New Release - Guatemala Santa Clara
It's our second year supporting the Zelaya family, our first weith a natural coffee. Attie and Will visited Antigua in 2019 and are amazed at the progression of coffee producers in this region. They are also dying to get back for the cuisine...
The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for more than 100 years. Borboncito is a natural, dwarf mutation of the Bourbon variety that thrives in Antigua, as it is high-yielding and produces similar quality to its parent Bourbon. Ricardo Zelaya, who produced this coffee has been working hard to perfect his naturals over the years.
Finca Santa Clara is ninety hectares in size and is located on the fertile southern slopes of the Volcán de Agua, in the Antigua Valley, at 1,550–1,890 metres above sea level. The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the fourth generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara.
The Antigua valley is bounded by three volcanoes – Hunahpú (also called Agua in Spanish), Chi Q’aq’ (also called Fuego) and Acatenango. Of the three, Chi Q’aq’ is the only one still active, in fact, Fuego was erupting while Attie and Will sat having a coffee... quite unnerving, and the weeks after proved to cause much devastation for the community.
Ricardo is passionate about sustainability. Not only are 25 hectares of the estate dedicated to natural reserve, but he also grows avocados on some 4.5 hectares of land. All coffee on Ricardo’s farms is shade-grown, as this protects the plants from direct sunlight, maintains soil health, and provides an important habitat for birds and insect life. The family’s mills are also eco-friendly and feature sedimentation tanks that prevent pollution of the local river systems. All of the pulp from the mills is composted and used as an organic fertiliser for the farm. In addition, parchment from the dry mill is used for fuel to reduce the reliance on wood.
Ricardo also has a big heart – leading with passion, care, positivity and a sense of humour. He has a loyal and dedicated team, and many of his staff have worked on the farm and with the family for generations. One of his longest-standing staff members is the Farm Administrator, Marcos Rompiche, who has worked for the Zelayas for over two decades and is the third generation in his family to work the land. Production is overseen by Rubén Gonzalez, who has over twenty years experience working for the family. Including Marcos and Rubén, the farm provides work for almost seventy permanent employees year-round, all of whom help Ricardo manage the processing and production of his farms. The family hires an additional 250–350 individuals during the harvest to help pick and process the coffee.
Every cherry at Santa Clara is hand-picked when perfectly ripe, and then sorted by hand before being inspected by the quality control manger at the wet mill. This special micro-lot has been hand-picked by special pickers, who are employed and paid higher wages specifically for their skill at selecting only the ripest and most perfect cherries. The method of ‘special’ picking is one that the Zelayas have used to great effect in the lots that they submit to the Cup of Excellence competition. They’ve recently begun to expand their offerings of lots, such as this one, that utilize the same method of picking.
On the same day that they were picked, the fully ripe cherries were washed thoroughly in the receiving tanks, and additional water was passed over them to remove any traces of dirt. They were then left in this tank overnight. The next day the cherries were taken through the washing channels to ensure there were no floaters, and then transferred directly to the African beds inside the greenhouse where they were turned every thirty minutes initially, and then as the beans dried out this was increased to every fifteen minutes to ensure uniform drying. Drying took around twenty-one days to reach the desired moisture level.
We're tasting strawberry wine, the delicious kind that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering if you've stumbled into a rabbit hole.
You can check out the beans here. They won't last long!