The Utility Player on Your Team: Guatemala Huehuetenango AAPICAFI

Posted by Sam Thomas on

New in the roastery here at Mill City Roasters is a mixed varietal, washed process coffee from the Huehuetenango region in Guatemala. This coffee is produced by AAPICAFI (English abbreviation: Association of Beekeepers and Coffee Growers'), a small cooperative of about 24 members and was founded in 2013. 

The AAPICAFI Cooperative has a strong environmental focus and is dedicated to preserving the environment for honey bees which are critical to the local habitat. They are also critical to pollinating the coffee plants we enjoy so much. For us, this coffee is a classic “coffee flavored coffee” with nice citric and wine-y acidity that handles heat extremely well.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Imports

A well-known region

Huehuetenango (Xinabajul in the indigenous Mam language) is located in Western Guatemala south of Mexico. The main export of the region is coffee, due to the ideal combination of high elevation and subtropical (warm summer, mild winter) climate. A diverse range of offerings come out of Huehuetenango, from classic coffee flavors of caramel and chocolate, to bright, fruit forward coffees.

Uniquely, many coffees from Guatemala are FTO (fair trade organic) certified. While in other coffee producing countries obtaining FTO certification can be challenging, many of Guatemala’s producers have organized themselves into democratically run organizations allowing them to achieve certification easier than an individual farm or producer. Most of Guatemala’s coffee workers identify as one (or more) of the 20 indigenous groups native to the region. Because of this, obtaining an FTO certification is an important process in working with the land.

Blending popular and reliable varietals

This particular offering is made up of Bourbon, Catimor, Caturra, Maragogype, Pache coffee varietals. Bourbon, a descendent of a Yemeni landrace varietal, produces great cup quality at high altitudes like the 1900 meters above sea level that this particular offering comes from. The Catimor varietal is very resistant to coffee leaf rust, ensuring a consistent yield and cup quality. These are the most commonly cultivated varietals in the region, and are consistently producing great tasting coffee.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Imports

Processing with extra care

Like most coffees produced in this region, this coffee is washed. However, a key difference in processing style is the amount of fermentation time used when processing this coffee. Typically, an extended fermentation helps to amplify complex flavors and acidity in the cup, as well as removing mucilage from green coffee to aid in further processing.

When lightly roasted, this coffee tastes of bright stone fruit, fresh wheatgrass, and bubblegum. This coffee is picked ripe and depulped the same or the following day, then allowed to ferment for anywhere between 12–48 hours, depending on the climate. The coffee is then washed clean of its mucilage and spread on patios or raised beds to dry.

Guatemala Huehue in our roastery

This coffee has an excellent range. We are currently using it in our cold brew and lighter roast espresso blends to add those classic coffee flavors and a nice round body. We have also found that this coffee takes heat extremely well, allowing it to be roasted to multiple roast levels for every occasion. This coffee stands out on its own regardless of the roast level and can be a valuable component in any blend on the menu.

After we first tasted it, we knew we’d want to have this green on hand for the next several months, so we were eager to take a position on over 30 bags and negotiate a contract for storage with our friends at Cafe Imports. When you find a coffee that’s this good and versatile, especially one at a price point that works for your budget, it’s smart to jump on it. We’re happy to have it on hand for the remainder of the summer season.

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