Did you know that coffee originated in Yemen during the 15th century? Since then, coffee has spread across the world and become one of the planet’s favorite beverages. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you likely already know about all the different types of coffee beans and brands, each with its own flavors and aromas.
But what about Guatemalan coffee? How does this type of coffee compare to the more common variations? More than that, what is the best Guatemalan coffee and what should you know about it before you try it?
To start answering these questions, it’s important to know more about Guatemala itself and why its land makes such special coffee varieties.
Guatemala and the Growth of Coffee Beans
Interestingly, even though the coffee plant was bought to Guatemala in the 1700s, coffee production did not begin until the mid-1800s. Before this time, Guatemala’s main industry was dye for clothing. However, thanks to the industrial revolution, natural dyes were no longer efficient and synthetic dyes instead took their place.
Guatemala would not be able to survive without some kind of industry, so, as a result, the people started to turn to the production of coffee. Since the 1860s, there was an explosion of growth of coffee plantations all across Guatemala. The coffee industry proved to be so successful that Guatemala actually ended up becoming one of the top producers of coffee in the world.
Only in more recent years has Guatemala been surpassed by other coffee-producing countries like Honduras. Even so, Guatemala still produces huge amounts of coffee every year and the coffee industry there is thriving. The coffee growers in Guatemala tend to be part of the Asosiación Nacional del Café or Anacafé.
This association has proven to be a valuable framework and support system for coffee farmers. Anacafé can help coffee farmers market their produce and may even provide financial support if it is needed. Considering that there are more than 125,000 coffee producers in all of Guatemala, such support is much appreciated and has helped the coffee industry thrive.
But it isn’t just the history and support among coffee farmers that make Guatemalan coffee special. Instead, it is the environmental conditions in Guatemala that give coffee from this country its unique flavors and smells. The most popular regions where coffee is grown in Guatemala include Antigua, Atitlan, and Huehuetenango.
Guatemala coffee farms have adapted to the different climates of these regions to produce the best coffee possible.
The Unique Growing Conditions for Guatemalan Coffee
Antigua, Atitlan, and Huehuetenango each boast their own microclimates. A microclimate is a small area with a climate that is unique compared to the climate of the surrounding land. These microclimates have to do with many different factors such as altitude, temperature, the composition of the soil, and the weather.
Because a coffee farm in one region can be so different from a coffee farm in another location, Guatemalan coffee brands can have a lot of variety. For example, Guatemala Antigua coffee comes from soil that is full of volcanic nutrients. This is because the coffee farms in Antigua sit along the edges of various volcanos.
One of the volcanos in this area, the Volcán de Fuego, erupts regularly on a small scale. Over the years, the ash, lava, and volcanic rocks in the area have transformed the soil, filling it with nutrients that other areas in Guatemala can’t compete with. The soil in this region tends to drain well since volcanic material tends to be light and porous.
Although Antigua is not home to the highest points of elevation in Guatemala, its elevation is still very high. The elevation, along with the fact that it is often sunny and rains very little, makes the climate in Antigua even more special. The result is some equally special coffee beans.
Understanding Antigua Coffee
Antigua Santa Barbara coffee is one of the most renowned types of coffee from this region. You will find that coffee made from Antigua beans will make for a delicious medium roast with plenty of interesting smells and flavors. Many people find that they can taste chocolate and nuts from Antigua coffee.
The coffee mixes sweet with acidity, giving the beverage a vibrant flavor. The aftertaste is sweet rather than bitter and can be quite addicting. Some people find that the chocolatey flavor of these beans contributes to a creamier texture and flavor in the coffee as a whole.
More than that, you might even come across some fleeting fruity notes mixed in with the more earthy chocolate notes. You will never go wrong when trying Antigua coffee since this region is the origin of many of the oldest coffee estates in all of Guatemala. For that reason, those who manage the coffee farms in this region are highly skilled and are only being further educated in the art of coffee production.
The coffee producers also take great care in maintaining the soil in which the coffee grows. After all, if the soil loses its nutrients and unique minerals, the resulting coffee will never taste as good. Processing the coffee is as important as growing the coffee as well.
Even though Antigua tends to not get as much rain as other regions of Guatemala, it may still be very humid. For that reason, farmers can’t leave coffee beans to dry out in the sun, known as the dry method. Instead, they employ the wet method which can process and extract the coffee beans in a different way.
The wet method can benefit the coffee since it can bring out hints of acidity and make the flavor brighter.
Understanding Huehuetenango Coffee
When it comes to the quality of Guatemala coffee beans, you’ll find that Huehuetenango has some of the best coffee varieties you’ll ever be able to find. Huehuetenango is in the highlands of Guatemala and because of that, it is one of the coffee regions with the highest elevation.
