Scott & Guatemala
by Scott McMartin, Director of Coffee
I really love Guatemala. The warm smiles, deep Mayan history, incredible food, cultural tradition, impossibly beautiful volcanic vistas and of course the coffee. It was the first coffee growing country I visited when my coffee buying journey began back in 1994.
While other growing countries have filled my passport with colorful stamps, Guatemala will always be my first love. With 8 distinct growing regions including Antigua, Acatenango, Coban, Fraijanes, Huehuetenango, Nueva Oriente and San Marcos there is an incredible diversity of high-quality specialty coffee grown in Guatemala.
Each region enjoys a special cup quality based largely on a combination of factors including altitude, soil, tree variety, and microclimate. These factors in tandem with good agricultural practices and environmental stewardship lead to truly great coffee. It is difficult to settle on a favorite region but it I was forced to select one it would probably be Huehuetenango.
Bordering Southern Mexico is the highland region of Huehuetenango which boasts some of the highest altitude coffee grown in the country. This region is quite dry and shrouded by mountains and as such is quite remote. Getting to ‘Hue Hue” is not super handy. I have had the pleasure of reaching the region by full day trip by 4X4, small prop planes and by chopper. Amazingly no airsick bags were used in any trips!
The geography is striking, jagged, and steep and unlike many of the other growing regions there are no nearby volcanoes. Coffee here is grown primarily by small scale producers who often do all the wet and dry milling. In other instances, like Mercon’s San Luis mill, producers utilize centralized milling facilities to process their coffee. The resulting cups produced in Hue Hue are typically lemony with bold citrus notes and high acidity. One can occasionally encounter more rustic styles with ripe cherry fruit notes mingling with chocolate.
As a lover of Guatemalan coffee, the months of June and July are especially exciting as they mark the arrival of new crop coffees from all the growing regions. This year at Mercon Specialty we are expecting some exceptional arrivals from Huehuetenango which possess the bright, juicy citrus notes I look for. Used a single origin offering or to add complexity to a blend, I can’t wait to raise my first cup of new crop coffee from this truly special region.