San Lorenzo, Guatemala
- Tasting Notes: Hibiscus, Cocoa Nibs, Vibrant
- Varietal(s): Caturra &, Catuai
- Processing: Fully Washed
- Altitude: 1550 - 1800 masl
- Farmer(s): Wicho Valdez
- Region: Coban
Many, especially in Texas, would have tasted Guatemalan coffee. Its vicinity to the southern United States makes it accessible. Also, many native Guatemalans now call the United States home. The popularity of Guatemalan, however, could also be attributed to the country’s marketing of their prized agricultural product.
Some twenty years ago, Anacafe, the governing coffee organization of Guatemala, decided to separate the producing regions in order to market them more effectively. Places like Antigua, with its beautiful Spanish colonial city, blossomed under this new marketing, yet, others did not fare as well. Point in case, the region of Coban.
Coban is primarily filled with rainforest. It is typically very wet. This lends itself to the growth of vegetation but in the case of coffee, creates a number of challenges in the processing and drying phases of production. While that could be a mental barrier for most producers, it is something that Wicho Valdez saw differently.
The Valdez has been farming since the late 1800’s. Always driven with a knack for quality – even in the days when they were growing cattle – Wicho too holds the belief to innovate or utilize resources to produce the best he can.
For example, in order to protect coffee while drying on the patio he developed large boxes with a roof on wheels that his workers can shovel coffee into quickly. This stops the coffee from absorbing more moisture and at an uncontrollable state.
Wicho has also built several greenhouses. Each greenhouse has shelves in it extending 8’ to 10’ in the air allowing for air to circulate around these raised shelves for optimal drying. In this system, he also keeps lots separated so that he can have complete traceability.
However, what I believe is probably the single biggest attribute to his quality, is his mastery of the drying process via his mechanical dryers. These dryers are traditionally seen ‘bad.’ That is because most that purchase and utilize a dryer such as these are only concerned with volume and are simply trying to dry the coffee as quickly as possible, which means at high temperatures. This is horrible for coffee considering it is a living organism.
Wicho dry’s his coffee to 24% moisture on the first day and then pauses. He lets the coffee find equilibrium again before he puts it back in the dryer. Then, moving forward, he only reduces the moisture percentage by 6% each day. This ensures that the coffee has a gentle drying period, which results in a much more stable and tasty coffee for many months.