A Guide To Guatemalan Coffee: Brewing and Buying Tips
Have you ever noticed that Central America produces some of best coffee in the world?
Guatemala in particular is a favorite among coffee fanatics, and for good reason too.
Coffee from Guatemala can be the perfect balance of full bodied, strong and sweet with a gentle acidity and complex flavor notes.
It can appeal to a wide range of people and there is sure to be a coffee from this country with your name on it.
Guatemala Peaberry (Volcanica)
This Guatemalan Peaberry is one of the most sought after coffees in the world right now – and for good reason: it is an amazing choice for manual pour over methods.
Peaberry represents the top 5% of beans from the best crops – meaning this is the highest quality coffee from Guatamala you can get…your taste buds will notice.
Crucial Facts About Guatemalan Coffee
It’s amazing how many world class coffee beans come from this region. You have Costa Rican and Nicaraguan coffee, but Guatemalan coffee is said to be the jewel of the central American coffee industry. Why?
Lets start with some facts about coffee from Guatemala.
Guatemala’s Coffee History
Coffee was brought to Guatemala in the mid-1700s as ornamental plants (1). However, coffee production didn’t really take off until the 1860s when the country’s natural dye industry was overtaken by synthetic products, and a new industry was needed to save the economy.
The government encouraged the growth of coffee plantations, and coffee quickly became the country’s largest export. In fact, up until 2011, Guatemala was one of the top 5 largest coffee-producing countries when Honduras finally surpassed it.
In 1960, coffee growers developed their own union which officially became known as Anacafé (Asosiación Nacional del Café). This organization is now responsible for marketing, research and financial support to new and existing farmers.
They also seek to improve life for farmers living in rural areas.
The coffee industry in Guatemala is quite large and it is difficult for one organization to reach out to every farm in the country, but that is their ultimate goal. There are over 125,000 producers is this small country (2).
The Country is Blessed With Unique Growing Conditions
The climate in Guatemala (3) is one of the most diverse in the world for coffee production.
There are 7 main growing regions within Guatemala, with Antigua, Huehuetenango and Atitlan being the most popular. Each region has its own set of unique growing conditions and microclimates.
Coffees from Antigua are grown on the slopes of volcanoes receiving lots of sun and little rain. The Huehuetenango region, near the Mexican border, has the highest altitudes (between 5000-6000 feet), producing complex, fruity flavors.
Coffees from the Atitlan region are also grown in volcanic soil. This area surrounds Lake Atitlan, whose water is often used for wet processing the coffees. The norm in this region is fertilizing the farms organically without the use of pesticides. Coffees from this region tend to be nutty and chocolaty in flavor.
The other regions are the Fraijanes Plateau, which surrounds Guatemala City; Rainforest Cobán, a very humid, subtropical forest in the north; Volcan San Marcos, the warmest and wettest region; and Oriente, a dry, volcanic area.
What Are the Preferred Processing Methods?
Guatemala is a country with a lot of rainfall and humidity.
Due to the abundance of water in the country, wet processed coffees are the norm. High humidity levels tend to disrupt the natural, or dry, process of coffee beans anyway, so you will rarely see a natural Guatemalan.
The wet process is often preferred by farmers and consumers alike, as this processing method is much more consistent than the natural processing method, and highlights the natural acidity in the coffee.
Flavor Characteristics of Guatemalan Coffee
Coffee from Guatemala is known to be sweet with a medium to full body and lots of chocolate flavor notes.
Many coffees will have either a bittersweet cocoa taste or a sweet, milk chocolate taste, as well as notes of nuts and toffee.
Many people have also noted a smoky element to the beans, as well.
Guatemalan beans grown at higher elevations, such as those at Huehuetenango, will have brighter flavor notes ranging from berries to green apple to citrus.
If you want a Guatemalan coffee experience, get your mittens on beans from one of these two regions:
The most well-known in the country, Antigua is home to some of the oldest coffee estates in the country. Some have been passed down for generations in the same family.
Many of these farms are managed extremely well and are producing some of the best coffees in the country, as more farmers are receiving education to move the coffee-growing industry forward.
Coffees from Antigua will have a full body, heavy sweetness and low to medium acidity. Expect lots of chocolate and hints of fruity notes.
Grown at some of the highest elevations in the country, Huehuetenango produces Guatemalan beans with a bright, lively acidity.
With a medium body and sweetness, you can expect a lot more acidity and fruit flavors in a Huehuetenango (think an Ethiopian with a heavier body).
The Current State of the Coffee Industry in Guatemala
Guatemala is a country on the move. More and more people are moving from the rural areas (4) to the cities for education and higher paying jobs. The cities are in turn growing and even taking over land that once was home to coffee farms. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if land in Antigua or Atitlan is ultimately converted from coffee farms to urban development.
