Sierra de las Minas is a mountain range in Guatemala that crosses multiple departments and is considered one of the country’s essential coffee terroirs. The mountains are in Guatemala’s southeast, forming an east-west ridge just below Lake Izabal that is covered mostly in a cloud forest climate, infamous for its relentless drizzle, known locally as the “chipi chipi”.
La Bendición, an 18-hectare farm high in the foothills of the Sierra de las Minas mountains, has been in the Gómez family for 20 years, and is entirely managed by Josés Sr. and Jr, together. In previous years the farm processed its own coffee, but the past few harvests have been produced in partnership with Los Volcanes, an expert processing and exporting team with operations in Antigua. During harvest La Bendición picks coffee on Wednesdays and Saturdays and immediately transfers them to Los Volcanes’ wet mill in Antigua. There, the cherry is carefully fermented whole for a period of 24 hours, an increasingly common step in boutique processing that generally allows the fruit to soften and sugars and acids to peak. After the cherry fermentation the coffee is depulped and dry-fermented (without the addition of water) in climate-controlled tanks. Once fermentation is complete, parchment is passed through a pressurized water siphon for cleaning and density grading, pre-dried on the site’s large patio, and finally fully dried in mechanical dryers.
All centrally processed lots are sampled and cupped extensively so they can be profiled by sensory attributes and combined to present very precise final profiles. “Malic Profile” is one of several that the Los Volcanes team has created for La Bendición, grouping day lots together that share a common malic acidity.
Los Volcanes is a small company with agronomy and processing experience throughout Guatemala, thanks to their many years of experience as cuppers, roasters, exporters, relationship managers, and educators. Indeed, the name “Los Volcanes” appears on a wide variety of coffees Royal imports each year. The founding team at Los Volcanes is known for breaking down a single farm’s harvest into hundreds of data points (compost formulas, genetics, shade variance, picking rates, fermentation times and temperatures, drying styles, and on and on) and re-building custom-tailored harvesting systems for farm managers based on their experience and cupping acumen. Naturally, over time, Los Volcanes began to co-manage farms with their supplier partners. Finally, a few years ago they took over the operation of a large-scale wet mill outside of Antigua, complete with adjacent coffee farm, and moved their headquarters there from Guatemala City. They now centrally process cherry from dozens of select farms and smallholder communities, bringing their fermentation precision to an unprecedented scale, and building incredibly delicious, affordable macro lots that present refined terroirs and consistent preparation.