Huehuetenango is perhaps Guatemala’s best-known department for bright, articulate coffees. Coffees from here are often clear-flavored and buoyant on the palate, with a balance evocative of tropical fruit juice and iced tea. Huehuetenango is a ruggedly steep and lush department consisting almost entirely of highland valleys that benefit from temperate climates at high elevations, narrow passages and sharp peaks, a landscape with seemingly endless potential for outstanding coffees. Most of Huehuetenango’s smallholders descend from pre-Columbian civilizations and identify as Mam, Q’anjob’al, Chuj, Jakaltek, Tektik, Awakatek, Chalchitek, Akatek, and K’iche’. The department’s entire population is estimated to be 70% indigenous, many of whom live with daily political and economic insecurity despite producing some of the country’s top coffees, be they certified or conventional.
This particular lot comes via the Federación Comercializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala (FECCEG), an umbrella organization that helps producers with small farms gain access to the international market. Orfa Costanza is a single farmer in the community of Santo Domingo, part of the well-known La Libertad municipality in northern Huehuetenango. She is a member of Cooperativa Integral de Ahorro y Crédito Café de Responsabilidad Limitada (COPECAFE), a Fair Trade and organic certified association of 112 producers in the area.
COPECAFE has focused attention on training producers on the best organic practices to manage their farms. Orfa has put her training in action making her own organic fertilizer. Orfa also has her own micro-mill where she depulps, ferments, washes and dries the coffee on patios to 11 percent moisture. In addition to coffee Orfa also grows bananas, multiple types of citrus, and avocado.
Once processing is complete, FECCEG steps in to support Orfa with transportation, warehousing and cupping analysis, and later provides the preparation for export. FECCEG has worked hard to ensure coffee traceability so that Orfa receives more income for improved quality. Increased earnings from coffee sales help Orfa strengthen her family’s livelihood. Working with FECCEG not only provides a market for COPECAFE’s coffee, but it also provides the resources and skill required in complicated smallholder value chains to identify and preserve small lots of coffee like this one.
This is the first time Orfa has seen her coffee featured as a micro-lot. And it is lovely indeed: her coffee is bright with a pineapple-like tanginess, juicy sweet orange, and melted milk chocolate.