An Introduction to Guatemalan Coffee and Cafeto Mío
This past weekend on October 13 -14, 2018, I had the pleasure of working at Coffee Fest, which took place at Anacafé in Guatemala City. The event brought together distributors, equipment purveyors, farmers, baristas, artisans and the coffee-loving public. It also celebrated the designation in August of this year, Conocimientos Tradicionales de la Caficultura (traditional knowledge of coffee cultivation), as Patrimonio Cultural Intangible de la Nación (Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation).
The atrium at Anacafé where the barista competition was held.
Coffee plays an important role in the Guatemalan economy and in the life of many of its inhabitants:
"In 2017, coffee was the second most important item in exports of agricultural products, with 13%. At the end of the 2016/2017 coffee year, Guatemala exported US $738 million in 3.3 million 60 kg bags of coffee... In our country there are more than 125,000 families producing coffee; 121,000 of them (97%) produce in micro and small productive units. Coffee is the agro-industrial product that generates the most jobs in Guatemala (more than half a million jobs per year) and constitutes between 2.5% and 3.5% of the country's GDP."
Source: El Acuerdo Ministerial 606-2018
The eight different coffee regions of Guatemala. Source: PerfectDailyGrind.com
The National Coffee Association - Anacafé - is a private, independent organization that was founded in 1960. Its main objective is to strengthen the national economy through the production and export of coffee. The organization's work includes extending export licenses; developing and implementing the coffee policy both nationally and internationally; and promoting coffee in Guatemala. Anacafé also provides support through research, education, marketing, and business opportunities to more than 125,000 coffee growers throughout the country.
Source: "Who we are" section of the Anacafé Facebook page
Andrés Rodas and Karin Sequen at the Cafeto Mío booth at Coffee Fest.
Now you may be wondering how I managed to work at this year's Coffee Fest. If you have read my recent blog posts on Alethea's Excellent Adventures, you already know that I am living near Guatemala City at the family home of a friend (Hilda Stevens) whom I know from Portland, OR. Most of Hilda's extended family still lives in this area, including her cousin, Karin Sequen, and Karin's husband, Juan Andrés Rodas. Karin is the one who picked me up at the airport when I arrived on October 1 and who helped me get settled here.
As it so happens, Andrés has been studying everything about coffee, from how it is grown, to how to properly roast the beans and make the best cup, for the past nine months in order to start his own business. With Karin doing all of the graphic design work and Andrés' capitalizing on his newfound passion, Cafeto Mío was born a few months ago but officially launched to the public at Coffee Fest. This was their first big event where they not only had the opportunity to educate the public about their brand, but also could sell specialty coffee drinks and desserts made with their coffee. Of course this required a lot of work, from setting up the booth, to packaging and labeling the coffee, to preparing all of the food. I offered to help since they were doing almost everything on their own, and that's how I ended up spending the better part of four days immersed in all things coffee.
Alethea and Andrés working at the booth on Saturday. Photo credit: Coffee Fest
Cafeto Mío translates as "my coffee plant." The goal of the business is to introduce premium coffee from different regions of Guatemala to the local community. Guatemalan coffee is known for being flavorful, full-bodied and possessing a variety of different aromas, tasting notes and acidity based on the region it was grown in. But the reality is that, because the majority of premium coffee that is grown in Guatemala is exported, many people here have never tasted the very best quality made from locally-sourced beans. In fact, when you ask the average Guatemalan what type of coffee they drink, the answer is typically a brand of instant coffee like Incasa or La Jarrillita. Andrés partners with specific farms in the best coffee-growing regions of Guatemala to carefully select top-quality beans and then roasts them in small batches to find the best flavor for each harvest.
I weighed and labeled the bags of Cafeto Mío coffee from Huehuetenango region.
Cafeto Mío is also focused on giving back to the community. They recently partnered with a new nonprofit organization Fundación Pro Educación y Empleo to donate a portion of the proceeds from every bag of coffee sold. The foundation's goals are to provide education and employment opportunities to the elderly, people with disabilities, children, people living in extreme poverty, and deported migrants.
Besides meeting many of Karin's and Andrés' family members and friends and tasting some delicious coffee, one of the highlights of Coffee Fest was the barista competition. Thirty-six baristas competed using an AeroPress coffee maker to make the best cup of coffee. The first round consisted of 18 one-on-one matches; subsequent rounds featured groups of three including the semifinals and final. The finished product was blindly judged by three professional coffee tasters, with a fourth judge serving as the tie-breaker if necessary. The prizes awarded for first, second, and third place overall included cash, Chemex coffee makers, Bonavita gooseneck kettles, Toddy cold brew systems, and more.
Oscar Obando celebrates his 2nd place finish out of 36 contestants in the AeroPress competition.
Andrés trained with TOP Barista, which is owned and run by Oscar Obando. Oscar had applied to compete in the barista competition at Coffee Fest in order to promote his business. He ended up advancing all the way to the final, where he finished in second place overall. Afterward, he made a live video at the Cafeto Mío booth demonstrating his AeroPress technique with a specialty bag of Catuai coffee beans from the Cuilapa, Santa Rosa region courtesy of Café Ambrosía.
Andrés Rodas, Oscar Obando, Alejandro Miranda and Samuel Marroquín at Coffee Fest. Photo credit: Karin Sequen
Overall, Coffee Fest was a great opportunity for me to interact with the Guatemalan coffee community, taste some wonderful coffee and other coffee products, make new friends, and practice my Spanish. It was also a successful launch for Cafeto Mío and gave them some great public exposure and new business contacts. We were even featured in the national newspaper, Prensa Libre!
Screenshot from Prensa Libre website