Guatemala Finca El Pilar
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I’ve been on a real Ethiopia kick lately, and Metropolis Coffee was kind enough to share some of theirs with me the other day.

They were also generous enough to provide me with a Guatemalan coffee to keep things interesting on the cupping table. Before I go any further, then, many thanks to the fine folks of Metropolis—your benevolence knows no boundaries!

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Guatemala Finca El Pilar, from Metropolis Coffee Company in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Finca El Pilar is located in the mountain forests of Guatemala just outside Antigua. While it is a working coffee farm, most of the land is dedicated to conservation activities. This remarkably well-preserved natural reserve of endemic forest and wildlife is home to more than 130 species of birds. They are most well known for their hummingbirds; thriving thanks to a specially designed garden complete with feeders created especially for them.

You must cross a wooden footbridge to enter Finca El Pilar; from there you can traverse the infrastructure of rock and wooden paths all the way up to the cloud forest. To say this coffee is shade grown using bird friendly native trees would be an understatement. In fact, you can still find coffee growing wild amongst the pine and oak trees.

Finca El Pilar is a small paradise located in the mountain forests of Guatemala. Although it is a working coffee farm, only a small area is given over to production, with the rest being dedicated to conservation activities. It has an infrastructure of trails for bird watching, which spread through the farms coffee plantations as well as the mountain and cloud forest, pine and oaks. One of the main attractions on El Pilar farm is in the zone of hummingbird’s feeders where it is possible to spot a wide variety of species that inhabit the area. The farm is part of the Antigua Guatemala Important Bird Area

The farm prizes both conservation and ecotourism. While they’re setting aside pristine mountain habitat for wildlife, they also contribute to the community including providing it with clean water.

Although El Pilar is under the management category of a farm, it is dedicated more to conservation activities than production, with the exception of a small area of organic coffee. El Pilar also provides water to the nearby communities, and you will find there Cloud and Mountain Forest, with a large diversity of birds. An additional attribute is the nine hummingbird feeders, which make it possible to see as many as seven different species feeding at the same time.

the basics:

origin: San Juan Sacatepequez, Atitlan, Guatemala
farm: Finca El Pilar
producer: Juan Carlos Chen
elevation: 1500 – 1900 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Bourbon, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Organic, Antigua Guatemala Important Bird Area

the coffee:

The aroma of the Finca El Pilar comes wafting out of the cup with distinctive notes of honey, rose hips, bougainvillea, and caramel apple. It’s soft and lilting, delicate and refined. Very pleasant and aromatic.

The first few sips have an interesting spiced cedar taste that sort of bites the sides of the tongue—it’s definitely a woodsy flavor and mouthfeel. There’s also a cooling Tupelo honey mixed in with a cinnamon spice and silky rose petals that makes the taste buds stand at attention.

While it starts cooling off, the salted caramel that was present up front spreads out over the palate like a river, while the flavor and mouthfeel of rose petals come floating in. In the meantime, notes of cherry, peach, red apple, honey, sweet cream, and a mellow, understated lime acidity rounds out the bottom of the cup.

Medium body; silky mouthfeel; lime acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

All right. Well, the Guatemala Finca El Pilar, from Metropolis Coffee Company, is a pretty good cup of coffee. While it’s certainly not perfect, it has more working for it than against it. It has a really nicely structured body and flavor progression, a refined but mellow acidity, and the flavors are tasty. The only thing working against it is the oakiness up front that—not only does it have that slight similarity to licking a piece of wood, it leaves behind a somewhat astringent finish.

This is a classic Latin American breakfast coffee that is, overall, enjoyable. Certainly the type of coffee that you want in your mug while reading the morning paper and watching the sun rise.

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