With an address that is technically in Guatemala City, this might be the least remote coffee farm Royal has ever engaged with in the country of Guatemala. Its owners, the extended Montenegro family, are well known for their exporting business, Dinámica, a family business with exemplary sourcing and milling relationships across the country. Dinámica is our supplier of ASPROGUATE, an indigenous-led smallholder group with exquisite organic coffees; they are also the connection to one of our very rare gesha purchases from Central America, landing soon.
In addition to all the sourcing and exporting work they do, the Montenegro family operates Finca La Labor, an 80-hectare farm on Guatemala City’s north side. La Labor was first purchased in the 1940s by Francisco Montenegro Girón, who deemed the location’s microclimate ideal for exceptional coffee. At that time Guatemala City was nothing of the size it is now, and the surrounding area was as rural as anywhere. Today, 4 generations later, the farm has been subsumed on 3 sides by the growing capital city and its purpose has largely been converted to a kind of experimental campus for the family, who produces mostly experimental lots in additional to a small amount of standard washed coffee (like this one). It also has been the location of CQI’s Q Processing course, drawing coffee producers from all over the world. All of this is overseen by Francisco “Chespi” Quezada, the farm’s current operations manager and 4th generation descendant of the first Francisco. La Labor is considered to be one of the “lungs” of northern Guatemala City, being a source of biodiversity, oxygen, and carbon sequestration in the now very urban city outskirts.
Traditional fully washed coffee at Finca La Labor is depulped and fermented in tile-lined cement tanks. Once fermentation is complete, parchment is dried on a combination of open-air patio or mechanical guardiolas, or drying drums. The result is a simple, layered and lemony-sweet cup, surprisingly delicious for a “city” coffee. (Although to be fair, the city came to the farm, not the other way around.) The processing infrastructure in place is meant to use as little was as possible to produce excellent results. During peak season the farm uses just 10 cubic meters of water each day, about 2500 gallons. Which sounds like a lot but is actually very little for an 80 hectare farm doing fully-washed processing.
Francisco and team are constantly tinkering with microlot processing and we’ve tasted some kaleidoscopic anaerobic natural samples fermented with specialized yeast, which may make it to our warehouses next summer.