La Soledad

  • Country
    Guatemala
  • Department
    Antigua
  • Farm Size
    15 Hectares
  • Elevation
    1,585–1,700m above sea level
  • Variety
    Bourbon, Caturra
  • Processing
    Fully Washed
  • Farm Owner
    Ana Lucia Zelaya and her husband Don Rony Asensio
  • Awards
    Cup of Excellence 2009, 2012
  • Relationship Length
    Since 2014

Rich and well structured, with great balance and a sweet finish. Plum, dark chocolate and hazelnut with a clean finish.

La Soledad sits at an altitude of 1,585–1,750m above sea level on the slopes of Volcan de Agua in Antigua. The estate is owned by Ana Lucia Zelaya and her husband 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. His farm was passed 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 and Rony took over the eleven-hectare part of the farm and called it ‘La Soledad,’ and the pair continue to manage it today. Their son Ricardo completed a university degree in Agricultural Engineering in 2021, with the intention of joining his parents’ work at the farm in the near future.

 

Rony and Lucia have a wonderful team of people who support them on their farm. The dynamic between each of them is very inclusive and respectful, and the loyalty and happiness of each team member is evident every time we visit. Day to day operations at La Soledad are managed by Julio Pablo Damian who has worked and lived on the farm since 2010. During the harvest, around twenty-five seasonal workers are employed to help pick the cherries. These pickers are highly skilled, and most return every year to work on the farm.

Due to varying altitude of La Soledad, the coffee cherries ripen at different times during the harvest, so Julio instructs his team of pickers to do around eight passes of the entire farm during the season to ensure only the ripest cherries are selected.

All the coffee trees at La Soledad grow under a canopy of Grevillea shade trees, which protect the coffee trees from frost and too much sun and encourage the coffee to ripen slowly.

 

Rony maintains a strict coffee 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.

ABOUT ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

The Antigua valley is bounded by three giant volcanoes – Agua (Water), Fuego (Fire) and Acatenango. Of the three, Fuego is the only one still active. On many visits, we have been in town at times the volcano has erupted, adding some chaos to the harvest (in the short term, the ash can stick to the leaves of coffee trees nearby and prevent the trees from photosynthesising), but ultimately providing mineral-rich ash for Antigua’s soil. This volcanic matter helps the soil retain its moisture, offsetting the region’s lower rainfall.

 

Coffee from Antigua is perhaps Guatemala’s best-known and most celebrated and, as such, typically attracts higher prices than coffee from other regions. They tend to be heavier bodied, with notes of dark chocolate, brown sugar and red apple. In 2000, Antigua received a Denomination of Origin to recognise the region as distinct, and to prevent other coffees from being marketed as Antiguan.

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

Once the perfectly ripe cherries are picked, 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. The beans are then washed to remove any remaining pulp and carefully dried first on a patio for a couple of days, and then on raised beds in a greenhouse, which ensures the coffee is dried slowly and evenly.

WHY WE LOVE IT

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.

One of the things we love most about Rony is that he takes great pride and care in doing everything to the highest standard. “Everything we do is done with love.” he explains.  This is very evident in everything that Rony does on the farm: his attention to detail, commitment to constantly improving, and understanding of best agricultural practices are hard to fault, and we feel very grateful to work with him.

 

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.”