Name: El Panal
Producer: Maria Vides
Origin: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
Altitude: 1300-1650 metres above sea level
Process: Natural (RFA)
Flavours: Strawberry, Tangerine, White Grape
Cup Score: 86.5
Harvest: November- April
Importer: Falcon Coffee
Arrived in UK: 09/08/2022
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 farmers’ total production and often get sold for less than the minimum FT certification price due to a lack of demand.
This lot comes from a group of 40 smallholder producers in the Huehuetenango area. These producers grow Bourbon and Caturra and harvest between December and March. This coffee grows under the shade of native trees such as Inga and Gravileas. Producers prune their trees just once a year and picking is done by hand.
This naturally processed lot grown on the El Panal plot is picked, sorted and patio dried for 18-25 days. Once the parchment has reached the desired moisture content, it is then stored in Polypropylene bags ready to be milled for export.
Finca La Bolsa was bought by Jorge Vides, a distinguished medical professional, in 1958. Prior to this, the land wasn’t used for coffee production. Jorge won a number of awards for coffee production and for services to the region of Huehuetenango, and had the main hospital in the coffee-growing community named after him. La Bolsa competed in the 2002 Cup Of Excellence competition and placed second, scoring 94.98. La Bolsa sits between two mountains, which provide a very stable, humid microclimate. This combined with the limestone-rich soils gives the coffee a very unique profile, with a rich syrupy body and plenty of malic and citric acidity. Coffee is fermented for between 18 and 24 hours and is then cleaned of mucilage, graded in channels and soaked overnight.
La Bolsa is RFA certified & follows C.A.F.E practices guidelines. Coffee Care funded the construction of a school and nursery at the farm, with fully trained, full-time teachers. All of the temporary and permanent staff have access to schooling for their children, and they are incentivised to leave their children at school or nursery through food donations. When a child attends school or nursery for 5 consecutive days they receive a weekly supply of rice, beans and corn. Prior to this food ration scheme, it was very difficult to get people to leave their children in the care of others, and schooling wasn’t necessarily valued as there is greater pressure on earning more money to feed the family. As a result, no children are working on the farm, and the school and nursery classes are full. Accommodation is provided for permanent and temporary workers, with separate facilities for men and women and families, bathrooms and kitchens. Sections of the farm are reserved areas, to promote biodiversity, and reduce exposure to winds and soil erosion. Inga trees are used as shade trees, and to fix nitrogen in the soil which is essential for plant and cherry growth. Renardo has an expansive composting operation to make use of waste products, using redworms.
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