Coffee category: Balanced
Process: Washed & Sun DriedWhat to expect: A returning coffee of previous years which was a favourite for those who enjoy a smooth tasting, balanced coffee. Expect lots of sweet chocolate notes with hints of hazelnut praline and raisin.
Producer: Francisco Mendez
Region: San Pedro Necta, Huehuetenango
Altitude: 1,700m above sea level
Varietals: Caturra, Bourbon
Farm size: 30 hectares
Guatemala is well known for its exceptional coffee production. The country has several micro regions and thus differentiated producing regions delivering a vast array of coffees. Of the three non-volcanic regions, Huehuetenango is the highest and driest under cultivation. This area is one of the best regions in Guatemala for coffee production.
Huehuetenango borders the east side Mexico and is at the foot of the Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. Interestingly, this region is protected from frost due to the hot air which originates in the Mexican Tehuantepec plain. The region has an almost unlimited number of rivers and streams, so a mill can be located just about anywhere.
Despite its ideal growing conditions, Huehuetenango does face certain challenges. Foremost is its extreme remoteness, which requires most producers to process their own coffee. Both a good and bad thing, this means that education is a must for best practices or inconsistency and low quality is sure to ensue.
Francisco, along with his uncles Gabino and Gilberto, work an entire mountainside side of a mountain in remote Northwest Huehuetenango. While working in coffee alongside family members is not rare in Guatemala, the depth of collaboration and transparency with which they partner is remarkable. Year after year, they share successes and misses, working together to make each other's lots thrive. They operate like a co-op, each member making their contributions.
Of the three, Gabino is focused most on quality improvements, so he travels to Guatemala City to take courses at Anacafe, learning about innovations in varieties and processing. Recently, he implemented his learning by lengthening the washing channels on their central wet mill to improve processing, and this year's crop showcases brighter, crisper profiles as a result. Another example is shade: Gabino utilizes mostly Chalum shade, as Gravilea trees make the soil more acidic. Chalum leaves biodegrade four times faster than Gravilea leaves, and he and his sons are monitoring the longer-term soil impacts as a result. Francisco Florencio supports his uncles with the water from his ground springs, and Gilberto makes structural improvements around the farm. Gabino's sons have also studied soil science, and support with soil analysis and fertilizer on each lot. The result is that each lot improves significantly and all family members benefit.
This harvest, the Mendez family have carefully blended lots based on cupping, analysis, and conversation, keeping each member's lots separated to showcase their work. Francisco's small lots, including El Barranco, El Peñazco and La Joyada, create a distinct creamy sweet, caramel and pear profile. Gilberto's Coyegual and Manantiales lots deliver lively, fruity charisma with chocolate depth. Gabino combines the bright tropical fruit of Aguas Altas with the candy bar sweetness of Jocotales to create a refreshing and chuggable coffee. The only lot that was kept fully separated is the prized Monte Claro.