El Retiro

Producer: Fernando Diaz
Cultivar: Bourbon, Pache e Typica
Process: Washed
Altitude: 1900m
Harvest: January – March
Notes: Chocolate truffle, cherry, creamy
Roast: Espresso

The production of coffee has been a mainstay of Guatemala’s economy for over a hundred years. More than 125,000 coffee producers help to grow Guatemala’s coffee production. Today, coffee remains one of Guatemala’s principal export products, accounting for 40% of all agricultural export revenue. The country’s coffee growing regions enjoys high altitudes, good rainfall all-year-round in regions that benefit from mineral-rich soils.

There are four main growing regions in Guatemala (Antigua, Huehuetenango, Atiitlan, Nuevo Oriente) which offer up distinctive regional profiles due to the influence of varieties and microclimate. This coffee from Antigua is cultivated on volcanic soils which help to lock in moisture as the region is sunnier and tends to get less rainfall – resulting in coffees that are sweet and smooth with a balanced acidity.

The local town of San Martín Jilotepeque – which translates as on the hill of sweet corn – is a settlement of historical significance to Guatemala and its people. The old city of was an important centre of activity for the Kaqchikel, who constitute Guatemala’s third largest Mayan group.

Finca El Retiro has been in the family since Francisco Alburez first purchased it from at auction from a religious order in 1832. Francisco’s daughter Maria Alburez de Ortega took over the farm and soon recognised that the farm’s clay-loam soil was excellent at retaining moisture and well-suited to farming activities. Coffee was first introduced in 1912 but the generations that followed had many challenges to face; from the 1976 earthquake to the Civil War in the 1980s. However, the family’s determination and perseverance in coffee production paid off when a wet mill was finally established in 2008.

The harvest at El Retiro begins in January, when the weather is still cool and ends in April, when the heat intensifies. Fresh cherries are de-pulped in the wet mill and fermented in traditional tanks for 18 hours. The beans are washed to remove any remaining pulp and placed on concrete patios for a ‘pre-drying’ stage. After spending approximately two days on patio, the parchment coffee is then placed on raised beds to complete drying for a total of 8-10 days until the optimum moisture content is reached.

Today, responsibility of the management of El Retiro is shared across several family members, with Fernando Diaz overseeing all commercial activities on the farm. Along with a team of seasonal workers, the family cultivate, harvest, and process 60 tonnes of coffee annually.

Due to the relatively high moisture content and density of this high-altitude coffee, we have a developed a long, sustained roast profile to develop the coffee in a way that accentuates the creamy body and balanced acidity – especially for espresso. We love this coffee for its sweet cherry fruitiness and rich chocolate-truffle flavor that reminds us of a delicious black forest gateau dessert!

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