The history of coffee in Guatemala is very similar to its Central American neighbour, El Salvador, in the sense that it was thought to have been found growing there in around 1750 but did not take off commercially until one hundred years later following the decline of the indigo industry due to the introduction of chemical dyes. It was at this time that the value of the coffee industry was realised and, in 1868, the government distributed one million seeds across the country and set up an organisation to promote coffee and educate growers. Coffee became the country’s main export which, unfortunately, resulted in the loss of land for many indigenous farmers and contributed towards the vast distribution of wealth in Guatemala.
These political issues continued to dominate throughout the 20th century and culminated in civil war from 1960 to 1996. During this time, many farmers abandoned their land due to the conflict and Guatemala’s coffee production dipped. However, at the turn of the millennium, the coffee production peaked just as the world coffee crisis hit forcing many producers to dig up their coffee trees and farm alternative crops such as nuts and avocados.
Nowadays, thanks to the industry body Anacafe which has worked to actively promote the many regional differences in Guatemalan coffee, the country has a reputation for quality and supports a number of projects which aim to create a more sustainable and specialty focused industry. The key growing regions are: San Marcos (West), Acatenango (South-West), Atitlán (Central), Cobán (North), Nuevo Oriente (East), Huehuetenango (North West), Fraijanes (South East) and Antigua (South). Varietals grown are mainly Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai with the occasional Typica and Marogogype. We generally look to the areas of Huehuetenango and Antigua for our Guatemalan coffees as it is these regions which contribute some of the most successful coffees in the Cup of Excellence programmes.