In Central America, about the same size as the state of Ohio, lies Guatemala. This was for some time the epicenter of the great Mayan empire and to this day this can be felt in the culture, the people, and the customs.
Guatemala is a very important country to the world of coffee. It is a prolific producer and ranks second only to Colombia when it comes to growing high-quality, specialty coffee. Coffee is the most important export of the country.
This country is known in most of the world for its high quality coffee. Most, if not all, of coffee imported from Guatemala is either specialty grade or very high grade coffee - gourmet, to put it simply.
Up until relatively recently, Guatemala had no need to grow coffee as a cash crop. They were growing indigo and cochineal which were in high demand in Europe and the indigenous people of Guatemala had been growing for centuries anyway, so the coffee industry was largely undeveloped compared to other countries of the region, except maybe Honduras.
Then, in the 19th century, chemical dyes were invented. This made indigo flower dyes obsolete, practically destroying an entire country’s way of life. But the Guatemalan people adapted quickly and immediately turned to coffee as a cash crop.
The indigenous people were already farmers and had been for centuries. The land that once belonged to other crops was made available for coffee. This is how the coffee industry in Guatemala started off with big steps and even though it had a late start, it caught up rather quickly.
It is unfortunate that because of internal political and military issues, the coffee industry wasn't able to freely develop as it should have seeing how good Guatemalan coffee is. It makes you think that, if the circumstances had been a little better, maybe Guatemala would have been famous like Colombia is right now for their coffee.
There is one big problem with the coffee industry in Guatemala, and that is labor. Farmers, pickers, and so on aren’t really given steady employment. Instead, plantation owners would rather keep costs low by hiring people on a temporary basis, relying mostly on migrant workers.
It is also notable that a big part of the Guatemalan people live below the poverty line, and this is particularly true for coffee workers. Most of the people working in the industry do so in a situation of indentured servitude.
This is why it is more important than even to buy FairTrade whenever you’re buying Guatemalan coffee. No matter how small the contribution is, it goes a long way.
Ultimately, this situation is what keeps the coffee industry of Guatemala frozen in place, not really able to keep growing the way it should. In fact, there are reports that harvests have been getting smaller year by year— which is really bad news for us Guatemalan coffee lovers.
So let’s talk about Guatemalan coffee, arguably the best in the continent after Colombian coffee. What is it like — and what makes it so special?
It all can be traced to Huehuetenango. This region, which used to be a Mayan settlement, is situated on the Guatemalan highlands and displays great biodiversity and has some of the best conditions in the world for farming, and not just coffee. All sorts of crops flourish here, but the one that’s the most prolific is coffee.
Although most of Guatemala’s coffee is cultivated here, the denomination “Huehuetenango” is synonymous with high-quality, specialty coffee. Huehuetenango’s coffee is of great quality.
Its flavor profile is naturally sweet and has a quiet, pleasant bitterness to it which reminds you of medium dark chocolate. You can also taste nuts like hazelnuts and even cashews; its aroma is quite fragrant with citrus and floral notes to it. All in all, the flavor of Huehuetenango coffee is very deep and rich and can only be summed up as very sophisticated.
Our Guatemalan blend, for example, makes use of Huehuetenango beans as well as beans for other regions of the country to create a unique flavor profile: bright fruit, dark chocolate, and butterscotch. It is one of our finest products and possibly one of the best Guatemalan coffees you’ll ever try.
To sum it all up, Guatemala is a country that produces some of the best countries in the world and yet, because it doesn’t produce as much coffee as it should, it can sometimes fly under the radar. IT is, in many sense, a hidden gem in the world of coffee. Hopefully more and more people are gaining awareness of this delicious coffee. And that includes you!
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