In the not-too-distant future, the most extraordinary thing to happen on your drive from Guatemala City to Antigua, Guatemala, will no longer be surviving sudden lane changes made by local buses. If the Association of Genuine Antigua Coffee Producers (APCA) has its way, you will cross a line, invisible to most, but well defined in the minds of that region’s coffee farmers. Any of the growers who joined together to form APCA can run their finger along the proposed boundaries on a map of the valley. “This is where ‘Genuine’ Antigua is grown,” they’ll tell you. Over there is over there. Over here, it is Antigua. -Fresh Cup Magazine, July 2001
If you fly into Guatemala City at night, you just might be greeted by a lightshow that looks like a firework fountain at the end of its life, saying goodbye to the onlookers with a few final sparks. But in this case, it is Volcan de Fuego, living up to its name of “volcano of fire,” saying hello and welcome as the unofficial greeter for travelers arriving in this coffee-rich country.
The volcanoes of Guatemala, living or long dead, have played a critical role in making Guatemala home to some of the world’s best coffee. Coffee thrives at high altitude and in nutrient rich soils that drain well so roots can breath in plenty of oxygen. Volcanoes often provide the ideal altitude, ideal soil, and in the case of Antigua, ideal climate. It’s no wonder that one of the most famous coffee growing regions in the world, Antigua, rests in the shadow of not just one, but three volcanoes.
For almost 20 years, certified “genuine” Antigua has been coffee grown on 18,000 acres and a few dozen farms that fall down the slopes of Fuego and run northeast through a valley that experiences low humidity, cool nights, and relatively chilly weather November through February compared to the rest of the country. Coffees that receive the genuine Antigua “Geographic Indication” consistently demonstrate a balance of acidity and body, a complex variety of sweetness and citrus, and always pronounced and pleasing aromatics.
Twenty years ago, Antigua was producing around six million pounds of coffee a year and yet 50 million pounds of Antigua was being sold each year. This prompted the coffee producers in Antigua to pursue registrations around the world of a Geographic Indication, and thus was born the Genuine Antigua label.
Antigua’s full name is “la Antigua Guatemala,” or Ancient Guatemala, The Old Guatemala, a moniker it received in 1776 when the capital moved a few valleys over, by order of the crown, to escape persistent earthquakes. Guatemala City was the “new” Guatemala. A hundred years later, coffee represented 90% of Guatemala exports. It was around that time that the Zelaya family (a name that is nearly synonymous with Antigua) and Bella Vista farm began growing coffee in Antigua.
Olam has relationships with several producers throughout Guatemala, including Antigua, home to the beneficio at Bella Vista, a mill that works with many small coffee farmers in the area. Through our collaboration with Luis Pedro Zelaya we can offer some truly unique Antiguan coffee, such as the Hunapu arriving in May.
Hunapu (place of flowers) is the local name for Volcan de Agua and was adopted by a group of farmers who partnered with Bella Vista to form the Zelaya Hunapu Group to offer exceptional high-grown coffees meticulously processed … and genuinely Antigua.