Guatemalan Coffee: Taste, Plantation, Best Products
There is no doubt that Central America produces some of the best coffee but what some coffee drinkers might not know is that a huge chunk of this coffee comes from Guatemala. Guatemala is one of the largest coffee producers in Central America and only comes second to Mexico and Honduras.
But, with the best Guatemalan coffee, it is not all about large volumes as the country is also famous for producing some of the finest quality coffee. Their coffee is characterized by a full body and it is strong and sweet and with some complex flavor notes.
Better yet, Guatemalan coffee can appeal to almost anyone as it is available in different varietals and grown in different regions, which means there is a wide array of flavors to choose from.
If you are thinking of trying out this amazing coffee or are just a coffee enthusiast that wants to know more about it, this piece is for you. Here we highlight the important things you need to know about Guatemalan coffee and also review some of the best ones currently on the market.
Flavor Profile – Guatemalan coffee beans are full-bodied with varying levels of acidity, and they also feature chocolate notes and with hints of nutty and sweet tones. Also, note that the Guatemalan coffee flavor profile is dependent on the growing area. For example, coffee grown in the mountain areas is less acidic than coffee grown in the Antigua and Atitlan regions.
Aroma – The coffee beans also have a pleasant aroma that tends to lean more towards fruits, citrus, and spices, and this is one of the main reasons why Guatemalan coffee is popular for blends.
Processing – Like most other high-quality coffee types from Central America and most other top coffee growing regions, Guatemalan coffee is wet processed. Also, it is sun-dried in the sunnier regions which almost completely eliminates the use of any machinery in the processing.
Coffee Varietals – There are different kinds of coffee varietals grown in Guatemala and they will typically depend on the region and the estate the coffee is grown. The most common varietals of Guatemalan coffee are Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, and Maragogype which are all variations of Arabica coffee.
History of Planting Guatemalan Coffee
Like with many other coffee growing regions, it is not always easy to pinpoint exactly when coffee first came to Guatemala, who brought it and from where. However, it is widely accepted that the first few coffee plants were brought into the country by Jesuit priests and missionaries in the mid-1700s.
The Jesuit missionaries did not intend to use the plants to produce coffee but instead brought them over to be planted as ornamental trees in their compounds. It was not until the 1800s that the ornamental coffee trees were converted to cash crops. And this stemmed from the fact that Guatemala’s dye exports were dwindling fast as cheaper chemical dyes were being invented.
By the late 1800s, Guatemala's coffee industry was booming and coffee was now a widely grown cash crop in different parts of the country and by this time it accounted for more than 90% of the country's export.
Throughout the 1900s Guatemalan coffee had its fair share of ups and downs with things like the two world wars, coffee rust and changing government policies having a huge impact on the coffee sector. But, the coffee sector in the country always seems to withstand these upheavals. And to date, it is still one of the largest and most famous for producing some of the best quality coffee beans.
How Is It Produced?
Although the quantity of coffee produced in Guatemala seems to rise and fall due to various factors, on average the country produces at least 3 million 60kg bags of coffee and a huge chunk of this is exported with the USA forming the largest market.
The country typically grows the popular Arabica coffee and in different varietals. The most common coffee types in Guatemala are Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, and Maragogype. However, there are still other less popular varietals like Pacamara and Pache.
Guatemala has one of the most diverse climates for growing coffee, and this is why so many varietals will do great in the country. Also, the different coffee growing conditions in the country also means you can expect to get a wide variety of coffee flavors from Guatemala.
But, in general, the country has about 277,000 hectares planted in coffee and most farms are high altitude ranging from 1,600 to 16,400 feet. Also, the temperatures in most coffee growing regions in the country will typically range from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
As for the soil, most of the larger coffee growing areas in Guatemala such as Atitlan feature rich volcanic soil which is perfect for the growth coffee. Here is a further breakdown of the growing conditions based on the different coffee growing areas in the country.
Top Growing Areas
Antigua is the best-known coffee growing region in Guatemala, and it is famous for its rich volcanic soil, low humidity, and it is also characterized by an adequate sun in the day and cool nights.
All this creates perfect coffee growing conditions which makes Antigua coffee one of the highest quality. But with the famed profile, Guatemalan Antigua coffee can also be quite pricey. When it comes to taste and flavor, coffee grown here has sweet floral tones, crisp-apple like acidity and some amazing deep chocolate flavors.
Of all the top coffee growing regions in Guatemala, Atitlan has the richest volcanic soils with more organic matter than what you find in most other areas. In Atitlan 99% of the coffee is cultivated on the slopes of the volcanoes around Lake Atitlan. And the coffee grown here tends to have a full body, complex spice notes, medium acidity, and some rich floral aromas.
With regular rainfall that lasts 9 to 10 months of the year, Coban coffee has a staggered flowering, and so it ripens in different stages. And the climate also makes sun-drying coffee in Coban difficult, and so mechanical drying is more prevalent. The coffee that you get from this subtropical rainforest region will have a medium body, mild acidity, and some sweet fruity flavors.
Unlike the other three coffee growing regions above, Huehuetenango does not have rich volcanic soils. Instead, it is a high and dry region that has a more predictable climate and hence making it perfect for growing specialty coffee. And the resulting coffee has an interesting winey acidity and highly complex spicy notes.
Fraijanes has very high altitudes and also features pumice soil and gets plenty of rain. Also, there is an active volcano in the area that supplies it with a light ash deposit every now and then which gives the soil a nice minerals boost. The coffee here is sun-dried, it has full body and flavor and is more comparable to Antigua coffee.
