A country in Central America, Guatemala produces over 3 million 60-kg coffee bags annually, exporting them to the US, Canada, and Germany among other parts of the world.
But how often would you have heard of Guatemala’s coffee?
Not that often, right? Guatemalan coffees are high in quality owing to the perfect landscape the country boasts.
Many of its plantations are located 1200-2000 metres above sea level, and any coffee connoisseur would agree that high altitudes can do wonders to the flavour profile of a coffee bean.
Most of its coffee production is focused on cultivating the superior-tasting arabica coffee with only 3% or so of its coffee being of the robusta variety.
Let’s explore the history of Guatemala’s coffee journey and what you can expect in a cup of Guatemalan coffee.
Coffee production in Guatemala began in the 1850s. Prior to this, in the 1700s, the coffee plant was brought into the country by Jesuit priests who used it as ornamentation in their monasteries.
Growing coffee was the answer to the country’s search for economic stability as their natural colour-dying industry failed. This was because of the spread of synthetic dyes being manufactured in Europe.
At some point, the lack of labourers became an impediment to the rapid scaling of Guatemala’s coffee industry.
They also faced several other obstacles, such as a fall in coffee prices, poor harvest seasons, etc.
By the early 1900s, a lot more coffee plantations sprung up in the southern states of the nation, creating more employment opportunities and instilling in the natives the importance of the trade.
The establishment of official bodies concerning Guatemala’s coffee trade began in 1928 when La Oficina Central del Café was set up by the central government.
It was later succeeded by Anacafé, formed in the 1960s by the coffee producers themselves. Beyond the involvement of the government, Anacafé served as a foundation, representing Guatemalan coffee internationally and drawing more attention to the diversity of coffee varieties grown within the country.
Under Anacafé’s governance, more cultural aspects of coffee production flourished in Guatemala.
The surprising fact is that Guatemala was a top producer of coffee in the Central American region (and in the world!) for all of the 20th century, and then some until Honduras surpassed the country in 2011 with its own coffee production.
Before café culture became widely popular in the 21st century, nearly 100% of the coffee produced in Guatemala was exported with Guatemalans consuming barely any of the coffee.
But the more global exposure the coffee farmers got, the more the natives themselves realised the value of the coffee they were producing and began to appreciate it more. Now more than 15% of their coffee is retained within the country.
Ranked amongst the most expensive coffees in the world, Finca El Injerto coffee is one of the most premier coffees you can find.
It is grown on the Finca El Injerto farm in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. These coffees are sold for as much as $500 per pound. They are highly rare coffee beans. This exclusivity and their high quality depict just how valuable Guatemalan coffees can be.
Guatemala even has an association consisting of women coffee producers. It is called ASPROCDEGUA and was set up in 2016.
It aims to level the playing field by giving women farmers assistance to produce good Guatemalan coffees. This producing organisation has hundreds of members and has also enabled the farmers to produce organic coffees.
Despite Guatemala not being one of the top 10 coffee-producing regions of the world anymore, the country produces some excellent coffee beans.
These coffees have a balanced profile with a medium to full body and intricate flavour notes.
If you want your coffee to have only moderate acidity, you’re likely to find a favourite amongst the varieties that the country produces.
Granted that different regions of Guatemala have some differences in the tasting notes, a typical Guatemalan coffee is sweet with prominent chocolate notes.
Its aroma can vary from floral to citrusy, with some even being fruity-sweet. The full spectrum, if you will.
Apples, mandarins, honey, tea, and berries are common flavour notes to be found in authentic Guatemalan coffee.
For this developing economy, its agricultural sector is a driving force. So naturally, coffee exports support the livelihood of thousands of Guatemalans.
Coban, Atitlan, and Antigua are 3 of the 8 notable coffee-producing regions in the country.
If you’ve ever tried a Guatemalan coffee, let us know in the comments what you thought of it.