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Origin Update: 2021 Harvest Guatemala - 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Origin Update: 2021 Harvest Guatemala

Words by 49th Green Coffee Buyer, David Pohl

As we head into 2021 we are grateful for resilient origin partners who have continued to produce singular coffees for 49th Parallel and strengthen our relationships throughout the pandemic. This is particularly the case in countries such as Guatemala where we have forged strong relationships over many years.  Here is a brief harvest update from our long-term partners Beneficio Bella Vista in Antigua and Vides 58 Huehuetenango.  

Harvest Update from our partner in Antigua, Luis Pedro Zelaya of Zelcafe/Beneficio Bella Vista

We have been working with Luis Pedro and Beneficio Bella Vista for many years now, sourcing excellent coffees from the estates and small holder collectives around Antigua.  These are regularly some of our favorite and most anticipated coffees, not because they are the most exotic, but simply because they are excellent coffees with a certain pedigree and finesse that does not happen by chance.  My coworkers know that I love the coffees of Bella Vistaand that the Pulcal, which just came off our menu, was my preferred coffee around the Holidays. Luckily for all of us we still have one more coffee to offer from Luis Pedro this year, the Guatemala San Juan, which will be on the menu shortly.

In speaking with Luis Pedro recently we learned that the hurricane and rain drenched months of October and November, when Guatemala is normally soaked in sun, delayed the harvest by a few weeks, and caused a small outbreak of coffee-leaf rust (roya) on farms around Antigua. Despite this, the harvest is looking good this year, and the plentiful rains actually helped with the maturation of the coffee. The first cupping they have conducted at Bella Vista look very promising and we are expecting our first set of offer samples in the coming month.

Luis Pedro happened to be visiting one of his coffee plant nurseries the last time we spoke, where they were in the process of grafting arabica coffee seedlings on robusta rootstock.  This process, developed in Guatemala over 50 years ago, is a practical defense against the presence of nemotode pests that live in the soils of Guatemala and feast on the roots of coffee trees.  Robusta root stock is more resistant to nemotodes, and years of research has shown that grafting young plants does not affect the flavor profile of the resulting coffee. I can’t help but be continually impressed by this small but significant innovation, that no doubt has helped advance the Guatemalan coffee industry for decades. Check out this short video that Luis Pedro shared.

Update from our Partners in Huehuetenango, Renardo Ovalle of Vides 58

Renardo Ovalle of Vides 58, our other long-term partner in Guatemala, reports that Huehuetenango was also spared the worst effects of the recent hurricanes and despite being a few weeks behind because of wet weather, is starting to receive coffee from higher areas of HuehueWe can't wait to see these samples, and in the meantime invite you to try Guatemala Senegal,a top lot from Vides from the 2020 harvest. 

Renardo commented that in terms of the pandemic, Hue Hue has not been as hard hit as Guatemala City and they have been free to move and work.  Since it is entirely possible that we will not be able to travel to Guatemala during the harvest season, unless we are able to get in line for the vaccine very soon, Renardo and I marveled at the fact that this is likely to be year two of our Virtual Direct Trade coffee sourcing relationship! Not ideal, but it is working!

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