So, what’s new in Guatemalan coffees for 2012?

Oh my! Let's see. Guatemala is ready for new trends on different segments of the market (and without doubting, the following could be applied for Central America and South America). First of all lets's take a look to growers and their possibilities.

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“My coffee is the best of the world”.

It is common to hear this statement from growers. But I believe that now more than ever growers are doing the best efforts possible to make this happen, despite what buyers or cuppers could express as preferences in their cupping forms.If you visit farms in Guatemala, most of them have applied clean production techniques such as: ecological wet mills that recycle water; usage of sedimentation tanks to prevent water pollution and usage of coffee pulp as organic fertilizer. But this is what we would call “the basics”.

Growers are becoming more sophisticated by doing segmentation of the production: by regions, by varieties and by time of harvest. This is a concept that perhaps has been the slowest to be applied because of its cost. Obviously, more detailed process and control is required to separate lots by first, second or third pick from a specific variety of a certain region within the farm. But it is a concept that direct trade has introduced as they focus on smaller exemplary lots, and thus, a premium is offered.The rest of their harvest is being offered to volume or commercial buyers.

There is also a better understanding that better quality coffee has better premium prices, but with a backup support on cupping forms (most commonly used are SCAA and CoE, but direct trade companies even use their own). More and more growers, their descendants and even, their workers (farm administrators, wet mill managers and so) are cupping each of their lots. This is a radical change in tradition, where the exporter used to say which lot was good and which one rejected. A cupping profile is being tasted and traced back to where the lot was planted to confirm or correct cultivation, wet milling and drying procedures. But they even go further.

Since new generations are taking control of farms (or they are in process of transition), youngsters are ready for the “fun stuff” playing around with the new brewing methods to differentiate the tasting profiles (if they did everything else properly in the farm and roaster). Direct trade is even easier when your counterpart markets the product through social media and web pages. A new generation of coffee growers is brewing! 

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Guatemala by numbers. The National Coffee Association (Anacafé in Spanish), is addressing strategies to ensure quality production, such as the production of certified coffee seeds. Its Annual Report (2010-2011)[i] , indicates “a total of 17 farms sold 277 bags of seeds (100 pounds each) around the country”. During 2011, the report states that a total of 26,153 growers, administrators or farm workers were trained in different topics, such as: wet milling, administration and management, productivity improvement, modern coffee cultivation, human resources and competitiveness.

According to Anacafé´s annual cupping monitoring, 62% of the2010-2011 coffees analyzed was clean.Major defects were astringency and fruity cups (14% and 13%).They also developed a new artisanal reproduction of Beauveria Bassiana, a fungus that is incorporated in the integral management to eradicate Broca. Thanks to high prices in the market, 2010-2011 registered a record of US$1,100 million in foreign exchange. Exports reported 3.6 million bags of 60 Kg (3.54% of the world coffee exports and down 0.3% compared to 2005-2006). Guatemala was number seven world exporter.

A total of 77% of SHB was produced, 12% was Semi Hard and Hard Bean, 7% Prime and Extra Prime.United States still has the biggest part of Guatemala´s share with 40%, Japan 16%, Canada and Germany 9% each, Belgium 7%, Italy 5% and the Nordics 4%.

Coffee exports estimates for 2011-2012 may increment 2% from the 3.6 million in 2010-2011 (crossing fingers that constant rains that affected mainly San Marcos, Chimaltenango, Alta Verapaz and Chiquimula do not make a significant reduction of the production). New Asian markets have showed up (South Korea, Taiwan and China) and more varieties are being cultivated: African and Central America Geisha, Mocca, Pacamara.

Are you ready for a better cup? It will get better.

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Juan Silvestre, Master Cupper of Anacafé front and Jorge De León, 2011 National Cupper Champion on the back.

First pic shows El Injerto's nursery, located in La Libertad, Huehuetenango.

Second pic shows shadow trees of Santa Felisa located in Acatenango, Chimaltenango.

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