Guatemalan Coffee Beans: What are the Best Guatemala Coffee Beans in 2021
If you are a coffee lover and only drink the best coffee, you have probably heard a lot about Guatemalan coffee. The country has a rich history of growing coffee beans that stretches back centuries. To this day, it is one of the best places in the world to find unique, delicious blends that are unlike anything else.
In this review we will discuss everything there is to know about Guatemala coffee beans, the history of the crop, where to find the best Guatemalan beans and our recommendation on the best way to brew it!TRY OUR ORGANIC GUATEMALAN COFFEE →
Guatemala is home to many distinct regions where coffee is grown. Each of these has its own climate, soil makeup, and other factors. The result is Guatemalan coffee that is unique and rich in flavor.
This is not even to mention the rich soil and ideal climate. Guatemala enjoys heavy annual rainfall, which means that coffee-growing conditions are perfect all year round.
But even this is not all that makes Guatemalan coffee so unique. The country is highly mountainous and covered in volcanoes. High altitudes and volcanic soil make for beautiful growing conditions. But more importantly, this variation creates more than 300 microclimates.
Microclimates offer unique growing environments for all kinds of crops. The bottom line is that Guatemalan coffee is one-of-a-kind, no matter where it is from.
Every coffee plantation in Guatemala produces special coffee that tastes different from anything else you will find anywhere.
And there are a huge number of coffee plantations. Coffee is a huge part of Guatemala's exports, being produced in 20 out of 22 national regions.
So, what role do volcanoes play? Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes. Three of these are still active. The crops in these regions get deposits of volcanic ash to help them grow. Even by the inactive volcanoes, the soil is rich in minerals and vitamins.
Coffee plantations are common sights on the slope of a volcano, where they flourish in nutrient-rich soil.
Guatemalan Coffee Beans
So what should you know about Guatemalan coffee beans and blends before you dive in? For starters, it's one of our favorites at Black Ink and tends to be one of the top selling single origins that we offer.
Most of it is Arabica Coffee
Almost 90 percent of the coffee produced in Guatemala is Arabica coffee, the most common type of coffee in the world. It is also the oldest cultivated coffee, having been produced around the globe for thousands of years.
It is Washed
When you order coffee that was grown in Guatemala, you will probably notice a label on it that says that it is "Clean." This refers to a washing process that is common in the country.
Because Guatemala has heavy and frequent rainfall, traditional processes of drying coffee can be a challenge. Instead, most of the coffee produced there is washed through a special process. This results in a unique flavor that many people describe as tannic.
It is Grown at High Altitudes
Most Guatemalan coffee is grown on the side of mountains or volcanoes. This means it benefits from the high altitudes, which helps it flourish and also lends a tangy, acidic flavor.
Best Guatemalan Coffee
Given the fact that Guatemalan coffee is grown under ideal conditions, it's no wonder it has one of the most sought-after flavor profiles in the world. It is strong and full-bodied, with a robust flavor and only moderate acidity. The uniqueness of Guatemalan coffee comes from the environment in which it's grown, which cannot be reproduced anywhere else worldwide.
Guatemalan coffee's robust flavor profile comes from being grown at high elevations. The higher, the better, as coffee plants thrive in conditions with plenty of sunshine, consistent temperatures, and moderate rainfall. In Guatemala, several regions provide the ideal conditions for coffee farming, frequently grown at elevations around 5,000 feet.
Guatemala's perfect annual rainfall, rich soil quality, and just the right amount of sunlight produce coffee like nothing else in the world. However, the best Guatemalan coffee goes through a complex process before it reaches your cup.
The best Guatemala coffee must go through several different sets of hands, including:
- Farmers: who grow, harvest, and process the coffee beans before shipping them to other parts of the world.
- Roasters: who select the best beans and blends before roasting them and packaging them for sale.
- Baristas: who brew the coffee using a variety of techniques to make the perfect cup.
Our Guatemalan coffee comes from a coffee producer tucked in the highest mountain range of Central America. It is Fair Trade, and the beans are always organic. We've found that a medium roast is best for bringing out its robust flavor profile.
