Updates From The Road: Guatemala 2024

Published 30 Apr 2024

After a successful and inspiring trip to Guatemala earlier this year, we’re excited to share what we learned on the road and give some more information and context for what to expect from this year’s season! 

It’s always thrilling to spend time in Guatemala. After more than a decade of sourcing here, we’ve developed supply relationships that feel more like close friendships. Our time on the ground flew by, with much of the trip spent on the road making our way to the regions of Huehuetenango, Santa Rosa and Antigua. Happily, we shared most of this travel with the team from Prisma Coffee Origins, who are some of the most knowledgeable coffee people we work with – meaning time in the car was a great opportunity to pick their brains on how the 2024 season was progressing! 

Over the last couple of years, Guatemala’s coffee sector has been going through a period of transition: labour shortages have made production on large estates very impractical, while the effects of climate change are making each harvest more and more unpredictable and, in turn, less profitable. While this makes planning for and managing each season challenging, many farmers are responding by focusing on the improved health of their land and coffee trees and the quality of their crop — given the results on the cupping table, their strategy is producing some outstanding results. 

This year, we were excited to travel across three of Guatemala’s major growing regions. Our trip began in Huehue, to visit the El Sendero cooperative for the first time, after being blown away by the quality and value of the lot we sourced from them in 2023. The cooperative’s leader, Pablo Gaspar, is passionate about making sure farmers receive fair, profitable prices for their hard work and the co-op invests heavily in supporting its members to consistently produce great coffees.

While Huehue is made up of many unique micro-climates and a varied topography, every producer we spoke to agreed on one thing: the season has been a mixed bag, with late and very inconsistent rains. Despite farming in and around the small town of Concepción Huista, no two of El Sendero’s members received the same amount of rainfall — with some losing up to 30% of their crop because of unseasonably heavy rains, while others were unaffected. At larger estates like La Providencia, Calahute and La Maravilla, the inconstancy of the season slowed harvesting considerably, with fruit from different plots maturing at varying rates and requiring more passes to select ripe cherry. Such additional labour ultimately results in better cup quality, but this year delayed a season that was already behind. 

The 2024 harvest was even tougher in the department of Santa Rosa, which lies close to Guatemala’s capital and is one of the country’s lushest regions. Rain was scarce across the season, and the sun’s intensity was much higher than average. The result was a short, fast and low-yielding harvest.

Here, we spent time with Darwin of El Calagual and the Juárez family of La Bugambilia (and regular COE placeholders). For both, the season hit like a cyclone, leaving them with little time to ascertain just how much their volumes had dropped. Both had also recently lost key members of their team, forcing them to quickly train new staff in proper practices for drying and milling as mature cherry came in thick and fast. Working long days and nights allowed each producer to achieve their high standards for processing, but also left them exhausted by the time we visited. This tireless work ethic and meticulous approach is evident in the extremely high cup quality from both farms – and a testament to just how precious coffee from Guatemala is. 

Our last stop was Antigua, where we were warmly welcomed by our dear friends the Zelaya family, who treated us to a full tour of Santa Clara, La Soledad and Hacienda Carmona. Their estates were the greenest and healthiest we saw during the trip, as the family have spent the last few years preparing for a season just like this one. After upgrading their irrigation systems and increasing the amount of shade available, the trees at all three estates were able to withstand the season’s lack of humidity. By following a careful renovation plan, the Zelayas were ultimately able mitigate the effects of what for many has been a low-yielding year. We were so happy to see how much the investment the family has been able to place on keeping their farms healthy has paid off!

This year’s line up is currently being finalised by our team in Melbourne – who are cupping through offer samples from Huehuetenango, Santa Rosa, Antigua, Cobán and beyond. So far, the coffees are remarkable, with our year-on-year favourites from Santa Isabel, Santa Clara and La Maravilla showing the distinction and elegance we expect from them. More recently featured micro-lots like El Sendero and Hacienda Carmona continue to impress, while our value lines, Calahute and La Providencia, are cupping to profile and tasting great! 

We can’t wait to share our 2024 line up! We’re in the final stages of confirming our order, with the coffees due to sail early May and land around July/August. We’ll have pre-shipment sample to share ahead of their arrival — get in touch now to request to taste or learn more about the 23/24 season. 

Read more about our Guatemalan sourcing here or get in touch anytime to plan your next Guatemalan offerings.