GUATEMALA LOS LAURELES
Hernan Lopez purchased Los Laureles in 1995. He has always had a keen interest in agriculture, especially coffee, so worked as a builder for many years, saving enough to buy a small plot of land, with the aim of starting his own coffee farm. The plot is only 2.7 hectares, but sits high in a valley just outside the town of San Antonio Huista, with a perfect microclimate for growing high quality coffee. The farm is named for the Laurel trees that grow there, now very rare in the region. The trees provide shade for the coffee, and also a small extra income through harvesting their leaves, also known as bay leaves. Hernan started with coffee gradually, initially mainly growing other crops such as sugar cane, while slowly planting the rest of the farm with coffee trees. Eventually, the whole plot was taken over by coffee, fueled by Hernan and his family’s passion for the whole process of coffee production, working together to create the highest quality possible. Hernan is always looking for ways to improve his crop, such as selective pruning, and even beginning a small coffee nursery to explore the suitability of different varietials on the farm. The coffee we have purchased from Hernan this year was picked in March 2018, and is mainly of the Caturra variety, so has a distinct and clean malic acidity. This is backed up by an intense and rich sweetness, reminiscent of toffee, caused by the very long fermentation time during the washing process, of around 50 hours.
Huehuetenango is located in the north-western highlands of Guatemala, and borders with Mexico. It is home to the highest altitudes in all of Central America, due to the presence of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountain range, which peaks at 3837 masl. This creates lots of high altitude land to grow high-quality coffee, an important crop in an area where agriculture is the largest industry. A dry hot wind also blows in from the Tehuantepec plain in Mexico to the north, which protects crops from frost, allowing coffee to grow even higher up the slopes, often above 2000 masl. These high altitudes also lead to very beautiful scenery, something the area is known for, but also to a remoteness not found elsewhere in Guatemala. 9 different ancient Mayan dialects are still spoken here, and the region is home to some of the best preserved examples of Mayan architecture. The remoteness also makes sourcing coffee a challenge here, the journey to farms often takes days over unforgiving terrain, and would-be coffee buyers require knowledge of the local dialects, or an experienced guide. We visited our partners at Primavera in February 2018, and were stunned by the beauty of both the coffees they have been sourcing, and of this captivating region.