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18. Field notes: Olopa – Chiquimula – Guatemala

Guatemala is home to some of the world’s most celebrated coffee origins – Antigua, Huehuetenango, Atitlán, San Marcos.  But there are other lesser-known origins within Guatemala that produce extraordinary coffees.  Guatemala’s National Coffee Association – Anacafé, as it is known locally – has been working for years to raise the profile of all eight of the country’s coffee-producing regions.  One of these, Acatenango Valley, is quickly emerging among specialty coffee cognoscenti as one of the leading origins in the country.  The New Oriente region in the eastern part of the country produces more volume than any other region, as well as some very fine coffees.  CAFE accompanies farmers in some of the traditionally prized Guatemalan origins as well as some of the worthy but lesser-known ones, including some very special farmers in New Oriente who are producing some very special coffees.

Welcome to Olopa.

Doña Francisca is a leader in the community of Olopa – she is president of the Olopa Women’s Association and coordinator of a community-based initiative to provide transportation to health care facilities in the event of medical emergencies in this far-flung community.  All this while she is not busy being a mother of five who helps run the house and the family farm.

Doña Francisca

Don Bernardino manages the coffee fields, where he has Caturra, Pacamaras and Pache, among other varieties.  He had the farm certified organic a number of years ago but then began farming conventionally again.  Now he is making another run at organic farming, using two small worm composting beds to turn the pulp from the coffee he wet mills on his farm into rich solid and liquid fertilizers.

Don Bernardino

The family’s coffee placed second in 2005 in a regional quality competition.

2d place

As Don Bernardino explains, it was simultaneously a source of pride and motivation to improve and capture first place.  That year, Don Bernardino says he worked harder than ever and was unusually selective in the harvest.  The result: first prize in 2006.

1st place, baby

CRS has the privilege of accompanying Doña Francisca and Don Bernardino in the CAFE Livelihoods project, along with 149 other families who belong to ACODEROL – the Rural Development Association of Olopa in the Department of Chiquimula.  The project has rehabilitated Don Bernardino’s wet mill and expanded his drying patio.  It is supporting his transition to organic certification.  And it is working hard to help link Doña Francisca, Don Bernardino and their neighbors find a market for their coffee.  This year, Doña Francisca explained that they needed to sell most of their coffee in cherry form since they needed money and couldn’t access financing.  With any luck, their coffee will find its way to a roaster near you in 2011.

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