by Eli Masem
“Have you seen the mill?”
This is what Don Luis Pedro Zelaya asked as we exited his cafe, Bella Vista Coffee, after a fun evening of coffee sampling with professionals from around the area. It was 11:00pm, but he insisted we get in his truck and drive to see his wet mill and dry mill in action because it was in full swing at that time of night. As we drove through the gates of Finca Bella Vista, opened by armed guards, and past a long line of farmers’ trucks lined up to sell their coffee, he smiled and muttered something under his breath about the ridiculous amount of money that is spent on security in Guatemala. The country is on the rise both economically and culturally since the end of its 36 year civil war but still has a long way to go. He smiled when he said this.
He always smiles. It is the slightly fatigued but proud smile of someone who is living the life and expending the energy of 5 people and who has to pace himself, but truly likes what he does. What he has going on is not a sprint, but a marathon. He is managing farms, managing his cafe, managing a washing station, entertaining a never ending cycle of international guests (including myself) and exporting coffee all over the world. On that note, Don Luis likes to hang! I kept thinking this amiable 42 year old family man had better things to do then drive me around places late at night, or go out to lunch with me, or take me to multiple farms, or go drinking at a cold brew infused cocktail event, or even check in on my safety at various points in my Guatemalan travels after I left Antigua. He’s a hell of a host.
It would be an understatement to refer to Don Luis as a coffee farmer, which is an honorable and multifaceted profession all by itself. Not only is he a 4th generation Coffee farmer, jumping right into the family business at an early age, but an agronomist, an exporter, cafe owner, and an obsessive when it comes to quality control. He owns farms, manages many others, and buys coffee from legions of small coffee growers in the region whose cherries are then processed at his beautiful washing station within sight of an extremely active volcano.
His name is synonymous with quality. He is meticulous about this quality and with transparency. He only accepts lots that have a certain high percentage of ripe cherry which he then separates by a large list of factors including, region, farm, elevation, varietal, and date harvested, just to name a few. His little piece of the empire that is Guatemalan coffee is centered in Antigua, an almost 500 year old city that was once Guatemala’s Capital. It is surrounded by 3 huge volcanoes, Agua, the aforementioned fuego , and Acatenango, whose rich volcanic soils play a huge part in producing the sweet, bright coffees that this region is known for.
Sort sort sort sort, is the mantra I walked away from Don Luis saying to myself after seeing his mill in action. After the cherries are delivered by the farmer, the sorting begins. Machine and human sorting of coffee to pick out defects and unripe cherries, very carefully regulated fermentation of the coffee in tanks, even more carefully regulated drying of the coffee on raised beds and patios, and then computerized sorting of the dried coffee by size and color. It’s like sifting through mud, pyrite, and other minerals to get to the gold at the bottom of the stream. What comes out the other side of this intense filtering is what 1000 Faces is offering up in the form of the Hunapu lots.
These newest Guatemalan coffees, Hunapu Lots numbers 4 & 7 are endemic of the great coffees that come out of Guatemala (sweetness, acidity, and body). Hunapu is both the name of the small group of farmers who produced these lots and the traditional Mayan name for Volcano Agua near to where they are all located just outside of Antigua. These two lots, #4 and #7, are from the same grouping of farmers, of the same caturra varietal, harvested on different days but are very different in their taste profiles. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do.