GUATEMALAN COFFEE BEANS- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Have you noticed that Central America produces some of the best coffees? Guatemala coffee is a favorite among coffee lovers for a good reason. We guess you are the coffee enthusiast if you are reading this.
Are you interested in learning where your Guatemalan coffee comes from? Guatemala is one of the most influential coffee growers and exporters in the world. It is a gold mine for coffee farmers with warm, wet, high elevation. Guatemala has an ideal climate for creating some of the delicious coffee beans on the market today.
Coffee from Guatemala is perfectly balanced with a full-body, it can be strong and sweet with gentle acidity. It also has complex flavor notes too. Guatemalan coffee beans are used for blends because their aroma tends towards citrus, fruits, and spices.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE GROWTH OF COFFEE
Every delicious cup of coffee begins with a dedication to planting, nurturing, growing, harvesting, and processing.
Coffee beans grown at higher elevations tend to be higher in quality and have more vibrant flavors. This is because of harsher growing conditions like colder temperatures, heavier rainfall, and harsher winds. These factors make it a bit difficult for the coffee plants to grow. However, these conditions are beneficial for developing the flavor of the beans, because the cooler temperature slows down the growth of the coffee plant.
Due to the slow growth rate, the coffee plant is forced to focus more on bean production- creating more of the sugars that give coffee its flavor. Guatemala has many locations that are perfect for growing coffee.
The same way water supports every other living thing on the plant, it is very important when it comes to the growth of coffee plants. Rainfall of about 1500- 2000 meters is needed for about 8 to 10 months in a year for crops to flourish. The rainfall in Guatemala is adequate to support the growth of these plants. When plants are grown at a higher elevation, the plants receive adequate rainfall.
This is another important factor in coffee production. Coffee can be planted in a variety of soils, but the best soils should be the ones that allow water to be easily drained to and from the plant’s roots. That's why hard or clay soil is good.
However, the best soil is volcanic soil. The soil must contain all of the essential elements needed to nurture coffee plants like- calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and boron. Since the volcanic soil has all these helpful nutrients and more, when coffee plants are grown here, they thrive and flourish.
Coffee plants need bright but indirect sunlight for about 2 hours a day. This checkered lighting method is perfect for plants that are ideal for plants that are grown at higher altitudes. However, when plants are grown at a lower altitude, they need more sunlight to efficiently complete the process of photosynthesis.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT GUATEMALAN COFFEE
Guatemalan coffee is referred to as the Jewel of the Central American coffee industry. We’ll tell you why but first let's start with some important facts you need to know about Guatemalan coffee.
WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
Coffee was introduced as an ornamental plant in Guatemala around the mid-1700s. Coffee production didn't take off till the 1860s when Guatemala’s natural dye industry was overtaken by synthetic products, and a new economy had to be introduced to save their economy.
So, the government encouraged the growth of coffee plantations and coffee quickly became the country’s largest export. Around 1960, coffee growers developed their own union which is now known as Anacafe. The organization was responsible for research, marketing, and financial support for the farmers there. They also tried to improve the lives of farmers living in rural areas. The coffee industry in Guatemala is currently large and there are over 125,000 producers in this country.
GROWING REGIONS IN GUATEMALA
The coffee-growing regions or zones in Guatemala include:
Some of the best coffees in Guatemala are grown in Antigua. It is known for its complex flavor and hints of cocoa. This region is known to exhibit the typical Guatemalan coffee qualities which include a full-bodied (heavier than the typical Central American coffee) with a spicy flavor that often comes with a spicy flavor that is often rich and velvety. Antigua has the ideal coffee-growing soil and climate with a valley surrounded by 3 volcanoes.
The rainfall in this region is usually between 800 mm and 1200 mm every year. The distinct wet and dry seasons in Antigua provide for a consistent climate that leads to a uniformity of maturation among the coffee plants.
Coffee from Antigua is also known to retain its unique flavors in a medium or dark roast for espresso. Fear not, you need not go all the way to Guatemala to get this coffee. You can find it here.
This is another fine Guatemalan coffee grown in North Central Guatemala. The rainforest Coban region is predominantly characterized by humid, subtropical forests. Rain falls all year and totals about 3250 mm each year with a relative humidity of around 90%. The Coban soil is mostly clay and limestone, and the climate is affected by the Atlantic Ocean.
Coffee from Coban also displays the typical Guatemalan coffee qualities which include an excellent body, rich and spicy flavors, and light fruity acidity. It often has a floral and a lively aroma and light winey notes.
Huehuetenango coffee provides a taste that is subtle and mild yet complex and interesting. It has distinctive and delicate fruity flavors. Huehuetenango coffee has a light body (often buttery) with a sweet floral aroma and a pleasant finish that lingers on your palate.
It is grown in the highlands region of Northern Guatemala, an area that produces some of the most distinguished Guatemalan coffees. The average rainfall in Huehuetenango is about 1800 mm and the humidity is around 75%.
