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El Injerto, Huehuetenango

March 6-8, 2012

During the drive

Although I have made the drive up to Huehuetenango many times over the years, this was my first time meeting the Aguirre family and I was a bit nervous (but mostly excited to finally complete this part of my journey as a buyer at Stumptown!) I was in the presence of coffee royalty. The core of the day was spent beginning a relationship, making connections and ultimately sharing who and where we have been in this life of coffee.

We took a short cut to avoid a road closure south of La Democracia. We paused for a break with Arturo Senior’s friend at a farm named Huixoc in a town with the same name. Alejandro, the owner, eagerly toured us around his wet mill, drying patios and beautiful nursery filled with Caturra and Bourbon varietals. About an hour later, we headed out to finish off our last hour of driving to the farm. We arrived just as the daylight bled out of the narrow valley known as El Paraiso, which borders Finca La Bolsa and Finca Limonar.

Finca El Injerto Day 1

When we arrived, Arturo Sr. and Jr. said a short prayer to the Virgin Mary at the shrine on the north side of their beautiful hacienda. We quickly toured the wet mill as pickers brought their coffees to the newly renovated receiving station. They divided up the receiving boxes into two separate lanes to speed up the process. The change gives the pickers more time to clean up after work, get home and have their meals. Typically, receiving stations are hectic and pushy. Arturo Sr. installed a TV above the station that shows local soap opera, crime channels and soccer, which successfully created a calm environment.

Arturo Jr. is working on some new projects which will greatly improve fermentation including building an additional fermentation tank, finishing tiling the entire washing area and tiling all of the tanks. We then toured the washing channel which utilizes a gravity system to allow the heavy, dense beans to flow through a tub and eventually be pushed out by force. The floaters, or less dense beans, stay on top of the water and are separated out without using as much water or damning up the channels with paddles. This system improves the coffee quality while streamlining the system.  Each depulper works for up to 40 quintals (100 kg) per hour. Injerto began doing a secondary depulping process in order to ensure that all of the dense coffee is consistently depulped. As we walked down to the drying patios, Arturo mentioned that they are about 2-4 weeks out from the end of harvest. After a short dinner at the end of a long day, we were ready for bed.


Finca El Injerto Day 2

Over breakfast, we discussed some ongoing projects such as the new warehouse for resting parchment. This building is connected to the new clinic, maintenance room and four newly installed showers and bathrooms for workers. The clinic has been a mainstay at El Injerto for years with a physician who visits every 15 days from the nearby town of La Democracia. The family decided to build new housing for their year round workers with the funds from last year’s auction. Eight of the ten families will receive new homes. Later that day, we dropped by one of the homes still under construction. Arturo Jr. conveys a huge sense of pride about their social programs. They’re building a playground and nursery for the pickers’ kids, which will enable the pickers to have their children supervised and provide activities during harvest. Injerto also pays twice the hourly wage as their neighbors. An expectation of higher scrutiny in all things concerned with harvesting and processing comes with the higher wage. Some workers have found it too demanding, but this is what sets Injerto apart.

Injerto ferments their coffee for up to 60-70 hours. After channeling and density separation, they do a secondary soak for 10-12 hours. The coffee is then spread out on patios to dry for seven to eight days. They finalize the drying process in Guardiola dryers until the moisture level reaches 12%.

In the morning, we visited the nursery which houses over 45K plants which are predominately for restoration of older plants, although some will be used for new areas of expansion within their property. We also saw the worm nursery and compost program. They are playing around with some new ‘honey’ coffees on raised beds, too. During our tour, we had the chance to get in a quick wholesale meeting via Skype. It was so cool to connect Arturo with the Portland team.

El Injerto continues to maintain their aggressive pruning program which involves selective pruning within regions of the farm to promote plant health and branch density. This type of stumping promotes three generative shooters known as Grandfather, Father and Son, with each new shoot slightly heartier than the next. This type of pruning can be costly, but in the long run, it is best for the plant and the farm’s long term productivity.

Arturo Sr. mentioned that he purchased his Tekisic from El Salvador in the ‘70s for $20 per kilo. Tekisic, derived from ‘tekiti’ (the Nahuat word for ‘work’, and ISIC (Instituto Salvadoreño de Investigaciones del Café), translates to ‘the work of ISIC’. He shows pride in bringing this variety to Guatemala so early. It’s yet another example of how progressive El Injerto is when it comes to varietal discoveries.

Later in the day, we cupped two tables. Overall, the standouts for me were:

Maragogype – savory, sugarcane, brandy, cognac, elegant.
Bourbon Nativo – almond, cinnamon, plush toffee-like body.
Cima – lemongrass, piney, bright but short on the body and aftertaste.
Pacamara – chive, molasses, honey, cola berry.
G1 (Panama Geisha) – stunning, jasmine, honeysuckle, peach and red apple.

Finca El Injerto Day 3

I awoke brutally early in the morning to prepare to leave by 5am due to the road closures from heavy rains which caused a road washout south of La Democracia. The trip was not only amazing and vital, but clearly cemented the ongoing relationship with El Injerto. Huehuetenango is one of my favorite regions in the coffee growing world, and Injerto is the crowned jewel.

darrin daniel
Finca El Injerto
Huehuetenango, Guatemala