Jesuit priests introduced coffee to Guatemala in 1773 and today the country produces some of the finest coffee in the world.
Huehuetenango, at the foot of the Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America, is one of the best regions in Guatemala for coffee production. In Huehuetenango, currents of hot air sweeping up from the isthmus of Tehuatepec cross paths with cool air descending from the Cuchumatanes Mountains, allowing the cultivation of coffee at altitudes up to 1,900 meters, with the best product coming from the higher altitudes. Huehuetenango is in the northwest of Guatemala, on the border with Mexico. It is primarily a mountainous region, with altitudes ranging from 850 to 3,700 meters, though the region has an extraordinary variety of ecosystems (from subtropical forest to pine thickets).
The indigenous population, the majority of the local inhabitants, descends from various Maya tribes, including the Mam, the Akatecas, the Chuj, the Q’anjobal and the Jacaltecas, each of which has a distinct language and culture. Their historic isolation from the Guatemalan population and the international coffee prices crisis of the early 2000’s have made the indigenous inhabitants of Huehuetenango among the poorest in Central America.
Coffee is practically a monoculture in Huehuetenango and the local economy depends on its export. The only means of escaping this damaging situation is through diversification: developing high-end quality coffees and introducing other products (hot peppers, anise, vegetables) in areas that are not so suitable for growing coffee.
The Presidium coffee is made from plants of Coffea arabica (of the Typica, Bourbon and Caturra varieties) cultivated in the shade of high trees. The coffee berries are hand-harvested, picked one by one and placed in a wicker basket tied round the harvester’s waist with a vine cord. The beans are extracted from the berries with a gentle fermentation that begins within four hours of harvesting and lasts 24 to 36 hours. After removal of the flesh, the beans are dried for at least three hours, during which time they are constantly turned manually with a rake.
If you would like to know where to find roasters that sell the coffee of this Presidium as single-origin or mixed blend, consult the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity website.
Iliana Lucia Martinez Matias
Tel. +502 77633042; +502 30188713
Gildardo Rivas De Leon
Slow Food Coordinator
Tel. +39 0172 419723
Fax +39 0172 419725