A country that produces high-quality specialty coffee, Guatemala is known for delicate and balanced profiles that can satisfy every coffee drinker.
Similar to many Central American countries, missionaries brought coffee to Guatemala around 1750. Initially used purely as a decorative plant in monasteries around the country, the first coffee exports didn't occur until 1850 as an afterthought.
Shortly after, Guatemala’s main exports of indigo and cochineal were decimated by the invention of artificial dye in 1860, which is when coffee took over as the main export to boost the economy and production ramped up significantly.
Today, Guatemala is the world’s tenth-largest exporter of coffee but is better known for producing the second-largest amount of specialty arabica coffee in the world (just behind Colombia). Thanks to its diverse microclimates, fertile volcanic soils and dedicated management, Guatemalan coffee is some of the best arabica you can get your hands on.
High altitudes, consistent rainfall and diverse microclimates make Guatemala one of the best locations in the world to grow arabica coffee. Because of these ideal conditions, almost all coffee grown in the country is arabica.
Widely grown throughout twenty departments in Guatemala, there are eight main arabica production regions. The most famous of these are Antigua, Atitlan and Huehuetenango. Thanks to active and dormant volcanoes scattered throughout the country, the soils in the mountain ranges are incredibly fertile; this gives each region the ability to produce a variety of remarkably nuanced flavours.
Generally speaking, Guatemalan coffee is produced between 1300 - 2000 masl. Guatemala’s Strictly Hard Beans (SHB — those grown above 1,350 meters above sea level) are considered to be among the world’s best coffee.
Each region has a distinct flavour that is associated with its local origin; Huehuetenango produces complex acidity and powerful floral notes, and Antigua produces chocolatey, sweet, full-bodied coffee. That being said, regardless of which region is sourced and cupped, Guatemalan coffee is broadly known for being incredibly balanced and delicate.
This distinct, region-locked flavour is in many parts thanks to the Asociación Nacional del Café (Anacafé). Founded in 1960, this organisation ensures that coffee exported from Guatemala meets the country’s high standards. Anacafé have created marketable brands for each of the coffee-producing regions; each is distinct and unique, to suit any coffee drinker’s preference.
Thanks to Anacafé’s efforts, Guatemala’s worldwide reputation for producing exceptional coffee is kept intact season after season, year after year.
Much of Guatemala's specialty arabica is shade-grown throughout the country. Combined with the exceptionally high altitudes of it's growing regions, coffee cherries grow very slowly. This allows for exceptional development of flavour from the soils and microclimates affecting each harvest.
Thanks to predictable rainfall patterns and reliable water sources throughout the country, nearly all Guatemalan coffee is fully washed once harvested. Removing all fruit from the beans results in clean, crisp and acidic flavours in the cup; subtleties Guatemalan coffee is well known for.
The high humidity that the country experiences so close to the equator makes it difficult for other processing methods to succeed. Too much moisture in the air makes processing natural coffees nearly impossible, as the risk of over-fermentation and spoiled lots is so much higher with the increased humidity.
With incredibly dedicated producers throughout the country though, some natural and honey process coffees do still make it through to be exported, but they are few and far between. Thankfully, the remarkable soils and microclimates produce coffee that is so varied and interesting, that the uniform washed processing is a non-issue when it comes to the variety of flavours from Guatemala.
At Allpress Espresso we have been buying the Sierra Encantada through our long-time partners Café Lux since 2008. This is a blended cup profile coffee, where the expert quality team at Lux piece together and build the blend to make a consistent cup profile, adjusting components as needed. The coffee is primarily sourced from several large estates in Fraijanes, Jalapa and Nuevo Oriente as well as some from Huehuetenango. This coffee is remarkably consistent and is our first port of call each year.
Another long-term partnership is with Finca Joya Grande, since 2017. It is located in the Santa Rosa region, an area we have long been drawn to over the years for the complex coffees with sweet maple and chocolate, apple acidity and great body. Joya Grande Estate is 500 hectares in size but only 170 hectares are reserved for coffee, with the remainder used for a reforestation project. The Estate also has a kindergarten, football field and medical clinic on-site, not just for their staff but available for the local community too.
We have also bought a blended Santa Rosa coffee from Unex Guatemala, another export partner of ours for several years now. In 2021 we changed this to a coffee called Chak Mool. Still a blended Santa Rosa but this includes a separate premium that contributes to Unex Farmer Aid program; a wide-reaching initiative providing dental/medical, kindergarten and school programs as well as farmer education around sustainability and climate change.
Guatemalan specialty coffee forms an integral part of our signature Allpress Espresso Blend. You’ll find juicy apple acidity and a clean, crisp finish thanks to delicate and balanced Guatemalan coffee.
Our Coffee Galaxy often showcases remarkable Guatemalan specialty coffee, beans from Antigua are among our favourites. Keep a keen eye out, you’re always in for a treat when you're brewing up some of the world’s best coffee from Guatemala.