Most Suitable Guatemalan Coffee Roasts
Besides the obvious high quality of the beans, what makes Guatemalan coffee great is that it can handle a wide variety of roasts which means it can suit almost any coffee drinker.
What this means is that you can roast it how you like to suit your tastes but in many instances, a light to medium roast or a darker roast seems to bring out the best from the beans.
A light to medium roast will give you a full-bodied coffee with some bright flavor notes with apple and orange notes being the most dominant and with chocolate undertones.
Because these coffee beans are full body and naturally sweet, they will also be perfect for a darker roast, and here you get roasted nuts and bittersweet chocolate taste and a generally smoother and more enjoyable cup of coffee.
Best Brewing Methods
You have to brew your Guatemalan coffee beans correct to truly enjoy what they have to offer. And like any other coffee type, their unique profile means they will work better with certain brewing methods than others.
For a truly refreshing Guatemala coffee experience, pour over, French press and cold brew are what many coffee sommeliers will recommend and below we explain why.
Cold Brew – Most coffee beans from Guatemala are full-bodied and with medium acidity and heavy sweetness that makes them excellent for cold brews. And with the longer steep time that comes with cold brewing, you are able to extract most of the sweetness for a strong and more refreshing cup.
French Press – French press helps to highlight the natural sweetness and body of the coffee beans so that you end up with a heavy and full body in the final cup.
Pour Over – If you are the kind of coffee drinker that wants to taste the subtle fruity and floral notes in Colombian coffee, then pour over is the perfect brewing method for you. With pour over, you can also highlight the acidity and all flavor notes in the beans.
Note: You can still brew your Guatemalan coffee beans and still get an amazing cup, and so you do not necessarily need to stick with the three methods above.
Summary of Facts about Guatemalan Coffee
1. Guatemala is the 9th largest coffee producer in the world
2. The country produces over 3 million 60kg bags of coffee annually and exports at least 89% of it
3. Coffee export represents around 15% of the country’s Gross National Product
4. The coffee is wash processed and sun-dried in the hotter regions of the country
5. There is one harvest season which is between December and April
6. Guatemala has 277,000 hectares total area planted in coffee
7. Most coffee growing areas have high altitude farms that are between 1,600 and 6,400 feet above sea level
4 Best Guatemalan Coffee Brands
1. Two Volcanoes Coffee Gourmet Whole Bean Guatemalan Coffee
With this single origin Guatemalan coffee, you can always look forward to some amazing flavors and aromas every morning which is a great way to start your day. This rare but delicious tasting coffee has zero blends and is medium roasted for the perfect balance of acidity, flavor, and aroma.
Coffee lovers will also appreciate that the coffee beans are roasted in small batches to ensure even and consistent roasting. And the company roasts them as close to packaging as possible to ensure you always get the freshest batch.
To make things even better, the packaging is also well thought-out as it includes a degassing valve that ensures that no gasses go in and hence the coffee will not go stale before you get to consume it.
From the rich soils of Huehuetenango, Fresh Roasted brings you this balanced flavor and smooth body organic Guatemalan coffee that will always make you look forward to that morning cup of coffee.
It has been certified to be fully organic and goes through a washed processing and sun-drying to ensure you always end up with all-natural coffee beans for an authentic taste on every cup you make. Better yet, the roasting is also done in a more environment-friendly way and in small batches to ensure more even results.
These beans are 100% Arabica and unlike the many cheap knockoffs in the market, they do not have any additives or preservatives.
If your idea of good Guatemalan coffee is something with a smoother and richer body than regular coffee, this Peaberry coffee by Volcanica will be a fantastic choice for you as it offers all this and much more.
The coffee beans are single sourced from Guatemala, and so you can be sure you are getting the real thing and not the inferior quality blends. Also, Volcanica makes sure that everything from the processing to packaging meets and exceeds the highest standards. The beans are washed and sun-dried which makes their processing more environment-friendly and natural.
Also, the roasting is only done once you place your order which means you will always get the freshest coffee beans possible. And it is a medium roast to strike the perfect balanced between flavors, acidity, and aroma.
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Volcanica Coffee also has you covered with this particular product if you are the kind that prefers Guatemalan Antigua coffee. This coffee is rich and full-bodied and with some amazing flavors and aromas that will show you why Antigua coffee is one of the most sought after across the globe.
These beans come in a medium roast which is always perfect for preserving flavors and aromas and ensuring they are all in the right proportions. And the beans are only roasted when you place your order and hence you can be sure that they will be as fresh as possible.
For the flavor notes, you get nutty and balanced chocolaty flavors that are typical of Antigua coffee. And to make this an even better coffee, it has been processed using the traditional wet process, and it is 100% sun-dried to preserve all the nice flavors and aroma.
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With its variety of microclimates and different growing conditions, Guatemala offers a nice variety of coffee types, and the country is famous for producing some of the highest quality coffee beans in Central America.
Also, it has the volumes to go with the quality as it is the 9th largest coffee producer in the world with coffee accounting for around 15% of its Gross National Product.
Hence, if you are yet to try out Guatemalan coffee, you are missing out on one of the most flavorful and richest coffee you can get anywhere.
And besides highlighting the most important things you need to know about this coffee, we also highlight some of the top brands in the market. Hence, finding the best Guatemalan coffee should now be even easier for you.