The second Guatemalan coffee is a winner. We have some bags of this coffee through our friends at 32Cup in Antwerp. They had two lots; one regular lot and a small regional lot, the Mam. We chose this lot because of the fine characteristics of the coffee. Think winey notes, with an intense sweetness and hints of black grape. Because of these notes, this will be our house espresso for this period of time.
A mainstay in our coffees from Guatemala are the Huehuetenango and Mam regional blends. The Mam selection is a micro-region specific lot that was collected from sixty smallholder producers around La Libertad and San Pedro Necta municipalities in the Huehuetenango region. Descendants from the Mam indigenous group inhabit the region, hence the name of the coffee. In this area, coffee is cultivated at 1500 meters and above. The harvest takes place from January to March, at some of the highest altitudes in the region. At the highest altitudes, the harvest even extends into April!
The farms that produce the Mam coffee receive little exposure to direct sunlight, as the region is covered by a thick blanket of clouds in the afternoon. High altitudes and low temperatures make for a slow development of the cherries, which shows in the rich cup profile of the coffee. It has a more pronounced winey cup profile than our regular Huehuetenango regional coffee, which is bright and crisp with a more balanced sweetness. Our exporter’s quality team specifically screens the coffees they take in at their mill on this particular cup profile, just because it is so specific. Producers get paid a premium for this profile, as the cup profile fetches a higher cup score.
Huehuetenango shares a border with Mexico, and is connected with the rest of the country thanks to the Pan-American Highway. Coffee produced in the Huehuetenango highland region sets itself apart from the typical Guatemalan taste profile. The region owes this feature to the non-volcanic limestone soil of the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Soil pH is pretty high in this area (pH4.5), partly due to the limestone soil.
Coffea arabica can grow in a wide range of acidic soils from acidic (pH4) to neutral (pH7). This is partly explained by the solubility of nitrogen, one of coffee’s most important macronutrients. Nitrogen is most soluble in soils with pH from 4 to 8. Soil acidity determines the solubility of nutrients. They have to remain soluble long enough to travel all the way down the soil to the roots of the plants. It also affects the decomposition of mineral rock into elements that the plants can use.
This Mam regional blend was produced by various smallholder farmers in the Huehuetenango region in northern Guatemala. The producers here typically own a couple of hectares for growing coffee. Because of the difficult access to central mills, they wet-process and dry the coffee on their own land. The parchment is dried in the sun on patios and drying beds. Next, the producers try to find the best selling price for their beans at the many coffee collection points in the region.