I first discovered El Limon on my trip to Guatemala in early 2013. At the time we'd never bought coffee directly from Guatemala, but since then this has become one of our strongest and most amazing Hasrelationships.
My friend Raul (whom you may remember as the World Barista Champion of 2012!) in Guatemala had been buying coffee from these guys for a couple of years, and he was very keen for me to go and meet them. Located around an hour's drive to the east of Guatemala City in the small town of Palencia, this farm sits at an altitude between 1,600 and 1,800 metres above sea level. It's owned by Guadalupe Alberto Reyes, who's also just known as Beto. He used to be the Mayor of Palencia, and he helped to build and develop the town.
Palencia is not part of the eight regions of coffee as defined by Anacafé, 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.
One of the main reasons I love El Limon is Beto's desire to experiment; the farm mostly produces Bourbon and Caturra, but he also plays around with a few other varietals. The experimentation is thanks to Beto's motivation; he has really focused on the farm over the last few years. He wanted to take more care in every step they take – from picking to processing, to shipping – and also take more care in the agronomy of the farm.
This is very much a family affair: his wife and son also work on the farm, along with Beto's siblings. In fact, his son is studying agronomy at the local college for the benefit of the farm.
The dedication and care devoted to each step of production is reflected in the fact that the family has built a new wet mill, so that they can separate different lots and have control over the quality of the coffee. Previously the mill could process only one lot; now the farmers are able to process many lots, and keep separate days' pickings and varietals in their own parcels.
With this wet mill came another opportunity, which was for neighbours and people within the region of Palencia to bring their coffees to the mill where they could get them processed. It's another sign that this is a hot spot for Guatemalan coffee.
As time moves on, Beto doesn't want to stand still and is continuing to invest in the farm. He showed me lots of new planting during my recent visit, and a lot of building work around the wet mill. He is also building a QC lab and new accommodation for people working on the farm. It was a real hive of activity.
Beto and his family have always been the perfect hosts whenever I visited 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! 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 few years ago and purely as an experiment, Raul and Beto decided they wanted to try doing something a bit different with a coffee. They tinkered with processing methods to see what would happen and what they could get out of the coffee.
They told me about it when I visited, and OF COURSE I tasted the coffee and OF COURSE I bought the coffee! They've kept on doing this for a few years and now, in 2019, we're into year #5 with a mixed lot of San Ramon & Catimor.
When farms are processing a coffee, they use a depulping machine that removes the cherry and most of the mucilage. There is a setting on this machine that adjusts how close to the bean it cleans, and therefore how much of the fruit is left behind. The farms Raul works with in Guatemala have, when doing honey processing, typically used a middle setting (Red Honey). However, Raul wanted to try a Black Honey.
In Costa Rica, where those coffees are most often produced, this would mean leaving all the mucilage and just taking off the fruit skin. However, when Black Honey's produced in Guatemala, the farmers open the depulper very wide.
Some of the cherries have had the skin removed whilst a few have been left intact. I guess this means it's kind of a hybrid Black Honey x Natural Process. These were then left on patios for thirteen days, which is about the same amount of time that they use to dry their washed coffees.
Like the natural Bourbon from the farm, this is a complex coffee that shifts as it changes from hot to cool. When it's hot, there's white sugar and sweet lemon, but as it cools, those flavours really take a back seat as molasses creep in and a hit of pecan nut appears on the finish.