The top three coffee producers in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. But in terms of producing quality coffee, Colombia dwarfs its close competitors. And what country comes next after Colombia in high-grade coffee production? The traditional coffee powerhouse Brazil? No. It is Guatemala, a small Central American nation that has just been recovering from the ravages of a 36-year civil war.
It is not, however, not surprising that Guatemala to produces such quality coffee. Guatemalans have known coffee for centuries. The first plant was brought to Guatemala by Jesuit priests in the 1750s, who thought that it would make a great ornamental tree. Widespread coffee cultivation would follow half a century later.
Today, connoisseurs consider Guatemalan coffee as one of the finest in the world. As a testament to its greatness, Guatemala is a regular participant of the Cup of Excellence (COE), the most premiere annual coffee competition in the world that is organized in order to determine the best coffee in each registered coffee-producing country. Just think of the COE as coffee’s Super Bowl. The finest and most expensive coffee in Guatemala that has been auctioned through the COE came from Huehuetenango, one of the main growing regions in the Central American nation. Its price? Well, it was bought for a whooping US$ 80.20 per pound.
And it is a well-deserved price. For Guatemalan coffee indeed offers an unforgettable experience to anyone. Ask any coffee enthusiast who has wide knowledge of different brands and you would probably hear from them that coffee from Guatemala is included in their top 5 best coffee lists.
How does Guatemalan coffee acquire its unique and rich flavor? Obviously, one huge factor is the climate. Guatemalan weather, not too wet and not too humid, is perfect for growing. Plant coffee in an arid area and you will get beans that are too acidic. Cultivate them in a place where rainfall is constant and you will get coffee that tastes dull. Guatemala’s mild climate is just the coffee tree wants.
Amiable climate alone would not make good coffee. The substrate must also be in optimum condition. Coffee wants soil that is not all rich in nutrients and minerals but also has mild Ph levels. And that is exactly what Guatemalan soil offers. Because it is located in a region where volcanic activity is rather high, soil in Guatemala is mostly volcanic in origin. What makes volcanic soil good for coffee is the fact that it contains huge amounts of minerals and is not acidic in nature.
But the main factor that accounts for the goodness of Guatemalan coffee is the way it is cultivated. Almost all trees in Guatemala are shade grown. Farmers do not expose coffee trees to the sun. Rather, they cultivate them amidst the shade of larger trees like macadamia. The result is that the beans develop slower. How does that make coffee taste great? Well, when a bean matures slowly it becomes harder and develop richer flavors.