In the 2016/2017 harvest season, the total production was about 3.32 million bags (7), which is a 10% increase from the previous harvest season. It was originally estimated that some 4 million bags would be produced, but many parts of the country were faced with roya (8), the coffee tree-killing fungus.
The coffee industry in Guatemala is strong, and has a high percentage of coffee considered to be high quality. These coffees are sought by buyers all over the world.
However, a large percentage of the Guatemalan population still lives in poverty. When harvest season arrives, villagers will travel to coffee farms to work for the season in hopes to supplement their low village income.
Best Brew Methods
There are two different attributes to highlight in coffee from Guatemala; the flavor and acidity, or the body and sweetness.
To highlight the acidity and the flavor notes of the coffee, brewing via pour over is going to produce great results. With a lighter roasted coffee, a pour over will likely produce the best results.
The paper filter helps to produce a clean cup with clear, bright flavor notes.
NOTE: Learn more about how filters affect the taste of your coffee here.
This is ideal for those who want to taste the subtle fruit and floral notes of their Guatemalan beans.
For those who prefer a darker roasted coffee, or who simply want to highlight the body and the natural sweetness, a French press will be ideal.
This full immersion brew method allows the coffee to stay in contact with the water for much longer, which extracts more of the sweetness and ensures a full, heavy body in the final cup. Be careful not to brew the coffee too long or you will have a bitter, over extracted coffee.
The combination of full body, heavy sweetness and medium acidity present in most beans from Guatemala would also make for excellent cold brew. The long steep time helps to really extract the sweetness and the body, making for a strong and refreshing cup of coffee.
Where to Buy The Best Guatemalan Beans
A friendly reminder to triple check where you buy your beans from online. unfortunately, selling low quality beans online is all to common.
If you buy from the following stores, you should be good:
||Guatemala Antigua (Volcanica)||
||Guatemala Peaberry (Volcanica)||
||Guatemala Finca Nuevo Vinas (#71)||
RECOMMENDED: The Guatemalan Antigua or the Guatemalan Peaberry from Volcanica Coffee
If you want genuine beans that are roasted after you order (ensuring maximum freshness)…But you don’t want to take a trip to the local store, we suggest trying out Volcanica coffee.
Both options are equally great choices and will be roasted and shipped to you at lightning fast speeds.
The next best thing to actually visiting Guatemala and drinking coffee yourself.
Another of our favorite online coffee providers is Bean Box, and they are no strangers to a good Guatemalan bean, either.
Case in point: The delectable, best-selling, single origin treat known as Guatemala Finca Nuevo Vinas.
The beans come from a farm that has been owned by the same family for over a century, so you know dependability is a factor here.
And the beans themselves? They come medium roasted, delivering a mild flavor profile that subtly focuses on brown sugar, chocolate, and spice.
These are the kind of beans you’re going to want on hand when you’re looking for a solid, dependable, low-key cuppa at the end of a long day… or any time you’re craving a deliciously mellow cup ‘a joe.
NOTE: These mellow-fellows are seasonal, so check in regularly if you want to get some!
Most Suitable Roast Type
Coffee beans from Guatemala are great because they can handle a wide range of roast styles. For those who like a lighter and brighter coffee, they can roast it light to medium and still get a full bodied coffee with some bright flavor notes.
Lighter roast Guatemala’s can have flavors of apple and orange and are backed by chocolate undertones.
Those who want a darker roast can get a really good one with Guatemalan beans. Since they are naturally sweet and have a full body, they can withstand a darker roast and provide a smooth, enjoyable cup.
You can expect to taste bittersweet chocolate and toasted nuts with a typical dark roast Guatemala.
For some beans, there is a subtle spicy flavor that can carry through even into a dark roast.
Disfruta Tu Cafe (Enjoy Your Coffee)
Guatemala is a country famous for its volcanoes, lakes and coffee.With various microclimates and growing conditions, there is a nice variety in the types of coffees coming out of this country.
We are excited to see the coffee industry in this beautiful nation continue to grow and develop and produce excellent coffee.
Do you have a favorite coffee region in the country? Let us know in the comments below!
- Scott. Origin Spotlight: Guatemala. Retrieved from. https://driftaway.coffee/origin-spotlight-guatemala/
- Guatemala. Retrieved from. https://melbournecoffeemerchants.com.au/origin/guatemala/
- Guatemala Coffee. Retrieved from. https://www.coffeeresearch.org/coffee/guatemala.htm
- Guatemala Retrieved from. https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/guatemala
- Adrianna Szenthe, Top Coffee Producing Countries Retrieved From https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-coffee-producing-countries.html
- Guatemala: Coffee Annual. Retrieved From. https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/guatemala-coffee-annual-3
- Guatemala coffee output seen at 3.32 mln bags in 2016/17 – Anacafe Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/guatemala-coffee/guatemala-coffee-output-seen-at-3-32-mln-bags-in-2016-17-anacafe-idUSL2N1GY1RB