JOYA OSCURA - Guatemala
Farm: Finca La Joya Grande
Varietal: Caturra, Bourbon & Catuaí
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios
Altitude: 1,500 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Austreberto Morel Hidalgo Argueta
Town / City: Aldea Joya Grande
Region: La Democracia, Huehuetenango
Finca Joya Grande lies high in the mountains of Guatemala’s Huehuetenago Department. The region’s steep slopes and cool climate are ideal for speciality coffee production. Unlike Antigua, Huehuetenango is not volcanic, so the coffee’s profile tends to be quite distinct from coffees from, say, Antigua. Thanks to the dry, hot winds that blow into the mountains from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain, the region is protected from frost, allowing Highland Huehue to be cultivated up to 2,000 meters. These high altitudes and relatively predictable climate make for exceptional specialty coffee.
Current owner, Austreberto Morel Hidalgo Argueta, is the third generation to farm this privileged land. While he works to preserve the legacy of his Grandfather, the first man to farm coffee here, he has added his own improvements, as well. It is telling of the region’s remoteness that the road that leads to the farm was built by Austreberto himself in 1984. Prior to that, all coffee had to be transported in and out of the farm on horseback by narrow paths.
The farm is comprised of 52 hectares, 35 of which are planted under Caturra, Bourbon and Catuaí trees, all of which is shade-grown. The rest of the farm’s land (around 20%) is maintained as forest preserve. Perhaps the deep emerald green of the hillsides gives the farm its name, which means ‘large jewel’ in Spanish.
One of Don Astreberto’s sons is an Agronomist, and he has overseen all aspects of the farm’s activities for the past 15 years. Together, he and his father have personally dedicated themselves to the supervision and control of all farm activities, from pruning to fertilisation to maintaining healthy and pest free trees. On average, the trees on the farm – most of which are Caturra – are 20 years old. The pruning system they have adopted is selective, where each plat receives the exact treatment it needs from year to year, rather than by block. Caturra was chosen as it performs very well in the local climate, and every effort is made to ensure that renovation takes place using the very same varieties of coffee. These stringent cultivation practices make sure that the trees are given the very best opportunity to produce the best coffee that they can!
The father and son team don’t let that work fall flat! An equal amount of work goes into making sure that processing gives the opportunity for each lot of coffee to develop the full range of characteristics that it can. The farm produces around 800 qq of parchment coffee produced annually; at least 50% goes towards the specialty market, and the aim is to increase this percentage year upon year.
The harvest begins in early January and ends in late March. Coffee is selectively hand harvested, with pickers choosing only the ripest cherries, and is then machine pulped. After pulping, the coffee is fermented in fermentation tanks for around 12 hours. The coffee is then washed using a demucilager and is then delivered to dry on the farm’s patios for 8 to 10 days. The farm provides employment for around 15 people year round and this increases to 60 during the harvest season.
For each of these stages, qualified staff oversees activities to avoid any risk of contamination or deterioration of quality.