New Release - Santa Isabel
There's another Guat in the house! This one's got passion for mulberry.
Santa Isabel is a fifth-generation family farm, comprising 300 hectares in a unique growing region in Guatemala that has remarkable mountains and dense rainforest . Founded in 1875, the farm is today owned by Luis Valdés Sr and managed by his son, who is also called Luis—or, to his friends and family, “Wicho”. Wicho grew up watching and helping his father on the farm and fell in love with coffee from a very young age.
After school, he went on to study agriculture, before returning to work at Santa Isabel in 1998. Wicho’s passion and love for the farm is evident as soon as you meet him.
Today Wicho has 3 children, who now also spend their weekends and school holidays on the farm. “I hope they will find a love for coffee like I did.”
The Valdés family care deeply about preserving their natural environment, and have dedicated nearly one-third of their farm (88 hectares) to a natural forest reserve—made up of cedar, pine and mahogany trees—which helps protect natural water resources and encourage biodiversity, providing a habitat for local animal and birdlife. Wicho also grows macadamia nut trees on the farm, which he harvests, mills and sells.
The estate’s nursery currently has over 18,000 seedlings of seven different varieties, including Marsellesa, SL28, Gesha and Java.Wicho adopts a systematic approach to pruning, to optimise ventilation and light (and reduce excess humidity), which minimises fungal disease (including leaf rust) and, in turn, the need for treatment applications.
Santa Isabel sits at 1,400–1,600m above sea level. The farm receives a lot of rainfall—around 3,500mm, which falls regularly for 9–10 months of the year. This constant rain (much of it a gentle drizzle) means that coffee tree flowering is very staggered, with eight to nine flowerings a year, usually between April and June. This results in a long harvest period, which typically runs from November–May, as the coffee cherries ripen at very different rates. To combat this, Wicho instructs at least 12 passes for picking (with breaks of up to 14 days between passes), to ensure that only the very ripest cherries are selected.
Wicho employs and trains over 40 permanent workers throughout the year, and up to 500 temporary workers during the harvest period (though he only managed to find 120 this past year), who come from up to 20 miles away to work on the farm. Wicho has commented that although many farms in the region find it increasingly difficult to secure labour for the entirety of the harvest, Santa Isabel has a stable and reliable workforce, despite their reputation for being very demanding in regards to selective picking. In addition to being paid fairly, a picker at Santa Isabel can harvest up to 160 pounds of cherry a day, which is a great day’s yield, meaning that many of the same workers come back year after year. Wicho knows most of the workers by name, and there is an open and respectful dynamic amongst the team.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
Within hours of being picked, the red cherries are transported by foot or tractor to Santa Isabel’s wet mill (located on the farm) where they are sorted through a mechanical siphon and graded by weight. They are pulped immediately and then fermented for up to 17 hours, and then passed through a “washer” to remove any remaining fruit. The coffee is then passed through channels and graded by weight, and then soaked in clean water for 24 hours.
It is then dried in the sun for 10–15 days until it reaches 30% humidity and is then transferred to a greenhouse to finish drying on raised beds. Their aim is to dry coffee slowly and consistently, with an ideal 5% drop in humidity per day, until humidity is 11%.
We are loving this clean, sweet and darn delicious coffee from Wicho and family. Get a taster or grab a bag for home while it lasts!