Farm: Finca La Bolsa
Altitude: 1500 – 1700 MASL
Location: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
Variety: Bourbon and Caturra
Owner: Maria & Renardo Vides
Harvest: January to March
Process: Washed and Soaked, sun-dried on patios. Coffee is fermented for between 18 and 24 hours, and is then cleaned of mucilage, graded in channels and soaked overnight.
Finca La Bolsa was bought by Jorge Vides, a distinguished medical professional, in 1958. Prior to this the land wasn’t used for coffee production. Jorge won a number of awards for coffee production and for services to the region of Huehuetenango, and had the main hospital in the coffee growing community named after him.
La Bolsa competed in the 2002 Cup Of Excellence competition and placed second, scoring 94.98. La Bolsa sits between two mountains, which provide a very stable, humid microclimate. This combined with the limestone rich soils give the coffee a very unique profile, with a rich syrupy body and plenty of malic and citric acidity. Coffee is fermented for between 18 and 24 hours, and is then cleaned of mucilage, graded in channels and soaked overnight.
La Bolsa is RFA certified & follows C.A.F.E practices guidelines. Coffee Care funded the construction of a school and nursery at the farm, with fully trained, full time teachers. All of the temporary and permanent staff have access to schooling for their children, and they are incentivised to leave their children at school or nursery through food donations. When a child attends school or nursery for 5 consecutive days they receive a weekly supply of rice, beans and corn. Prior to this food ration scheme it was very difficult to get people to leave their children in the care of others, and schooling wasn’t necessarily valued as there is a greater pressure on earning more money to feed the family. As a result there are no children working in the farm, and the school and nursery classes are full. Accommodation is provided for permanent and temporary workers, with separate facilities for men and women and families, bathrooms and kitchens. Sections of the farm are reserved areas, to promote biodiversity, reduce exposure to winds and soil erosion. Inga trees are used as a shade trees, and to fix nitrogen in the soil which is essential for plant and cherry growth. Renardo has an expansive composting operation to make use of waste products, using redworms.
Coffee in Guatemala
Guatemala produces the highest percentage of classified, high quality coffee by volume in the world. The coffee association of Guatemala, Anacafe, has been instrumental in the improvement of picking, processing and quality standards, with excellent information and resources available for farmers and a traceability database for buyers to connect with producers. Guatemala has been leading the way in Central America, with an emphasis on producing high quality washed coffee, experimenting with fermentation and highlighting the terroir. Using a similar ‘altitude grading’ system employed in other Central American countries, coffee is classified as Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) – grown upwards of 1300 masl – Hard Bean (HB) and Semi Hard Bean coffees, all of which represent good quality, comparative to other nations. As a country, Guatemala has been relatively successful in marketing its coffees to the rest of the world, clearly defining regions and emphasizing distinct characteristics between growing areas and farms. Most of Guatemala’s coffee farms can be found on the coastal slopes in the central and southern regions of the country, where altitudes range from 750 – 1800 masl. Coffee is harvested between November and February, depending on the elevation. Over half of Guatemala’s 3.4 million bag yearly coffee production is then sold to the US market, generating approximately one third of its foreign exchange.