Guatemala – Finca La Bolsa
Guatemala: It is most likely that Jesuit missionaries introduced coffee to Guatemala, and there are accounts of coffee being grown in the country as early as mid-18th century. Nonetheless, coffee only became an important export crop for the country in the mid-19th century. Today, an estimated 125,000 coffee producers drive Guatemala’s coffee industry and coffee is one of Guatemala’s principal export products, accounting for 40% of all agricultural export revenue.
Today, coffee is grown in 20 of Guatemala’s 22 departments, with around 270,000 hectares planted under coffee, almost all of which (98%) is shade grown. The country’s production is almost exclusively Arabica and is most commonly prepared using the washed method, though natural and various semi-washed methods are gaining in popularity. Guatemala benefits from high altitudes and as many as 300 unique micro climates. There is constant rainfall in most regions and with mineral-rich soils and the country’s reputation as a producer of speciality coffee is nothing short of stellar.
Finca La Bolsa was bought by Jorge Vides, a distinguished medical professional, in 1958. Prior to this the land wasn’t used for coffee production. Jorge won a number of awards for his coffee production and for services to the region of Huehuetenango, andthe main hospital in the coffee growing community was named after him. La Bolsa competed in the 2002 Cup Of Excellence competition and placed second, scoring a whopping 94.98. Finca La Bolsa sits between two mountains, which provide a very stable, humid micro-climate. This combined with the limestone rich soils give the coffee a very unique profile – a rich syrupy body and plenty of malic and citric acidity. Afte harvest the coffee is fermented for between 18 and 24 hours, and is then cleaned of mucilage, graded in channels and soaked overnight.
Finca La Bolsa is Rainforest Alliance certified and follows C.A.F.E guidelines. Coffee Care funded the construction of a school and nursery at the farm with fully trained, full time teachers. All of the temporary and permanent staff have access to schooling for their children, and they are incentivised to leave their children at school or nursery through food donations. When a child attends school or nursery for 5 consecutive days they receive a weekly supply of rice, beans and corn. Prior to this food ration scheme it was very difficult to get people to leave their children in the care of others, and schooling wasn’t necessarily valued as there was greater pressure to earn money to feed the family. As a result there are no children working in the farm, and the school and nursery classes are full. Accommodation is provided for permanent and temporary workers, with separate facilities for men, women and families, bathrooms and kitchens.
Sections of the farm are reserved areas, to promote biodiversity, reduce exposure to winds and soil erosion. Inga trees are used to create shade for the coffee and to fix nitrogen in the soil, which is essential for plant and cherry growth. The farm also has an expansive composting operation to make use of waste products using redworms.
Arabica Coffee Varietals:
Bourbon – this varietal originated on the Island of Bourbon, now known as Reunion Island and is a mutation of early Arabica species from Ethiopia. It has a medium yield, it’s leaves are broad and it’s cherries can ripen red, yellow or orange.
Caturra – is a cultivar from Brazil and is a mutation of the Bourbon coffee bean. This coffee tree does not grow as tall as the original Bourbon coffee tree and typical characteristics associated with it are bright acidity and a medium body.