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A desire to experiment is one of the big reasons that I love buying from Finca El Limon; we have been getting coffee from them since we were introduced by our mutual friend Raul Rodas (2012 World Barista Champion) seven years ago, and they're still impressing me!
The experimentation is thanks to the motivation of Guadalupe Alberto Reyes (known as Beto to his friends), He's been the owner of the farm for 21 years now, and in recent years he has really focussed on the farm and on continually striving to improve. He aims to take more care in every step they take on the farm, from picking, to processing, to shipping. They also take care with the agronomy of the farm; Beto's son, Saul, has been studying agronomy at the local college for the past seven years, and he uses his knowledge to benefit practices on the farm.
All the family have a part to play in the day-to-day farm running, including Beto's wife Maralyn; their children Saul, Elena, and Betio; Betio's wife Mafer; and Beto's brother Felix, who runs their mill. In addition to the family, they employ a team of seven workers outside of harvest. That team manages the weeding, mill upgrades and general farm work.
The farm itself is eighteen hectares in size and sits at an altitude between 1600–1800 metres above sea level. The farm mainly produces Caturra and Bourbon, with a smattering of Pacamara, San Ramon, and Pache alongside.
It is located roughly an hour's drive to the east of Guatemala City in the small town of Palencia, which Beto also happens to be Mayor of! He has helped to build and develop the town alongside running his farm–I honestly don't know how he finds enough hours in the day, what a guy!
Palencia is not part of the eight regions of coffee as defined by Anacafé (the National Association of Coffee in Guatemala), but you can see a lot of development in the zone, and this farm is a perfect example of that development. I like being in places that are working to be hot and up-and-coming, as well as those that are established players. Over time El Limon has become one of our favourite Hasrelationships, and back in 2013, they were the first producers that we ever bought from directly in Guatemala.
The dedication and care devoted to each step of production is reflected in the fact that the family operate their own wet mill, so that they can separate different lots and have control over the quality of the coffee. They are able to process many lots simultaneously and keep separate days' pickings, processes, and varietals in their own parcels. The wet mill also benefits the local community as neighbours within the region of Palencia also bring their coffees to the mill to be processed.
They have had the mill on-site since the very beginning but it's very much an ongoing project and they recently invested in a rebuild, alongside the construction of a QC laboratory, a new warehouse, and accommodation for their staff. Beto doesn't want to stand still and is continuing to invest in the farm. You can tell that this is a farm on top of their game. Whenever I visit, my questions are dispatched with exactly the right answer and every suggestion is listened to and taken on board.
As well as being skilled professionals, Beto and his family have always been the perfect hosts whenever I visit the farm. They are such welcoming people and take great pride in showing me around their farm. One of the kindest things they've done for me is to welcome me into their home when I am visiting, and they always prepare the most amazing meals! Every time I'm round they cook a dish called Kak'ik (basically translates to 'red and spicy' from Mayan). It's like a broth with a whole turkey leg in it, and it's BOSTIN! It is indeed very red, but it’s not terribly spicy unless you want it to be, and it's arguably the national dish of Guatemala, with versions of it having been made since long before the Spaniards showed up.
When you travel as much as I do, mid-trip you find yourself longing for something big, home-cooked, and not from a restaurant or roadside pop-up cafe. Traditional Guatemalan meals are just the ticket, and I always look forward to the food – but mainly I look forward to the company.
A wonderfully easy-drinking coffee. This reminds me of a chocolate-coated digestive biscuit, with hints of white sugar and caramel in the background. There's just a hint of white grape acidity, balancing out that full, biscuity sweetness.
Roasting Information Medium-dark – push it through the gap and look for those first pops of second on the drop. It'll take a little extra time in development to build the sweetness, but don't overdo it or you'll lose the nice balance of the cup.
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