Name: El Rincon
Producer: Yolanda Galindo de Molina
Origin: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
Varietal: Bourbon, Caturra
Altitude: 1500-1700 metres above sea level
Flavours: Green apple, baked pear, raisins and milk chocolate
Cup Score: 85.5
Where is it from?
Coffee production has been intertwined with Guatemala’s socio-political fabric since around 1845, when the Commission for Coffee Cultivation and Promotion was established, though there are reports of coffee being cultivated in the country as early as the mid-eighteenth century, having been introduced by Jesuit priests. Alike El Salvador, during the 1850’s, coffee came to supplement the reduced demand for indigo as chemical dyes became introduced to the market. When Justo Ruffino Barrios came to power in 1971, he concentrated much of his economic regeneration plans on coffee production, and large swathes of land – up to 400,000 hectares – became coffee plantations. Production soared and by 1880, coffee contributed roughly ninety-per-cent of the country’s exports.
However, the negative impact of this surge in production was the displacement of indigenous people, as Barrios appropriated “public” land to make way for the plantations. Many of the those displaced were put to work as seasonal labourers on the new plantations, often working in return for food and shelter, and with few rights. In the two hundred years that have followed, the situation with the employment of indigenous people on coffee estates has improved, but in many areas where large numbers of seasonal and sometimes daily contractors work during harvest season, wages below the $2.48 national minimum rural wage are commonplace. It is estimated that in a harvest season, the money earned could only contribute to as little as one third of a family’s corn and bean calorie requirements. Poverty and malnutrition are big problems in Guatemala, with sources such as USAID estimating that upwards of 50% of the population live in poverty, and 20% in extreme poverty.
Organisations like Fair Trade are having a positive impact in helping to keep producers on small to mid-size farms on their land and the in-built premiums that are offered often help send children to school, pay for medical bills and provide food for families. However, FT coffees make up only a small percentage of farmer’s total production and often get sold for less than the minimum FT certification price due to lack of demand.
El Rincon is a 25-hectare farm situated in the corner of a valley of limestone hills, protected from warm, dry winds and climate fluctuations. The climate is very stable with high relative humidity, which, along with the chalky soils of Huehuetenango define the cup character of this farm.
Roberto Molina was the cousin of Jorge Vides the first owner of Finca La Bolsa, and they bought and established the farms around the same time. Roberto passed away in 2009 and his widow Yolanda Galindo is now taking care of the farm. The farm is now run by Renardo Ovalle, who has transformed the production towards quality focussed microlots. Many of the plants are old bourbon and caturra trees from the early years of the farm, but the farm manager is in the process of planting new bourbon and caturra plants, along with other exotic varietals.
Coffee is fermented in tiled tanks for 18-24 hours, before being washed and graded in channels. After the mucilage has been washed off, the coffee is soaked overnight in clean water. This step is more common in African processing, and is rare in Guatemala, but adds to the unique cup profile of this farm.
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