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 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 2020, we're into year #6 with a mixed lot of San Ramon and 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.
This coffee is really well balanced and more-ish. It starts with hazelnuts and a heaping of goldensugar, all wrapped up in a syrupy body, before you get a gentle digestive biscuit sweetness on the finish.
Roasting Information Medium dark – through the gap and just looking for the first pops of second as it drops.
All orders placed before 07:30 a.m. will be roasted to order Monday to Friday and shipped that day. Any orders received after 07:30 a.m. will carry over to the following working day for roasting and shipping.
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