Huehuetenango is famous for its cascading mountains, its lush vegetation, high altitudes, dense forests, and, of course, the quality and diversity of its coffees.
It seems that, when it comes to this area of the world, no two coffees are alike. They could be the same cultivars grown at the same altitude in the same conditions and they could taste radically different. Huehuetenango always keeps you guessing and on your toes.
Today’s coffee hails from a single farm in the La Libertad section of the renowned Huehuetenango growing region; right next door to another famous coffee origin, El Injerto. Finca La Bolsa has been in the Vides family since Dr. Jorge Vides bought the farm in 1958.
It was named La Bolsa because it is located between large mountains. It has its own spring water and two rivers go across the property, leaving an island of the drying patio, the mill, farmhouse, and school. They are able to donate surplus water from the rivers and creeks on their land to nearby communities, and have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification.
Currently it is run by Jorge’s daughter, Maria Elena Vides, and grandson, Renardo Ovalle.
Of the three non-volcanic regions in Guatemala, Huehuetenango is the highest and driest under cultivation. La Bolsa is close to the Mexican border in a mountain range where temperatures are stable, but fairly cool. Thanks to the dry, hot winds that blow into the mountains from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain, the region is protected from frost, allowing Highland Huehuetenango to be cultivated up to 2,000 meters.
The extreme remoteness of Huehuetenango virtually requires all producers to process their own coffee. Fortunately, the region has an almost infinite number of rivers and streams, so a mill can be placed almost anywhere.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Guatemala La Bolsa Mirador, from Passion House Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: La Libertad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Finca La Bolsa
producer: Maria Elena Vides, Renardo Ovalle
association: Kilenso Mokonissa Cooperative
elevation: 1400 – 1600 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Caturra
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance
The aroma of the Guatelama La Bolsa Mirador is unique and pretty complex, with scents of fig, raisin, fudge, nuts, and baking spices.
As I take my first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, a medium-bodied, soothing coffee with a creamy mouthfeel spreads over my palate like a blanket. But I wouldn’t necessarily call the coffee “sweet” up front; while it does have some sweet elements (like raw cocoa nib, hazelnut, raisin, and cherry), the coffee tastes more earthy and herbal because of its flavors of earth, mildly floral aromatics, coriander, clove, cedar, and pipe tobacco.
As it cools off, the coffee brightens considerably and every part of it really consolidates to bring out a supple and effervescent mouthfeel. Juicy and malic acidity is prominent as notes of pear and Fuji apple dominate the second half of the cup; there are also notes of cherry, strawberry milkshake, vanilla, honey, and walnut in the finish.
Medium body; supple mouthfeel; malic acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Passion House Coffee carried the Guatemala La Bolsa Mirador a couple years ago and I had the opportunity to try it then. This La Bolsa is a very different coffee than that La Bolsa. I don’t like to be the type of reviewer that compares this to that or that to this in any particular review because I think each individual coffee deserves its own space, but I think the comparison is warranted in this particular scenario.
That La Bolsa, from 2012, was an extremely interesting and complex coffee that was wild, untamed, and completely unpredictable. It was at once vegetal and herby and spicy, then at another moment sweet and chocolatey and caramelly, and even syrupy, tart, and fruity, but it was all over the place.
This La Bolsa, on the other hand, while it does possess most of the same attributes of its predecessor, is much more controlled and contained. It certainly earns the “Mainstream” tag that Passion House put on its label, but “mainstream” doesn’t automatically equate “boring.” No, this coffee still lives up to the complexity and dynamo of its predecessor—it’s just a better coffee.
Flavorful, dynamic, complex, rounded, balanced, perfectly contained, and flippin delicious. Drink this coffee, y’all.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.