Guatemala Bella Carmona, named after the Hacienda Carmona estate that produces it, comes from the heart of Guatemala’s Antigua Valley – one of the most beautiful and best-preserved colonial cities in the world. Besides its beauty and rich history, Antigua is also one of the best-known coffee production areas in Guatemala.
The farm dates back to the late 1800’s, but didn’t feature coffee until the Zelaya family purchased it in 1908; the same family still owns it to this day. A hundred and four years and four generations later, Luis Pedro Zelaya Zemora is now running the operation and has transformed the crops into one of the most delicious and celebrated coffees in all of Guatemala.
Hacienda Carmona is blessed with a unique micro-climate in the Antigua valley, as well as plenty of hillside sunlight exposure and well-draining volcanic soils. But high quality coffee is almost just as much of a result of hard work and dedication as it is of great environmental conditions. The Zelaya family is fiercely dedicated to their 100-hectare farm and has even built a beautiful coffee mill where they process their coffee themselves. The Zelaya family is also very concerned about ecological stability – all of their coffee is grown in sustainable and environmentally friendly systems. Not only all of the coffee is shade grown, but special efforts are being done in developing ecofriendly wet mills
Bella Carmona is a trademark in Guatemala, being renown for its quality for decades and having been awarded several prizes in their long history.
Coincidentally, Bella Carmona is one of the Table’s most famous and well-loved coffees of all time. Back in 2012, my very good friends at Kuma Coffee sent me this coffee and, to this day, it remains one of the best coffees we’ve ever had. A few of us fortunate coffee lovers who had it back then are still swooning over it to this day.
Can’t wait to see what my former employer—the company that really sparked my love for amazing coffee—did with this amazing coffee.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Guatemala Bella Carmona, from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Emeryville, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Antigua, Guatemala
farm: Hacienda Carmona
producer: Zelaya Family
elevation: 1500 – 1700 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
grind: 20, Preciso
coffee: 32 g
water: 500 mL
pour: 2:30 concentric pulse pour
As soon as I rip open the packaging, a massively musty/funky/roasty bomb explodes in my kitchen and its shrapnel stings my nostrils, actually making my eyes water a little bit. My goodness, this coffee smells terrible. I don’t know if the bag’s degasser valve didn’t work, or maybe the amount of gas clogged it, or maybe this coffee is just this gaseous; I’m guessing it’s the latter, as, when I begin to brew it in the Chemex, I have to let it bloom for a full a two minutes. In the cup, the aroma is no better—it’s just roast, smoke, gas, and carbon.
BLECH! Oh my gosh. I just took my first sip of the coffee immediately post-brew and it was a terrible experience. Dear Reader, please know that I’m not saying this to be mean or hypercritical or whatever—I’m just reporting my experience with the coffee and my opinion of it as honestly and comprehensively as I possibly can. When I took my first few sip of this coffee, I actually gagged; I very honestly almost threw up. All I tasted was gas, roast, smoke, and metal. It was like licking the inside of the roaster itself.
Worse than the initial taste as it sat on my tongue, however, was the aftertaste that lingered for a full hour or so. Throughout the day, in fact, I continued to burp up the foul flavors, even though I doubled down on my Omeprazole in an attempt to combat the aftertaste.
Full body; slick mouthfeel; no acidity; dry finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Being a former Peetnik, for the past few years I have been one of Peet’s most ardent defenders—”It’s not THAT roasty!” I’d exclaim whenever somebody would deride the company’s coffee. I mean, I knew that their coffee was dark-roasted—I mean, ahem, deep-roasted—but compared to their corporate counterpart, Starbucks, I never thought it was that bad. But it is that bad. I might even go so far as to say “worse than,” but when the coffee is over-roasted this much, what’s the point?
This decimating of one of my favorite coffees—the Guatemala Bella Carmona—is indefensible, and it makes me really sad to say that since Peet’s and I have such an intimate history together.
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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.