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.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we will sip the Guatemala La Bolsa, one of the newest offerings from Passion House Coffee Roasters in Chicago. Feel free to pull up a chair.
This 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.
origin: La Libertad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Finca La Bolsa
elevation: 1500 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance
The dry aroma of this coffee is really pleasant, mildly sweet; I’m picking up notes of fig, raisin, and some tangerine citrus. While it’s brewing, though, there’s a completely different fragrance: now it’s vegetal, a little peppery, and floral with notes of cherry blossoms and rose hips.
From there, this coffee only gets more interesting.
The first few sips are an explosion of flavors—like somebody setting off a bomb in the produce section of a grocery store. It has a thick, syrupy mouthfeel that covers the palate—each sip, no matter how small, seems to expand over my tongue, tickling the roof of my mouth with a light tea-like floral play; blueberries, raspberries, raisins, and cherries dancing down the middle of my tongue; and a surge of spicy cinnamon that breaks through the coating of honey flavors and pricks the tip of my tongue.
As it cools off, the onslaught of flavor steps off the gas a little bit—but not much. There are still a lot of flavors present in the cooled cup, but they’re much mellower. All of the fruit and floral elements remain in play, the spice backs off and resembles a bit more herbal, but a sweet flow of caramel develops, accompanied by the chalky sweetness of a Mexican chocolate bar fills the sides of my cheeks, each sip finishing off with a smack of roasted almond and a strawberry cherry wine (is that considered a blush?) acidity.
Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; winy acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
Once again, Guatemala’s famous Huehuetenango region lives up to its reputation—the Guatemala La Bolsa, from Passion House Coffee Roasters, was one interesting coffee.
It was so complex, so many different flavors (and so many varieties of flavors!) were present in it. It was at once vegetal and herby and spicy, then at another moment sweet and chocolatey and caramelly, and even syrupy and tart and fruity.
Because of how complex it is, I almost want to say that it may not be for the casual coffee consumer; however, it’s still a very, very good cup of coffee that I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on.
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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.