Black Ink Guatemalan Coffee is rich in flavor. It is bright, fruity, and has a touch of sweetness from being grown in high-nutrient soil at high altitudes. It's perfect for daily brews using a French press or standard coffee brewer.TRY OUR ORGANIC GUATEMALAN COFFEE →
Coffee Regions in Guatemala
There are eight distinct regions in Guatemala from which coffee is sourced. Each of these has its own climate and growing conditions. The result is delicious, one-of-a-kind Guatemalan coffee from each region.
The Acatenango Valley is 2,000 meters above sea level and rich in forests and volcanic soil. Its unique location between the volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean keeps it cool and drier here than in most regions in South America.
Winds off the ocean provide variation between the seasons, making it possible for farmers to dry their Guatemalan coffee in the sun. The volcanic soil gives the coffee beans flavors that many people describe as creamy, fruity, sweet, and even citrusy.
Antigua is another region surrounded by volcanoes, including Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Fuego is one of the few active volcanoes in the country. Periodically, it releases volcanic ash, which is full of minerals that are ideal for crops.
The entire surrounding region is rich and full of coffee plantations. Antigua is famous around the world, even outside of Central America.
But it is not just the soil that makes Antigua such a perfect region for growing Guatemalan coffee. The high elevation also provides beautiful weather that affects local coffee production.
With lots of sunshine and low humidity — as well as temperatures that drop dramatically at night — the Antigua region has a highly unique environment.
Antiguan coffees are known for their smooth, sweet flavors that are minimally acidic, with flavors that may be smoky or spicy or reminiscent of cocoa.
Atitlán is yet another volcanic region in Guatemala. Yet its soil is even richer than that of the other regions. It is full of minerals, which is ideal for fertile coffee plantations.
Up to 90 percent of the coffee produced in Atitlán is grown on the slope of volcanoes around the Lake of Atitlán. But even more amazing than the fertile soil is the local wind, which creates the region's rich microclimates.
Coffee in Atitlán is artisanal and often produced on a small scale. Most of the Guatemalan coffees you will find here are high in acid, with citrusy or floral flavors. They are considered light and refreshing.
Cobán is one of the most famous coffee regions in Guatemala. In comparison to the regions that enjoy frequent sunshine, Cobán is notorious for its constant rain and mist, called chipi-chipi.
Despite the constant moisture, the region enjoys a tropical climate from its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, Cobán is one of the most prolific coffee-producing places in the country.
Coffees that are grown here are typically low in acid with a fruity or even winelike flavor.
Fraijanes enjoys high altitudes and a nearby active volcano. The Pacaya volcano is more active than any other in the entire country. It deposits volcanic ash regularly, causing extremely fertile soil.
The region is frequently rainy and humid but also has a distinct dry season. During this time of year, fog may be present in the morning only to give way to a dry, sunny afternoon. This lets coffee producers dry their crops in the sun.
The potassium-enriched soil produces a Guatemalan coffee that is bright and acidic with plenty of body.
Huehuetenango is a region that is highly distinct from the others around the country. It has the highest altitude and the lowest rainfall and humidity levels. Instead, it is fairly warm and dry.
With frequent winds blowing in from the north, Huehuetenango enjoys year-round warm weather without experiencing frosts.
While most of the coffee regions in Guatemala are protected and nourished by nearby volcanoes, Huehuetenango is one of the few not near volcanic soil. Despite this, it is a perfect area for coffee plantations.
It is also extremely remote, which means that most of the coffee bean producers work independently. Huehuetenango coffees are known for being rich and complex in flavor, with sweet, full flavors like caramel and peach.
Nuevo Oriente has been a producer of coffee beans for many decades. Once, it was an impoverished region of small-scale coffee farmers. Now, however, the region has exploded in growth.
Nuevo Oriente is a moist, rainy region with mostly overcast days. However, the soil is rich in volcanic minerals, making it the perfect place to grow coffee beans.
This cooler, high-altitude area is close to Guatemala's border with Honduras. Temperatures are usually in the 60s and 70s but remain steady throughout the year. Coffee beans grown in Nuevo Oriente are known for being robust and acidic.
One of the hottest and most humid coffee regions in Guatemala is San Marcos. Outside drying is not usually an option here since rain can strike suddenly and unexpectedly at any point in the growing season.
Coffee plants bloom early in San Marcos due to the frequent rain. Local producers have special methods of drying the beans indoors to avoid ruining their crops in the wet weather.
San Marcos coffee is known for being light, bright, and acidic, with a more delicate taste and feel.
