We are freshly back from the Guatemala CoE having spent a week cupping and enjoying the country. First place in the competition went to El Injerto, for a massive Pacamara from the Huehuetenango region, which garnered 93.68 points – almost 4 full points ahead of its nearest competitor. The next three coffees were tightly grouped between 89.60 and 89.78 points as there was not as much unanimity among the jurors as for the top coffee. El Injerto has been at the top before. They took first in 2006 and sixth in 2007 but in both years with Bourbon rather than this year’s Pacamara varietal. This year’s coffee was a stunning, lavish affair, with broad plum, prune and raisin notes, pronounced aroma and long, long finish.
Last year’s winner El Socorro y Anexos finished fourth with a Maracaturra varietal. Third place was the adjacent farm by the same owners, but with a Bourbon and under the farm name San Guayaba. Second place went to La Bendicion with another Bourbon.
Although it is a joy to cup so much wonderful coffee and to do so in the company of one’s friends and colleagues, it is easy to forget the sheer amount of work that is involved. Jurors start the day early, cupping for the better part of 7 hours most days. Depending on how many or few coffees are eliminated in the first round, cupping for the second round, which must be accomplished in one pre-scheduled day, ran 10 hours. The sessions are alternately dotted with cupping and discussion. The work of the jurors pales in comparison to that of the host country’s coffee organization, in this case Anacafe.
Anacafe represents 75,000 coffee farms in Guatemala, many of which are extremely small, some large. They provide a wealth of services aimed at helping farmers improve their growing methods, and, to assist in any way possible to bring their coffee to market. Over the years, Anacafe has helped to direct farmers toward producing higher quality coffee at higher elevations, shying away from lower grown coffees. In turn, this transition has catapulted Guatemala into the top tier of coffee, which finds the most sophisticated buyers willing to pay higher prices. Ninety-eight percent of the country’s coffee is shade grown making for higher, more consistent humidity for the coffee while providing a natural canopy for birds and other species. Guatemalans have a deep respect for the environment, for transparency in coffee production methods and understand the symbiosis between the coffee they grow and the land upon which it is grown. They think long term.
Anacafe roasts each sample to be cupped, tossing away any roasts that are not within the very specific target level. The roasting was nothing short of spectacular. Nearly every sample was perfectly matched in color and when displayed under a color corrected lamp, no variation was visible in flight after flight. At the awards presentation Anacafe’s roasters received a well deserved standing ovation by the jury. Anacafe has a large staff who assist in every way to keep things moving and to do so in a manner equal to all entered coffees. Bottled water, boiled in stainless pots and dispensed immediately, meticulous water exchanges and clean-ups, all contribute to a competition with the very best integrity. Gabriela Cordon of Anacafe was our gracious hostess, translator, facilitator, guide and companion. Paul Songer was Head Judge.
The winning coffees will be auctioned June 12. Look forward to some terrific coffee from Guatemala this year.