Huehuetenango is well-known for its high altitude and consistent weather patterns. The region lies at a nexus of hot air sweeping eastwards from the Plains of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico and cool air rushing down from the Cuchumantanes Mountains. The meeting of this hot and cold air creates a microclimate that keeps frost in check and enables coffee cultivation at higher altitudes: coffee production at 2,000 meters above sea level is common. These conditions are perfect for producing the sparkling acidity and distinctive fruit flavors of the region.
Mam have been farming the land in Huehuetenango for thousands of years. Their traditional farming techniques include using the waste product from their sheep for organic fertilizer, rotating land to give the soil time to recover and harvesting communally. Mam farmers have also traditionally planted a wide variety of crops in a way that best utilizes the sharp altitude changes along Huehuetenango’s steep slopes.
Due to its remoteness, most producers in Huehuetenango process their own coffee. Luckily, an abundance of streams and rivers in the region makes Fully washed processing more accessible.
Farmers selectively hand pick cherry and pulp it on their farms, usually with small hand-powered or electric drum pulpers. After fermenting, parchment is agitated to remove remaining mucilage and washed with clean water. All water used during pulping and washing will be filtered – usually through earthen holes – so that the organic solids do not contaminate local waterways. Farmers typically lay parchment to dry on raised beds that are stacked on top of each other to maximize space. Patios are also frequently used.