The city of Antigua is in many ways a modern coffee eden. It’s iconic, laid back, gorgeously ornate, and for a city of its size it is absolutely teeming with historic coffee infrastructure. Coffee from almost anywhere in Sacatepéquez department is known simply as “Antigua”, and their sugar profiles range from butterscotch to marzipan sweetness, and acids from lemonade-like piquancy to dessert wine or tangy dried fruit.
Guatemala’s best centralized wet mills and best boutique exporters are based in Antigua. There are thousands of farms in the area, from the city’s legacy estates to patchwork smallholder communities climbing most of the way up Volcán de Agua, one of three looming stratovolcanoes that seem to be visible from every street corner in town and play a large part in Antigua’s famous soil composition. Such a variety of producers begets coffees with endless combinations of microclimates, elevations and varieties. There is a lot to work with here, and a lot of talent.
The Falla family first started growing coffee in the Antigua valley in 1890. In the 1960s Arturo Fall Cofiño, the 3rd generation of the Falla family to live in Antigua, purchased a 100-hectare neighborhing plot of land to the family’s original farm and named it “El Tempixque” after the tempisque tree that stood at the front gate of the new property. The farm is organized in a traditional way for large estates of that era: by “tablón”, or plot, which are each planted with single cultivars, evenly shaded by grevillea trees, and whose borders are traced with macadamia trees. The farm was originally planted with a majority of bourbon, but these days it includes caturra, catuaí, marsellesa, a high-productive sarchimor dwarf, and soon, gesha. The farm is constantly being renewed plot by plot, at a pace that accomplishes a complete renovation every 20 years.
Of Arturo’s 5 children, Estuardo Falla would be the one to continue leading the family’s estate when Arturo passed away in 1992. Estuardo modernized the coffee operation significantly, including establishing complete wet and dry milling operations, as well as a family-managed exporting company. With these assets in place the Falla family could not only process and export 100% of their own coffee, but also be service providers to other estates in their community. Now, El Tempixque produces 11 containers of coffee, all of which is Rainforest Alliance certified, in addition to milling and exporting for family estates all over the country.
The presence of the newest generation is also having an impact these days as Adrian and Sebastian, descendants of Arturo and Estuardo, are together innovating small-scale processing techniques and opening new global markets for the coffees they represent. They’re also extending the family’s impact through the Arturo Falla Confiño Association, which provides education, medical and dental services to El Tempixque’s 160 employees, as well as to more than 500 small coffee producers in Antigua—historically under-resourced and over-looked compared to larger estates.