The elevation is important when it comes to the growth of coffee plants. This is because coffee cannot grow at low elevations. If you ever wondered why coffee isn’t grown in the United States, this is why.
But besides the altitude, coffee plants require other very particular growing conditions in order to reach their full potential. For example, coffee plants are tropical so they need to grow in humid and warm climates. Fortunately, most of Guatemala is warm and humid.
Coffee plants also need a lot of sunlight and very little cold weather. Once again, Guatemala can provide these conditions without any problems, especially in the region of Huehuetenango. The soil of Huehuetenango is different from the soil in Antigua since it exists in one of the few non-volcanic regions in Guatemala.
But that does not mean that the soil in Huehuetenango is not rich and full of nutrients that can contribute to amazing coffee varieties. The altitude and weather contribute enough to the development of unique coffee varieties. Even though the air there is generally dry, the region is full of rivers that keep fresh water and nutrients running through the soil.
The Flavors of Huehuetenango Coffee
Due to these factors, Huehuetenango coffee has a very different flavor compared to Antigua coffee. Instead of a medium roast, you’ll find that Huehuetenango coffee makes for a very dark roast. So, if you want a serious kick from your cup of coffee, look no further than Huehuetenango coffee beans.
Instead of a creamy and chocolatey flavor, you’ll instead get a bold and spicy flavor from this kind of coffee. Huehuetenango coffee tends to be smoky and woody and can remind you of the great outdoors. The reason for this is that coffee grown at higher altitudes tends to have a sharper and stronger flavor.
More than that, high-altitude coffee tends to be of higher quality than those grown at low altitudes. This may be because high altitudes tend to bring out the more individual flavors of the coffee. Despite its bold and full-bodied profile, Huehuetenango coffee should never be acidic or bitter.
And this coffee isn’t 100% bold either. Beyond the spicy flavors and smells, there are some more delicate hints of dark chocolate. The finish is very clean and the aftertaste is the same.
You should never be left with a tart taste in your mouth after drinking Huehuetenango coffee. Java Planet Huehuetenango coffee is one of the most popular coffee brands from this region. If you prefer darker roasts of coffee compared to lighter ones, you’re sure to love any coffee from Huehuetenango.
On the other hand, if you can’t stomach such strong flavors and aromas, you might want to try Antigua coffee instead. Or, on the other hand, you can try another variety of Guatemalan coffee that we will explore next: Atitlán coffee.
Understanding Atitlán Coffee
Atitlán is the third of the three most popular coffee production regions in Guatemala. There are, of course, plenty of other regions in the country that produce great coffee. However, you will find that most Guatemalan coffee comes from Atitlán, Antigua, or Huehuetenango.
Atitlán is more similar to Antigua in climate than Huehuetenango due to one major factor: it is a volcanic region. It sits in the southwestern part of Guatemala and is home to the volcano named Volcán San Pedro. This volcano, like the ones in Antigua, has a long history of spitting volcanic ash and rock across the land.
While it may not be as active as other volcanos in the country, it has done a lot to create the unique soil in the region. More than that, Atitlán is also home to Lake Atitlán. This lake is the deepest in all of Central America and many have claimed it to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
But it is not its beauty that makes this lake special. Instead, this lake is actually a volcanic caldera. It is the result of various periods of volcanic burgeoning and collapse that took place over millions of years. Thanks to this special geography, Atitlán’s soil is filled with volcanic nutrients and supplied with fresh water from the lake.
Many coffee farms are situated on the slopes of Lake Atitlán. The weather in this area is warm and humid but not too wet. While the altitude is not as high as in other regions, it is still high enough to produce great coffee.
The Flavors of Atitlán Coffee
The Atitlán region of Guatemala produces some very full-bodied coffees. However, they are not as bold as the coffees from Huehuetenango. On the other hand, they are not as smooth and creamy as the coffee varieties from Antigua either.
For this reason, Atitlán coffee is a great type of coffee to try if you don’t want coffee that’s too dark or too light. This kind of coffee blends both heavier tones with more vibrant notes of coffee for a truly varied experience. Most coffees from this region tend to have a chocolatey flavor, though this flavor is not as creamy as with Antigua coffees.
Beyond the hints of chocolate, you are likely to experience some nuttiness as well. However, to balance out these more earthy flavors, you’ll also find that Atitlán coffee offers some interesting floral hints as well.
Everything You Need to Know About Guatemalan Coffee
If you didn’t know much about the quality of Guatemalan coffee before, you now know that Guatemala provides some of the most unique and flavorful coffee varieties in the world. From volcanic soil to high altitudes, the coffee in Guatemala is greatly varied and full of flavor you won’t want to miss.
To learn more, contact us or order some coffee.