Guatemalan Coffee Growth
Growing and producing coffee is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. While growing the plants themselves is relatively easy, processing the coffee beans in just the right way is a lot of work. What's more, there are certain environmental conditions in which coffee blooms with rich, full flavor. You need a certain soil quality, elevation, sunlight, and rainfall.
You can plant and grow coffee in many different types of soils. However, for the plants to thrive and produce quality coffee, certain conditions need to be met. For instance, the soil should be rich in minerals and other nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, zinc, and boron.
Coffee also prefers soil that drains easily, which is often hard and full of clay. This type of soil allows water to flow through it, wetting the roots of the coffee plant without soaking them. Such soil is most commonly found near volcanoes. Volcanic soil contains all of the essential nutrients for growing flourishing and plentiful coffee plants.
One of the reasons Guatemala is so successful in growing coffee is that many of its farming locations are high in elevation. These locations have cold temperatures, harsh winds, plentiful sunlight, and heavy rainfall.
While such difficult conditions might not seem ideal for farming, they slow the growing process of the coffee plants. This slow growth forces the plant to put its energy into bean production, producing more sugars and a deeper richness to the beans. So, while it is certainly easier to grow coffee at lower altitudes, the best coffee is grown in harsher mountain climates.
Coffee plants grow best under bright sunlight. At lower altitudes, they require a lot of exposure to direct sunlight. But, at higher altitudes, the sunlight is less filtered and more easily provides what the plant needs. Therefore, coffee plants thrive at higher altitudes with bright but indirect sunlight for around two hours each day.
Coffee is a tropical plant and needs plenty of water to support its growth. Fortunately, Guatemala provides the ideal annual rainfall required to grow coffee successfully. On top of that, because the plants are grown at higher altitudes, the cooler air doesn't hold as much moisture, preventing oversaturation.
All of the regions in Guatemala we've discussed provide adequate rainfall to support the farming of coffee. Coffee prefers about 60 to 80 inches of rainfall for 8 to 10 months each year for healthy growth.
Guatemala Coffee Processing Method
Guatemala is known for its tropical climate. It is wet, humid, and hot. For this reason, coffee in Guatemala is processed using the wet method. This process involves four key steps:
The wet processing method, known as "washed coffee," produces some of the best coffee in the world. Coffee cherries are collected and processed to produce some of the best Guatemala coffee in the world.
Once the coffee cherries are picked, they need to be sorted to remove any unripe or defective cherries from the bunch. This process is done by putting the coffee cherries in water. Interestingly, lower-quality cherries are less dense and float to the top of the water because they are either unripe or damaged in some other way, such as by the coffee berry borer insect.
From there, the floating cherries can be removed for processing into lesser-quality coffee, while the coffee cherries that have sunk to the bottom can be made into the finest quality. Both coffees can later be sold in different markets at varying prices.
After the coffee cherries have been sorted, the mucilage or skin of the cherry needs to be removed. This process is typically done using a machine that pulps the coffee cherries and removes the skins. Then, the coffee should be put through a sieve to remove any pulp that the machine missed.
The next step is fermentation, one that is somewhat controversial in certain locations because of its excessive water usage. However, this is less of a problem in Guatemala as the climate is quite wet, and annual rainfall is plentiful. That said, certain manufacturers have developed ways to hasten this process and use less water.
Traditionally, coffee beans are put in tanks of water and left to ferment for 18 to 24 hours. The time varies depending on the value of the coffee beans and the temperature of the climate. Doing this releases microorganisms in the coffee beans that create enzymes, breaking down the remaining mucilage and leaving only the coffee beans while enriching their flavor.
The last stage is to dry the coffee beans. The traditional method is to lay them out in the sun to dry, which creates some of the best flavors. Nonetheless, the beans are vulnerable during this stage to physical deterioration and microorganisms, so they have to be carefully watched and protected.
For this reason, some farms use mechanical dryers, but this can negatively affect the coffee's quality. Other farms dry their beans in the sun for one or two days before moving them to mechanical dryers to complete the process.
The world of Guatemalan coffee is complex and fascinating. There is a reason it has fascinated coffee connoisseurs for centuries. But whether you consider yourself an aficionado or just want an amazing cup to start your day, you can find the perfect blend from Guatemala.TRY OUR ORGANIC GUATEMALAN COFFEE →