Small Batch on the road

Small Batch on the road


As I’ve mentioned countless times before, the summer is my favourite time for coffee as we welcome into the UK the fresh crop arrivals from the varied and wonderful region of Central America. This month we are very much focused on Guatemala as we have four new coffees from this beautiful country in the roastery. pic 1

Finca Villaure, Huehuetenango

Coffee has a long history in Guatemala and still plays a major role in what is the largest economy in Central America. Coffee grows in almost all of the country and makes up 40% of agricultural revenues. The distinct topography of Guatemala, a land made up of hundreds of volcanoes and microclimates is ideally suited to growing great coffee and the variety of flavours available in what is a relatively small country is amazing. Guatemala also benefits from one of the best national coffee associations, ANACAFE. Based in the capital Guatemala City, ANACAFE provide a number of services for producers. Farmers who are not experienced cuppers can have all their coffees cupped and scored by qualified tasters. This valuable feedback is not available to a surprising amount of producers around the world and is incredibly helpful in increasing the quality of a producer’s coffee. To promote the coffees of Guatemala, ANACAFE also categorised the many microclimates into eight distinct regions, each with their own unique cup profile. The eight regions are; Acatenango Valley, Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes, Huehuetenango, Nuevo Oriente and San Marcos. This year we have bought two coffees from Fraijanes, one from Huehuetenango and a returning favourite, Santa Ana La Huerta, from its own tiny sub-region of Sierra de las Minas. Situated in Guatemala’s eastern highlands, about 4 hours drive form Guatemala City, the Sierra de las Minas area is a protected biosphere and is home to one of Central America’s largest cloudforests. The region is relatively remote and is home to one of my favourite farms, Finca Santa Ana La Huerta, owned and operated by the great Rony Asensio. pic2

Small Batch on the road

El Salvador

numberplate The central American season is well and truly underway now as we have three coffees from El Salvador in the roastery and in the shops and arrivals from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico all on their way. From El Salvador we have returning coffees from two of our favourite farms, Finca El Carmen in Ataco and Finca La Fany in Ahuachapan. I visited both these farms in January of last year and although I was in El Salvador this January I was based in the Santa Ana area and unfortunately didn’t get over to El Carmen and Fany this time. [caption id="attachment_1539" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Orange Bourbon Cherries Orange Bourbon Cherries[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1550" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Al with Fernando and Antonio Alfaro Al with Fernando and Antonio Alfaro[/caption] These are now key coffees for us, this is our fourth straight year with El Carmen and Fernando has again prepared the orange bourbon microlot specially for Small Batch which we are super happy to offer alongside the main red bourbon crop. We have bought washed coffee from Rafael and Carmen Da Silva off and on since we started at Small Batch but after I cupped their natural process coffee when I visited the farm last year we have fallen in love with the silky strawberries and cream flavour of this beautifully prepared coffee. We are thrilled to have this coffee back again this year and I love it so much I have made it the fourth selection in my Grand Fromage range. [caption id="attachment_1542" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Finca La Fany overlooking the Pacific at sunset Finca La Fany overlooking the Pacific at sunset[/caption] Unfortunately there is not quite as much of this coffee as we expected this year due to the terrible destruction being caused again by Roya, or Coffee Leaf Rust. Rust struck all of Central America very badly in 2013, but thankfully when I visited this year it seemed that the outbreak had slowed somewhat in Mexico and Nicaragua. Sadly it was not the same story El Salvador and Guatemala, who seem to have suffered more than last year with production way down especially in Salvador. We are going to see a definite shortfall of top quality coffees from these countries this year and it is very sad to see such diligent and skilled farmers losing crops in such quantities. [caption id="attachment_1543" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A tree destroyed by Coffee Leaf Rust at La Fany, despite the presence of cherry the lack of leaves shows the tree is dead and will have to be pulled out A tree destroyed by Coffee Leaf Rust at La Fany, despite the presence of cherry the lack of leaves shows the tree is dead and will have to be pulled out[/caption] The producers are tackling roya with extensive pruning and spraying of chemicals where necessary and hopefully we will see the kinds of improvements we saw in Mexico and Nicaragua in Guatemala and El Salvador next year. Thankfully the coffees are cupping as tastily as ever and we are very proud to offer these three great coffees from one our favourite origins. [caption id="attachment_1541" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Izlaco volcano seen from the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano Izlaco volcano seen from the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano[/caption] We still have a couple more El Salvador’s to arrive later in the summer from the farms I visited in Santa Ana. We have just received our Costa Rican coffee into the roastery and expect our Guatemalan, Nicaraguan and Mexican coffees from Finca Muxbal to arrive in early July. Couple this with the arrival of fresh crop Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees and this really is the best time of year for great coffee! Al

Small Batch on the road

Mexico Filming Done



Small Batch on the road

Filming at Origin!


Muxbal Crops 2

Small Batch on the road

Mexico Trip January 2013

The third and final instalment of reports from my January trip to Central America comes as we welcome a fantastic coffee to the roastery: Finca Muxbal from Chiapas Mexico.

Muxbal Goal 1

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