February 11, 2008 – February 15, 2008
This visit to Guatemala, at the tail end of this year’s Central American coffee harvest, was the last leg of a five-week road trip that began in Panama. It was my most anticipated leg of the journey since I planned to spend several days at the grand chateau of coffee farms: Finca El Injerto. I’ve been hearing coffee buyer fairy tales about this farm since I began my work at origin almost 8 years ago. It’s all about the process; the loving attention and dedicated hard work put into El Injerto. Arturo Aguirre and son Arturo Jr. are pioneers. El Injerto is a model farm and deserves every last bit of the acclaim it’s received for almost a decade now.
El Injerto is more than a finca, it’s a secret valley tucked well off the main road in La Libertad, Huehuetenango, located just kilometers below the Mexican border in Northwestern Guatemala. It’s one of those majestically serene locations that can cause your heart to skip a beat as you gasp in awe at the panoramic vistas. Arriving at the farm late one Monday evening we hopped out of our rig to catch the end of the day’s processing. The Aguirre’s greeted us with warm hugs and receiving tanks full of perfectly ripe coffee cherry! Its mind blowing to see a large estate like Finca El Injerto demonstrating such strict farming practices.
Getting a few hundred coffee pickers to pick such mature cherry is a feat in itself; but it’s their model process that captured my heart. Cherry is first weighed and then dumped into flotation tanks for the initial quality separation. After the less dense, lower quality cherry is skimmed from the top of the water, the first quality cherry is released into a precisely calibrated depulping machine. Another density separation is immediately performed as the wet parchment is transported into the fermentation tanks. A slow, methodic fermentation can take up to 120 hours to remove mucilage and accelerate acidity levels! Slow fermentation is incredibly rare, a phenomenon we have only seen in Guatemala. After fermentation, the coffee beans are carefully washed and selected by density once again. Three density selections is an unheard of practice, ensuring that only the finest of beans are delivered to Stumptown. After washing, the beans are sent to soak for 12 hours which allows the beans to rest before being exposed to the intense, tropical sunlight. Soaking builds proteins within the beans that allow for increased acidity and fruit flavor. When the beans finish their soak, they are pre-dried on patios for a couple of days before being brought indoors to complete the drying stage at a low, even heat in drum dryers. We can’t stress enough how intrinsic this detailed process is to the world-class quality apparent in the cup.
It’s awfully rare for the entire industry to hold a particular coffee farm in such high esteem. Honestly, only Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama and Finca El Puente in Honduras come to mind as having repute on par with Arturo Aguirre and son, Arturo Jr. The Cup of Excellence program corroborates our opinion; El Injerto won 3rd prize in 2002, 1st prize in 2006 (after Guatemala’s 3 year hiatus from the COE program), 6th prize in 2007 and now again 1st prize in 2008 with their Pacamara varietal. This is unprecedented in the most prestigious and heralded program in the coffee industry.
As most of y’all know we’ve been purchasing coffee from Finca El Injerto since the advent of Stumptown. We are proud to be owners of this year’s top prize auction lot of Pacamara. Not to trumpet our work but, OK I will, we didn’t just buy the lot; we broke the all-time record price for any of the 8-participating countries in the COE program! As some of you know, breaking records is not new to us. We broke the all-time country records for price paid in an auction last year in Rwanda, Bolivia, Colombia and Nicaragua. It’s an indescribable feeling to see a farmer’s face full of smiles and tears after hearing the news of how their coffee fared at the auction. It’s a privilege to have this kind of impact in the 3rd world.
Our relationship with Finca El Injerto began with blended lots of bourbon and catuai and gradually evolved into our exclusive ownership of the pure heirloom bourbon varietal. For the past two years, we were the exclusive buyers of their Maragogype and Pacamara.
Pacamara is a hybrid varietal, Maragogype crossed with Pacas, developed in El Salvador. It’s a majestic looking tree with cherries the size of walnuts, considerably larger than almost any other varietal. Its flavor can range from savory and vegetable-like to floral, sweet and citric. It’s been one of the two most sought and fought after coffee varietals in the past few years by some of the world’s top buyers.
Finca El Injerto Pacamara is something entirely unique. Floral hints of jasmine and cardamom segue into sweet fruit flavors of mandarin orange and peach, all which are bound together by its viscously enticing caramel-like body. It’s almost as if a coffee from the powerhouse producing countries of Ethiopia or Kenya was dropped by plane over Huehuetenango. You simply will not find another coffee with this type of flavor in Latin America. We have never offered a Latin American coffee with this type complexity before. Nobody has.
We think this coffee will be around for a few months but who really knows. These rare gems have the ability to sell out in weeks. If you’re reading this, then the coffee is available now in our cafes and online. Get your orders quick!
Stumptown Coffee Roasters