La Soledad

  • Country
    Guatemala
  • Town
    Antigua
  • Altitude
    1,585–1,700m above sea level
  • Variety
    Bourbon, Caturra
  • Processing
    Fully Washed
  • Owner
    Ana Lucia Zelaya and her husband Don Rony Asensio
  • Awards
    Cup of Excellence 2009, 2012

Heavy bodied with apricot acidity, honey sweetness, and notes of dark chocolate, blackcurrant, and toffee.

La Soledad is owned by Ana Lucia Zelaya and her husband Don Rony Asensio. The two make a dynamic coffee duo—Ana Lucia is a fourth generation coffee producer from a well-established and long standing coffee producing family. Her husband, Rony, also comes from coffee producing heritage and is a very talented, passionate and meticulous farmer who works incredibly hard to produce great coffee. He owns and manages several farms, and takes great pride in doing things exceptionally well.

La Soledad was originally part of the larger Finca Santa Clara, founded in 1908 by Lucia’s great grandfather, Sr. Luis Pedro Aguirre Matheu. He passed his farm down through the generations until the late 1990s, when the farm was finally divided between the four children of Ricardo Zelaya Aguirre. At this time, Lucia Zelaya took over the eleven-hectare part of the farm and called it ‘La Soledad’.

La Soledad sits at an altitude of 1,585–1,750m above sea level on the slopes of Volcan de Agua in Antigua. Currently, the eleven hectares of coffee at La Soledad grow under a canopy of Grevillea shade trees. They are pruned every year to ensure the coffee trees get the correct amount of sunshine and protection to maximise yields and quality. Shade trees like Grevillea are planted to protect the coffee trees from frost and too much sun, and encourage the coffee to ripen slowly.

 

Rony maintains a strict pruning regimen at La Soledad, removing around a third of the coffee branches each year to help combat disease and ensure efficient production. This pruning program is part of a broader, integrated farm management program that has seen a dramatic decrease in the reliance on chemical inputs for the farm.

 

When Rony describes his approach to farming, he explains, “Everything we do is done with love.” And you can see it: his attention to detail, understanding of agriculture, and high production standards are very inspiring and hard to fault. He is exceptionally well organised, and all of the facilities are always impeccably clean. Lucia and Rony also have a great dynamic with their team; their management style is very inclusive and respectful, and the loyalty and happiness of their team is evident.

 

During the harvest Rony and Lucia employ twenty-five seasonal workers (most who return every year). Due to the varying altitudes on the farm, the cherries ripen at different times, so to ensure that only the very ripest cherries are selected, the pickers do about eight passes throughout the harvest, under the watchful eye of Julio—La Soledad’s full-time manager. Julio lives at La Soledad, and has worked with Rony and Lucia since 2010.

After harvest, the coffee is processed at the Zelaya’s beneficio (mill) Bella Vista in the traditional washed manner. The cherries are mechanically pulped before they’re fermented for 24 hours to remove the mucilage, and are then dried on patios in the sun.

This is a coffee we absolutely love and have wanted to buy since cupping it at the Cup of Excellence (it placed in 2009 and 2012), and visiting La Soledad with Rony in 2013. We were lucky enough to get it for the first time in 2014 and have purchased it every year since.

On our most recent visits to La Soledad, we have been fortunate to spend time in Lucia and Rony’s home that they built on the farm in 2017. The house sits right in the middle of the plantation with a view out to Volcan de Fuego, which still occasionally erupts with clouds of smoke. The coffee trees come right up to the edge of the house, so it feels like you’re living right in the middle of the coffee farm. Currently Lucia and Rony still live in Guatemala City, but they hope to retire to La Soledad in the coming years. “This is where we are happiest,” Lucia explains. “Especially Rony. He lives for coffee.”