Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finca Vista Hermosa, Guatemala, march 2010

So this is the forth year we will be buying coffee direct from Finca Vista Hermosa.
Being my first time in Guatemala I was very excited.
Both Klaus and Linus have been to Finca Vista Hermosa before. You can read what they had to say about it here:

Linus' visit in 2009:
Part 1
Part 2

Klaus' visit in 2008:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I arrived in Huehuetenango just as this years harvest came to an end. The patio’s were full of washed coffees, laying drying in the sun. The patio crew, which contains 5 people, is constantly watching the coffee and making sure the coffee drys evenly by turning the coffees all the time.

We have been buying from FVH the past three years and it has always been one of my personal favourite coffees. I was very curious how this years crop would turn out. The harvest, as with so many other places around the world, has been really small due to bad weather. Around 30% less than last year, which was also a small harvest.

What we have experienced in the past, when the harvest is small, is the crop tends to have more complex aromas. This usually means that farms who are focused on quality can get a higher price for their top lots. This ensures their survival, even when the yield is low, like it was this year.

The first day I spent hiking the mountains where the farm is located. Edwin, who's family own the farm, took the time off to accompany me, along with Diego the farm manager. They showed me the farms micro lots and some of the many natural springs which flow from the mountains over several locations. The springs are a very favorable advantage for the FVH coffee farm. Huehuetenango has one of the lowest annual rain falls in Guatemala. The springs ensure FVH can prosess their signature clean and aromatic coffees.

We also walked past some of the houses, situated in the middle of the farm, surrounded by the mountains. Living in these houses are families who have been working with Finca Vista Hermosa for a long period of time. These families have now been offered land where they can live and farm themselves. Most have amimals, grow vegetables and coffee which they themselves sell to different buyers. Essentially living off the land.

Another contribution that Finca Vista Hermosa brings to the local community is the farms school. The school is used daily by more than 120 children, some living up to 25 mins walk from the farm.

On the second day I was acompagnied by Andy from Barefoot Coffee Works in San Jose California. They have also been buying from Finca Vista Hermosa for a long time. We brought a couple of bags of freshly roasted FVH coffee, Edwin brought a grinder and a Hario v60 dripper. We brewed fresh coffee, and the people of FVH tasted the coffee they put so much effort into growing.

In Guatemala people drink coffee the whole day. It is also normal for children to drink coffee day and night. But they brew it very weak, up to 10 times weaker than we are used to. They also add milk and loads of sugar. So we added extra water to suit the locals taste. The local people provided a lot of positive comments on our brew. It was such a relief that they liked what we had made out of their coffees.

Three years ago a new micro-lot was planted at FVH. This year will be the first time they can harvest this lot called El Mirador. This has produced about two export bags (120 kg) this year. This lot is located at the very top of the farm between 2000-2200 MASL. This is one of the highest altitudes coffee can grow in Guatemala. On this lot they have chosen to grew the Maragogype type of Arabica which produces huge cherrys and therefor huge coffee beans. This coffee should produce more aroma but less body. We for sure look forward to tasting this new lot and tell Edwin all about what we think.

During the evenings at the farm a lot of coffee discussion went on. One of the topics was Fair Trade. Why is Fair Trade not a good thing for a farm like Finca Vista Hermosa? Its simple; the cost to produce coffee in this region exceeds the fairtrade buying price! This is due to the rough and steep mountains where the farm is located and because the pickers are out picking cherrys in the same lots up to 7 times per havest for the cherrys to be perfectly ripe. So Fair Trade does not equal good coffee nor an actual fair price for farm like FVH.

After 3 days at the farm it was time to head back to Guatemala City. On the way there we stopped at one of the dry mills Fince Vista Hermosa uses, called Beneficio de Cafe Cofeco. This is where the last step of quality control is made before the coffee leaves Guatemala, ensuring only the best beans arrive at the roastery here in Copenhagen.

Back in Guatemala City we finally tasted this years lots. 11 in total. At Anacafé they were really helpfull. They roasted and arranged a cupping for us afterhours. This was the first time we were able to taste the coffees also for Edwin. The cupping blew our minds! The three of us were speechless! Everything tasted fantastic and all the lots cupped really clean. The difference was in the aromas. We found everything from thick sweet chocolate, to fresh tropical fruits. I’ll let all you people out there put your own words to the coffee once it arrives here at The Coffee Collective.

We really look forward to presenting some of the best of these FVH coffees to you.

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