Asociación Sostenible de Productores de Guatemala (ASPROGUATE) is a relatively young organization that unites and empowers small, mostly indigenous coffee grower communities near Lake Atitlán, the Acatenango volcano, and San Martín Jilotepeque, where the association is now headquartered. These three small coffee municipalities together form a triangle in Guatemala’s central highlands and include some of the country’s oldest-established coffee terroirs.
ASPROGUATE was founded in 2014 and its current president, don Hermes Pérez Higueros, is the grandson of don José Pérez Rosales, who in 1890 founded one of Guatemala’s first registered coffee estates in Acatenango. So the identity of this group runs deep. ASPROGUATE sees itself as a necessary kind of grower association that promotes biodiversity and shade cover in the coffeelands, organic methods, and a strong sense of cultural identity through coffee that connects indigenous and Spanish ancestors in a shared purpose. Today 95% of ASPROGUATE farmers are organic certified, 55% are women, and 90% belong to the indigenous Cakchiquel and Tzutujil ethnicities.
This coffee was produced by 65 associate farmers in Acatenango, a coffee growing region west of the volcano of the same name, close to the border of Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez departments. All ASPROGUATE members are educated in organic farm management and best harvesting practices by the organization. Rather than process at home, members supply freshly harvested coffee cherry to ASPROGUATE’s centralized wet mills for processing, in an effort to maximize cup quality and minimize risk of defect. At the wet mill cherry deliveries are re-sorted for ripeness and size, rinsed of any dust or debris, and depulped. Fermentation is typically overnight but processing managers will adjust the time based on ambient temperatures and time of year. After fermentation is complete all coffee is patio-dried for 10-15 days, again depending on local temperatures.
In addition to harvest management and marketing, ASPROGUATE has a technical staff in the field year-round, distributing fertilizer and advising farms on the management techniques needed throughout the year. ASPROGUATE also provides educational scholarships for associates’ children on a need basis, and in the past year put a lot of resources into distribution of personal protective equipment to support farmers through harvest during the spread of COVID-19.