What’s Brewing: Guatemala El Zapote

I have generally always enjoyed coffees from Guatemala, with most having a solid flavour profile, yet enough subtlety to separate one farm from its neighbours – here I emphasise variety – not my ability to name the various farms by taste of course!

The Region

Information courtesy Wikipedia

Acatenango is a stratovolcano1 in Guatemala, close to the city of Antigua, in the central highlands of Guatemala. The volcano has two peaks, Pico Mayor (Highest Peak) and Yepocapa (3,880 m) which is also known as Tres Hermanas (Three Sisters). Acatenango is joined with Volcán de Fuego and collectively the volcano complex is known as La Horqueta.

Volcano de Fuego in the Acatenango region in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Javier Ruata.
Volcano de Fuego in the Acatenango region in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Javier Ruata.

Fair enough to call it a volcanic region I’d say!

The Coffee

Information Courtesy Ministry Grounds

  • Guatemala El Zapote
  • Region/Town: Acatenango
  • Altitude: 1200-1950 meters
  • Area: quarter of one hectare
  • Varietal: Yellow Bourbon
  • Processing: Wet processed; 100% sun-dried
  • Harvest time: January/February
  • Producer: Julio Melendez
  • Tasting notes: classic and beautifully balanced; notes of lemon, melon and stone fruits

The Brew

Having roasted for both espresso and filter, I was able to enjoy the El Zapote across a wide range of brew methods.

As espresso, it produced a fresh, bright cup, demonstrating a little citrus tang, along with notes of honey and chocolate. With milk, it kicked off my mornings really well, with similar flavours working well, however I’d say even a little better when blended with a some Brazil Fazenda Aurea – also roasted on the same day. This blend, containing about 30% of the Brazil, added a little more depth, and brought the flavour through the milk just that little bit more.

The filter roast provided a very clean, crisp and bright cup when brewed with the Hario V60. The body and acidity nicely balanced, with refreshing notes of citrus. Also perfect in an iced pour over, with summer not really wanting to let go just yet here in Brisbane.

The Finish

Whenever I am browsing the offerings from Ministry Grounds, rarely do I overlook the Central America section, with Guatemala always high on my list. These coffees always seem to work really well in blends, yet also stand happily on their own – the El Zapote is another to add to the list.

Unfortunately at the time of writing this coffee is now out of stock, however was purchased from Ministry Grounds for $AU19.55 per kilogram (green).


 

  1. A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash.

 

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What’s Brewing: Guatemala Las Illusiones

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Las Illusiones

It’s been a little while between What’s Brewing posts, with the last one profiling my Fifty K Christmas Blend. Despite this, it certainly hasn’t been more than a few hours between drinks — of coffee friends — of coffee.

The Region

Looking back through my previous posts, coffees from Guatemala have always been kind to me, both roasting well and tasting even better. This offering from the Las Illusiones farm is no different.

I must admit, part of my enjoyment in putting together these posts is also in learning a little more about the geographical and cultural aspects of the regions in which these farms reside.

I’ve previously written a little on the Huehuetenango (of course I cannot pronounce that) municipality in a post on the Guatemala Don Antonio last September, so this time I’m zooming out, and from Wikipedia, a little on this Central American country itself:

Image courtesy Wikipedia
Image courtesy Wikipedia
  • Officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala);
  • Bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast;
  • Area of 108,890 square km (42,043 square miles);
  • Estimated population of 15,806,675, making it the most populous state in Central America;
  • The capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

The Coffee

Information courtesy Melbourne Coffee Merchants:

  • Country: GUATEMALA
  • Region: Huehuetenango
  • Town: El Pajal, San Antonio Huista
  • Altitude: 1,200 – 1,500 metres above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon and Caturra
  • Processing: Fully Washed and sun-dried on patio
  • Owner: Emma del Carmen Munoz and daughters
  • Tasting Notes: Juicy and sweet, with stone fruit, orange and chocolate

Green beans purchased from Ministry Grounds – $AU20.50 per kilogram

The Brew

As time has passed and my palate has somewhat improved, I have drifted away from the one size fits all roast from my humble beginnings, and now roast specifically for either my espresso machine or filter based brew methods (V60, Aeropress).

The Las Illusiones was aimed squarely at the espresso machine, and roasted to suit. Given my roasting is often done in the late afternoon, upon opening the bag a few days later to use, I noticed (in the fuller light) the roast was probably a fraction lighter than what I was aiming for.

As a latte or flat white, the coffee definitely had a subtle choc-orange taste when used with milk. Fruity? Not so much. A medium to full body pushed the finish along nicely as well. Certainly a pleasant way to start the morning.

On its own as espresso, a lovely mix of honey and cocoa was apparent. Less perceptible was the orange, though a hint of stone fruit peeked through at times. A very nice mouthful, natural sweetness and a nice long finish completed the picture. Very pleasant.

A future post will look at a new app for tracking coffees and their origins – Press. For now, a couple of sample images after putting in the Las Illusiones as the first record:

image 2

image

The Finish

My expectations with most coffees from Guatemala are generally met with results pretty close to the mark, and the Las Illusiones was no different.

For a single origin which works well as espresso or mixed with milk, you could certainly do a lot worse – a very enjoyable coffee.

