This relatively small country boasts one of the most climatically diverse regions in the world. The soil, rainfall, humidity, altitude, and temperature are varied enough to produce seven distinct types of Guatemala Arabica coffee. The following descriptions of Guatemalan coffee were adapted from Anacafe promotional material, interviews with Anacafe personnel, and personal experience researching coffee in Guatemala.
Guatemalan Coffee Growing Regions
Antigua – Antigua is internationally renowned for its high-quality coffees. This region is located between three volcanoes in a valley with a climate perfect for cultivating coffee. The soils are young and optimal for coffee. The wet and dry seasons are defined for uniform maturation. The temperature ranges from 19-22 C (66.2-71.6?F) and the altitude is between 4,600 and 5,600 feet. Annual rainfall is between 800-1,200 mm and the humidity is constant at 65%. Guatemalan Antigua coffee is described as having a full and velvety body, a rich and lively aroma, and a fine acidity. Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai coffee beans are grown in this region and harvested between January and mid-March.
Fraijanes Plateau – The region of Fraijanes is located north of Lake Amatitlan in the mountains surrounding the Valley of Ermita where Guatemala City is located. The soil is volcanic and high potassium levels lend body to the cup. Recent volcanic activity from Volcan de Pacaya has deposited ashes rich in minerals in this area. The altitude where coffee is cultivated is between 4,000-5,000 feet with moderate temperatures year round 22 C (71.6?F). The summit of these mountains has a relative humidity of 60% and an annual rainfall of 1,500 mm. The combination of these factors gives a strictly hard Guatemala coffee bean (the highest rating in Guatemala) and is similar to a genuine Guatemala Antigua coffee. These coffees are described as having a soft aroma, full body, and a marked acidity.
Rainforest Cob?n – This zone is defined as the very humid, subtropical forest in the northern part of the country. In fact, the name Cob?n comes from the Maya Keckchi word “cob” which means the place of clouds. The temperature varies depending on the winds from the North and oscillates between 15-23 C (59-73?F). The region receives between 3,000-3,500 mm of rain per year and the rain is distributed throughout the 12 months of the year. The climate is cloudy with few hours of sunlight and a high relative humidity (85-95%). The soil is mostly limestone and clay. The microclimate is created from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The altitude is between 4,300 and 5,000 feet above sea level resulting in hard and strictly hard coffees. Coffees from Cob?n have a medium body, light acidity, and fruit like flavors. The aroma is fragrant and has light wine notes. Bourbon, Maragogype, Catuai, Caturra, and Pache coffee beans are grown in Cob?n and harvested from December to March.
Highland Huehuetenango – This region crosses the Cardillera de Los Cuchamatanes with regions higher than 11,800 feet. It is located on the border with Mexico and coffee is planted in the regions between 5,000-6,000 feet. Rainfall is around 1,800 mm with a relative humidity of 70-80%. Dry and hot winds from the Tehuantepec plain in Mexico protect the region from frost and create its unique microclimate. The average temperature is 23 C (73?F). The subtropical and humid climate contributes to the coffee beans’ beautiful appearance and uniform maturation. The flowering is homogeneous which results in a winey, high-quality cup. In Huehue, Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai coffee beans are grown. Harvesting takes place from January to April.
Atitlan – This area encompasses all of the lands surrounding Lake Atitlan. Coffee is mainly harvested on the side of the Pacific in a region of three volcanic mountains with a high precipitation. There is no month when Atitlan will have less than 50 mm of rain. Most producers in this region will use water from the lake for wet processing. Instead of chemicals, organic matter is often used as a fertilizer. The high altitude (4,000-5,900 feet) results in a low occurrence of pests and diseases. The humidity in this area is high hovering around 70-80%. Drying takes place almost totally in the sun, and almost 95% of the coffee is cultivated by small producers who have an average of 12 hectares. The majority of coffee harvested in these regions is Bourbon, but Typica, Caturra, and Catuai coffee beans are also grown. Harvest occurs between December and March. Atitlan coffees are aromatic. They have a crisp and pronounced acidity and full body.
Volcan San Marcos – This is the warmest of Guatemala’s coffee growing regions and also has the highest rainfall. It has the most intense rainy season and the earliest flowing of any area. The altitude ranges from 4,600-6,000 feet with volcanic soil and a microclimate influence from the Pacific Ocean. The annual rainfall is 4,000-5,000 mm and the humidity is between 70-80%. Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai coffee beans are grown in this region and are harvested from December to March.
Oriente – The New Oriente is in the Esquipulas municipal. Its weather is similar to Cob?n, but is less intense. It is located over a volcanic range and the soil consists of metamorphic rock and clay. The altitude where coffee is grown ranges from 4,300-5,500 feet, and the temperature ranges from 18-25 C (64-77?F). This area has relatively little rainfall compared to Cob?n or San Marcos being only 1,800-2,000 mm per year. Coffees from Nuevo Oriente are aromatic, have a marked acidity, and a good body. Bourbon, Catuai, Caturra, and Pache coffee beans are all grown in the Nuevo Oriente region and coffees are harvested from December to March.