That bag of beans sitting on the shelf of your favourite cafe probably comprises single origin coffee beans. Your barista loads the beans into the espresso machine, and out comes a stream of espresso that makes your morning a little better — with a fantastic flavour and just the right amount of caffeine kick.
The coffee beans may be sourced from a farm in Brazil or Ethiopia, but chances are, they are Guatemalan. They say, Guatemalan coffee — strong, full-bodied, moderately acidic, and deliciously-flavoured — is the perfect first step towards high-quality coffee beans for those looking for a switch from drinking mass-produced coffee.
Well, they aren’t wrong. We’re here to talk about Guatemalan coffee and what makes it special and unique.
Fun fact: Did you know that, despite its small size, Guatemala is one of the top ten coffee producers in the world with more than 204,000 metric tons of coffee beans a year?
8 Coffee Regions in Guatemala
Guatemala is the Mecca for coffee farmers — and for very good reasons. Coffee in Guatemala is grown at an altitude of over 5,000 feet, which explains its robust and distinctive flavour.
Guatemala’s unique growing region, with a mild subtropical climate, combined with nutrient-rich volcanic soil, create an ideal environment for growing some of the most delicious coffee beans in the market.
Pour yourself a fresh cup as we take you to the different regions in Guatemala, each with varying conditions that make their beans unique. Let’s go over the flavour profiles and some tasting notes, and talk about the popular Guatemalan coffee beans.
Let’s try other coffee beans from around the world, in Kilimanjaro, Ethiopia, Colombia and more.
Most people would agree that Antigua is the most popular type of coffee from Guatemala.
The soil in the Antigua region is rich in nutrients, from minerals deposited by Agua and Acatenango volcanoes in past eruptions. The active Fuego volcano leaves new mineral deposits to this day, keeping the soil fertile. Fertile soil, a large amount of rain, and consistent temperature in the region make great coffee the Antigua region is famous for.
At a high altitude of 2,000 feet above the sea level, the Acatenago region’s thick forests and low temperature with breeze gusts from the Pacific Ocean allow the coffee beans to be sun-dried, adding some unique flavours to the coffee profile.
Grown amongst the Fuego volcano, the coffee beans also benefit from the region’s soil, rich in nourishing volcanic minerals.
Lake Atitlán and the volcanoes nearby, as common in many regions in Guatemala, are what make the coffee beans in this region notable.
95% of Atitlán’s coffee beans are cultivated on the slopes of the volcanoes surrounding the majestic lake, making its soil one of the richest in minerals out of the five volcanic regions in Guatemala. The beans produced in the region yield a full-bodied cup with citrusy notes.
Cobán is rainy and cold all year round, a far stretch from other sunny volcanic regions.
Under this humidity, coffee beans are cultivated in soil consisting of clay and limestone. The subtropical region produces more balanced, medium-bodied coffee beans with less acidic and brighter flavours.
Fraijanes’ incredible coffee owes itself to the active Pacaya volcano, depositing ashes that nourish the soil with potassium and volcanic minerals.
Additionally, the region’s high altitude of 4,500 feet and a lot of rain result in a full-bodied flavour. While the mornings may be cloudy with a drizzle occasionally, the soil dries quickly, allowing the coffee beans to be sun-dried.
A full-bodied flavour with high acidity and fruity notes characterise coffee beans from the Huehuetenango region.
Out of the three non-volcanic regions in Guatemala, the Huehuetenango region is the highest and driest. Despite its high altitude of more than 2,000 meters, the region receives warm winds from the mountains at the Mexican plains of Tehuantepec, protecting it from frost.
7. Nuevo Oriente
Traditionally, the coffee at Nuevo Oriento was almost exclusively grown by small producers since the ‘50s. However, in recent years, the region sees significant growth in large coffee plantations. The commonly-grown coffee beans are pache, catuai, and bourbon.
The climate at Nuevo Oriente is generally rainy and cloudy, and the mineral-rich soil makes a perfect environment for a good cup of coffee — the coffee is acidic and balanced with a strong aroma.
8. San Marcos
The hottest region in Guatemala also happens to get the most rain. In the whole of Guatemala, San Marcos gets more than five meters falling per year.
The early rainy season makes the coffee bloom faster. To navigate the often unexpected twists and turns of the rainy season, the coffee producers adopt a “pre-dry” technique, where the coffee beans are dried under the sun before they are heated in a Guardiola dryer.
Prefer sticking to more familiar grounds? Learn more about your favourite Arabica, Robusta or Liberica here.
Best 3 Guatemalan Coffee Beans
Guatemalan coffee beans make some of the best coffees in the world.
You have probably heard of Antigua and Huehuetenango coffee beans, though there is much more to Guatemalan coffee beans than just these two regions.
Antigua Santa Barbara
Antigua Santa Barbara is the epitome of a true Central American coffee.
Those who love their coffee chocolatey with some notes of nuts will love a velvety rich, creamy cup of Antigua Santa Barbara coffee. Its vibrant acidity and candy-like sweetness balance the flavour profile. Your coffee will have a sweet finish that lingers for minutes.
These beans exhibit a complex and intense aroma that will fill the room long after.
Many low-acid coffees taste too dark and almost burnt, lacking the light, bright acidity that balances the coffee’s toastier notes, but this isn’t the case with Organic Huehuetenango.
Those who want to consume their coffee without heartburn will appreciate how rich and smooth Organic Huehuetenango is. It offers a delicious, caramel-like sweetness with notes of fruit and a slight chocolatey, wrapped up in a balanced and bright flavour. The clean aftertaste — light and crisp — will definitely make you want a second cup.
Coffee lovers who like a nut-oriented flavour profile will enjoy everything about San Marcos, from its fragrance to the aftertaste.
Light on the taste buds and easy on the stomach, San Marcos beans yield a smooth, full-bodied cup of coffee. The sweetness and acidity in the coffee are toned down to amplify a predominantly nutty flavour with floral notes. It’s nutty in fragrance, aroma, taste, and aftertaste too!
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Which will be your choice? The creamy and acidic Antigua Santa Barbara, the balanced and bright Organic Huehuetenango, or the nutty San Marcos?