Royal is proud to present a collection of day lots from remote smallholder farmers high on Volcán de Agua, Antigua, for the first time in our long history of working with Luis Pedro Zelaya and the Bella Vista mill. This short series of individual picking days in the Duraznito community showcases the surprising deliciousness possible from a hyper-specific terroir that is normally blended into the coffee of the greater region. It also shows us the value potential created for small farms when regional blends are broken down and examined a little further, even from already exemplary areas like Antigua.
Luis Pedro Zelaya is a fourth-generation producer and miller who for the past 20 years has established one of the best quality reputations in the country. His combination wet and dry mill in Antigua services the coffee produced from his family estates, which are some of the oldest in the country, as well as hundreds of smallholders across the greater Antigua area. As a result of relentless perfectionism from harvest management to dry-milling and customer service, the brands designed and produced by Zelaya’s mill, particularly Bella Carmona and Hunapú, are some of the best-recognized Central American coffees in the specialty world.
“Hunapú” is the original K’iché word for Volcán de Agua, one of the Antigua valley’s most prominent (and ominously visible from every street corner in town). Bella Vista’s “Hunapú” coffee is a regional blend of smallholder cherry, named in honor of the many Mayan descendants who now farm coffee on small family plots along its slopes. Coffee is grown and picked by individual smallholders, and processed centrally at Bella Vista. Cherry is picked up on rotation in small amounts from specific sites on schedule, and then fully processed and dried individually as “day lots”—the equivalent to a single day’s picking on a large estate. Final dried day lots are then cupped separately to build larger blends. This is done at cooperatives and labs all over the coffee world, and for smallholder landscapes is simply how export batches need to be built. However, it takes a special quality-minded team, like the folks at Bella Vista, to make the time and space during all this volume to give special attention to the most deserving deliveries.
Bella Vista has been receiving smallholder cherry this way for many years. As they got to know the smallholder landscape they realized there was an opportunity to make more separations within the regional blends and create better market opportunities for their contributing farmers. Once they started cupping by sub-region, they quickly tasted the potential in “Duraznito”, one of the highest elevations in Antigua growing primarily bourbon in highly volcanic soils.
This coffee is one of 4 carefully selected day lots from Duraznito farmer community, cupped and separated by the Bella Vista quality team and curated by Royal for the first time. The number in the coffee’s title (17284) is the identification number used by the cuppers at Bella Vista to catalogue day lots from Hunapú farmers as their individual delivery days come through the lab for quality analysis. This specific lot has a molasses-like sweetness, with nectarine, passion fruit, and citrus zest, and a bright, thick body like a just-melted Madagascar chocolate bar. It is an always-welcome reminder that smallholder farms contain some of the best coffees in the world, and that partnerships between large and small actors in the coffee chain can create some serious value if they put their time into it.