Unless you are going to parachute into Santa Cruz Barillas, you should plan for one of the longest coffee treks of your life. While many are familiar with Huehuetenango and the reputation of the coffee region, few have ventured to this isolated corner of Guatemala. Royal has gone many times over the years and we are proud to have been the first to import Fair Trade certified coffee from Asociación Barillense de Agricultores (ASOBAGRI).
The spectacularly rugged terrain has served to preserve the indigenous heritage, distinct clothing, and dialects that can vary from one mountain ridge to the next. In this cultural oasis, ASOBAGRI has become an important bridge to the international coffee community. This cooperative is simply one of the most sophisticated and well organized in the world. With more than 1,400 members, spread across 80 communities, who cultivate and harvest their own coffee on small farms with their own micro-mills, ASOBAGRI has the enormous task of providing training and technical support that is appropriately tailored to the needs of the members. Strategies like using coffee pulp to make organic fertilizers reduces the transportation costs associated with purchasing fertilizer from afar, and at the same time, creates an abundant source of organic plant nutrition that ensures better yields and quality. Drying practices are also exquisitely uniform among members who use mobile raised beds that can be stacked and covered at night to protect the coffee and then unstacked and spread out during the day to dry the coffee in the sun. ASOBAGRI also has centralized warehouses to store dried parchment and a cupping lab where producers get immediate feedback.