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Don Antonio

Whilst things seem to have been all Santa Clara lately in terms of Guatemalan coffees, this offering from the Don Antonio farm in the Huehuetenango region has certainly been no less enjoyable in the cup.

There have been some fine central American varieties on offer at Ministry Grounds in recent times. The latest newsletter being no exception, containing no less than fifteen coffees, largely from El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, with a few Cup of Excellence varieties to boot. Choosing which one or two (or few) to buy will be the next challenge.

The Region

The Huehuetenango municipality lies in the highlands west of Guatemala City, towards the Mexican border (map below courtesy Worldlink). Huehuetenango (originally called Xinabahul in the Mam language) was originally a Mayan settlement.

guatemala_map

Many people of Mam descent still live in and around Huehuetenango, and the nearby ruins of Zaculeu have become a tourist attraction. These ruins are markedly distinct from other Mayan archeological sites; the original unearthed stones, comprising only a small portion of the original structures, were coated with plaster during restoration works carried out in the 1940s. There is also a small museum at Zaculeu which includes statues and small artifacts found on the site.

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Information and Image above Courtesy Wikipedia

The Coffee

  • Coffee: Guatemala Don Antonio
  • Altitude: 1700 – 2000 mtrs
  • Crop Year: 2013
  • Varietal: Bourbon
  • Processing: Washed

The Sanchez family commenced their coffee business in 1966, with current owner Antonio (Don Antonio) taking over from his father and continuing to run the farm, located in the district of San Pedro Carcha, Huehuetenango.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee

Brew Methods

Aeropress, Hario V60

Impressions

I had originally planned on roasting this a little darker for use in the espresso machine, however the planned filter roast that day (an Ehtiopian Yirgacheffe) got away from me a little and inherited the espresso roast somewhat by default. Therefore, to avoid filter withdrawal, a lighter roast for the Don Antonio it was. I cannot say I am overly sorry, as the Yirgacheffe has made a great morning latte (good body, hint of chocolate with a nice berry finish) this past week.

As for the Guatemalan? More below.

There are times when I feel like a good, full-bodied brew. Sure, the Don Antonio is certainly not as bright nor clean as the Santa Clara was, and perhaps suits a diner mug more than a stylish glass, though for me, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Overall, through the aeropress or the V60, this is a very well-balanced, enjoyable cup of coffee.

The flavours are quite subtle, with a little caramel and brown sugar, a hint of apple, and perhaps a some stone fruit, though I could not get any more specific than that. Whilst some were no doubt downing 6-packs during the recent Australian Rules Football Grand Final over the weekend, my viewing was accompanied by a jug of Don Antonio, brewed through the Hario V60

As I have noted in the past, the Aeropress probably blunts some of those subtle flavours a little, however this coffee was a welcome daily addition to kick off the 4pm hour of power at the office through to knock-off time.

Final Thoughts

Probably the impression I have given above is that this Guatemalan Don Antonio coffee is a less than subtle variety perhaps better suited to a filer pot. That could not be further from the truth. The fact is, each and every cup brewed (with a few left to go), has been thoroughly enjoyable, and if I were given this as the only coffee I could drink for a year, I would not be disappointed, perhaps just a little uninspired – eventually.

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5

What’s Brewing #4 – Three Bean Blend

Three Bean Blend

In my last coffee related post, the aim of choosing the three particular bean varieties was to specifically create a blend that worked equally well in most, if not all forms of brewing that I use, both short and long, as well as espresso based milk drinks.

How did things turn out? Let’s take a look…

The Blend

  1. 60% Bazil Moreinha Foremosa dry processed
  2. 25% Guatemalan Atitlan Small Producers wet processed
  3. 15% Indonesian Aceh Gayo Gr 1 Organic wet processed

Although the destination I am trying to reach in a blend is probably one I will never fully attain, improving with each attempt will be satisfying enough for me. As my drinking methods involve many styles, creating a blend to suit them all is not likely to be an easy one. All things considered, the current blend worked out quite well.

The Whack

What – Three bean blend (60% Brazilian, 25% Guatemalan, 15% Indonesian). All roasted on the lighter side, with the Brazilian light to medium.

How – 160ml single shot latte, Aeropress, Espresso

AssessmentDry Aroma – Probably best described as caramel and nutty, with hints of brown sugar and a little fruit.

Latte – Mild caramel flavour with traces of fruit; has a lengthy finish as the body of the Brazilian pushes through. The extra body certainly made this work well in a milk based drink, without overpowering the creaminess and fruit tones of the Indonesian and Guatemalan varieties.

Aeropress – When brewed in the Aeropress, notable body was evident, with a crisp fruity sweetness, again with a nice long finish. Some of the herby / floral traces from the Indonesian also shone through.

Espresso – The more concentrated form of an espresso brought out the creamy caramel and brown sugar flavours of the blend. There was still a good amount of acidity, and crisp sweetness remaining, however the floral tones of the Indonesian were lost.

Conclusion; Know This – Overall I was quite happy with this blend, which worked particularly well as the base for a milk drink, yet also short or long on its own. What would I change? Probably a little more body for the milk drink, and a little more of the fruitiness for all forms of brewing. That will be for the next blend!

Overall Rating – 4/5