Fig, orange and dark chocolate. Sweet and syrupy.
This naturally processed microlot coffee comes from Arnaldo López who supplies coffee to the Ayarza cherry mill in the Santa Rosa region via his 12.5ha farm.
Like many small holder farmers in the region Arnaldo's production has varied greatly over the years and the volume is down compared to previous years. Two factors have driven this decrease - large crops from the year before and disease attacking some of the traditional varieties. The new varieties (Anacafe 14 and others) that are being planted have shown more production and disease resistance. Arnaldo has pushed through these adversities with the financial support of a livestock trade and an extra income from the small supply store run by his wife Alicia Trigueros.
The region of Ayarza is a special one, landmarked by the drastic landscape and cold blue water from the Laguna de Ayarza and Laguna Azul. The lake was formed by two massive volcanos that collapsed and formed a large crater. The legends surrounding this lake are numerous and the bottom has never been found. There is a large white rock of a petrified woman who didn’t follow the orders of Jesus. In short, there are simply too many good stories about Ayarza to do it justice!
Olam Guatemala always knew the region had massive potential to produce specialty coffee and two years ago rented a wet mill at 1,500 meters on a RFA certified farm. The quality coming from our washed coffee was much better than expected and they next tried some naturals by buying cherry in Ayarza and transporting it to Amatitilan, a region that has plenty of patios and good wind for drying.
Olam believe that the cherries for natural processing need to come from high altitudes and employ near-perfect pickings which is why their sourcing is focussed on local small batch deliveries from trusted partners who provide consistent high quality ripe cherry.
While there is an abundance of quality cherry in the region and a few areas that reach 2,000 meters altitude, the terrain is not ideal for processing naturals. Ayarza is remote and rough with almost no flat land available. For this reason they transport selected cherries to the neighbouring region of Amatitilan. This region was famous for coffee production many years ago but the climate has changed and the conditions here are now ideal for the processing of Naturals. The sun is hot, but the breeze keeps the temperature under control.
The drying is started with cherry in a depth of 4-6 inches and it is turned often during the day. Over the first few days the coffee turns from red or yellow to a deep purple then black. They finish the drying in a mechanical drier for a few hours which avoids a common challenge in sun dried naturals where the coffee re-absorbs humidity in the morning then dries during the day and repeats until there are a few days of strong sun. By doing this they found that the acidity is improved when finished in a drier (and it reduces the risk of the coffee getting caught in an untimely rain shower!).