This growing region is located in eastern Guatemala along the borders of Honduras. It also has the ideal climate and a metamorphic volcanic soil that produces high-quality coffee with a distinct acidity and good body. Nuevo Oriente coffee grows at high elevations of about 4300 feet to 5500 feet above sea level.
The Atitlan growing region surrounds Lake Atitlan in Guatemala near the Pacific Ocean. This region receives abundant rainfall all year round, an average of more than 50 mm rain every month.
The coffee from this region is known for its full body and floral acidity with a rich and aromatic flavor. Atitlan coffee grows at high elevations too, from 4000 to 5900 feet above sea level where coffee pests and diseases give them little problems. Most of the coffee farms here are about 12 hectares in size.
The coffee plants are fertilized with organic matter instead of chemical fertilizers. Some of the farmers there use waters from Lake Atitlan during wet processing of the coffee cherry.
This coffee-growing region in Guatemala is around the north of Lake Amatiltan. Coffee is grown on the Fraijanes Plateau at elevations from 1200 to 1500 meters above sea level with all-year-round rainfall of about 1500 mm and relative humidity of about 60%.
It has mineral-laden soil which is high in potassium and has benefited from recent ash deposits due to the volcanic activity in the Volcan de Pacaya.
As a result of this rich soil, the coffee from here is said to produce an excellent body in a cup. Coffee grown in this region is known to have distinct acidity and a softly sweet aroma.
VOLCAN SAN MARCOS
Volcan San Marcos is the first region to produce flowering coffee plants each year. It is one of the wettest and warmest coffee regions in Guatemala. The coffee is grown at elevations between 4000 feet and 6000 feet above sea level. The region’s climate is also affected by the Pacific Ocean.
PREFERRED PROCESSING METHODS IN GUATEMALA
As you have read, Guatemala is a country with lots of rainfall and humidity. Since water is abundant in the country, the wet processing method is normally used. High humidity levels tend to disrupt the natural drying process of coffee beans. You’ll rarely see dry-processed Guatemalan coffee.
Farmers in Guatemala prefer the wet processing method as it is more consistent than the natural processing method (dry method) and highlights the natural acidity in the coffee.
The wet process involves the fermentation of coffee beans for 2 days or more. The cherries are pulped by a machine and removed from their mucilage. Then the beans are fermented to release the oils and sugars needed to give the coffee its flavor.
Guatemalan coffee grading system defines the Strictly High Grown/ Strictly Hard Bean grade to include coffee beans grown at elevations 1350 meters above sea level, while the Hard Bean grade includes coffee beans grown between 4000 feet and 5000 feet above sea level. This is because coffee grown at higher elevations produces denser beans and thus of a higher quality.
ROAST TYPES FOR GUATEMALAN COFFEE
Here’s something interesting about Guatemalan coffee beans, they can handle a wide range of roast styles. If you like a lighter and brighter coffee, you can opt for a light to medium roast and still get a full-bodied coffee with vibrant flavor notes. The lighter roast can have flavors of orange and apple that are backed by chocolate undertones. If you want a darker roast, that's good.
Since they are naturally sweet and full-bodied, they can withstand a darker roast and still produce a smooth and enjoyable cup. Expect to taste bittersweet chocolate and toasted notes in a typical dark roast.
BEST BREW METHODS FOR GUATEMALAN COFFEE
Guatemala has two different attributes that ought to be highlighted - the flavor and acidity, or the body and sweetness.
To highlight the flavor notes and acidity of Guatemalan coffee, use the pour-over brewing methods. It will produce great results. Imagine the taste of your coffee using a lighter roast and pour-over method. Tasty indeed. The paper filter you’ll use will help produce a clean cup with clear and bright flavor notes.
This method is ideal for those who want the subtle fruit and floral notes of Guatemalan coffee beans. By continuously pouring hot water over the medium-coarse/medium-fine grinds, the grounds are evenly saturated and bloom as the hot water goes through them.
Drip coffee is a quick and simple way to brew Guatemalan coffee beans. Since many electric brewers can pour hot water that can evenly saturate the grounds, the coffee grounds will be evenly extracted.
If you prefer a darker roast coffee or just want to highlight the body and natural sweetness, a French press will be ideal. The immersion brew methods will allow the coffee to stay in contact with water for a longer time, thereby extracting more sweetness. Be careful not to brew for too long or you will end up with an over-extracted cup of coffee.
The combination of heavy sweetness, full-body, and medium acidity present in Guatemalan beans is also perfect for cold brew. The long steeping tip helps to extract all the sweetness and flavor of the coffee, producing a strong and refreshing cup.
Read our full guide on how to make cold brew. Each sip of Guatemalan coffee is worth your while and it can become your favorite soon.
WHERE TO BUY THE BEST GUATEMALAN COFFEE BEANS
Triple check where you buy your beans from. Buy from reputable roasters like us so you’ll be sure that you are brewing freshly roasted coffee beans.
If you want to buy beans that are roasted after your order (ensuring maximum freshness) check our store. The beans will be roasted and shipped to you at lightning-fast speeds. Okay, stop waiting...get it here.