialty coffee scene.
Honey Process: A hybrid between the washed and natural methods, honey processing involves removing the skin but allowing some of the mucilage to remain on the beans during drying. This imparts a syrupy sweetness and enhances the coffee's body, with flavour profiles ranging from caramel and floral to tropical fruits.
Coffee Culture in Guatemala
Coffee is deeply woven into the fabric of Guatemalan culture. From coffee farm tours where you can learn about the art of harvesting, processing, and roasting firsthand; to immersing yourself in Guatemala's cherished and traditional brewing methods. Try a cup of rich, aromatic coffee brewed using a clay pot called an "olla" or indulge in the velvety smoothness of coffee brewed through a cloth filter known as a "chunche".
Guatemala has also hosted prestigious coffee competitions, such as the Cup of Excellence, where exceptional coffees are rigorously judged by international experts. A chance Guatemalan coffee farmers as they showcase expertise with their finest harvest.
Guatemalan Coffee from Old Spike
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