Huehuetenango is an adventure. It takes about 6 hours by car to get there, but if the roads were straight and free of túmulos (the local term for speed-bumps) it would take a mere 3 hours.
Huehuetenango is in the highlands of Northwestern Guatemala, the expanses are considerably more barren than most of the fertile, tropical country. After the long drive as you approach the Mexican border the main road spurs off toward two valleys. Take your first left and you head into the high plateaus of Northern Huehuetenango with famed farms El Injerto and La Maravilla, while the second left takes you on a straight path along the sub continental divide.
The left turn also leads you directly to Flor del Café, which is a farm that reaches all the way to the border of Mexico (the owners are dual-citizens). Oswaldo Perez has been able to keep this farm in the family. He and his brothers inherited it from his father, and Perez bought it outright from them. Since buying it, he has strengthened the condition of the farm as well as diversified the cultivar make-up of the farm.
Oswaldo Perez y Perez was born in Agua Dulce in 1917. At the age of 16 his father passed away and he had to step up and with his brothers continue to cultivate sugarcane and panela. In 1940 they founded “Flor del Café” and began growing coffee (typica) in an area of approximately 5.6 hectares. In 1982 Oswaldo Perez y Perez passed away and his tree sons, Mario Alfonso, Max Joel, and Oswaldo Perez Ramirez, took management of the farm. They continued growing coffee with new and better techniques that resulted in higher yields, as well as experimenting with new varieties (Catimor, Catuai, and Pacamara).
In 1992 Oswaldo Perez Ramirez purchased the farm from his brothers and the neighboring farm to establish Finca Flor del Café, with an area of 105 hectares of coffee and 35 hectares of untouched tropical rainforest. The Farm has its own wet and dry mills, housing for 150 permanent residents, and the “Casa Patronal” Mr. Oswaldo’s house.
A ten-minute walk through the paths of coffee will lead you right to the border of Mexico (Chiapas to be specific). Once over the border, the coffee immediately looks less healthy, less full. Perez says this is simply a cultural difference between the two regions and owners of the land.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Guatemala Flor del Cafe Prenda Linda, from Venia Coffee in Bothell, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Agua Dulce, Cuilco, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Flor del Café (Prenda Linda microlot)
producer: Oswaldo Perez y Perez, Adony Osbaldo
elevation: 1350 – 1980 meters above sea level
cultivars: Red Bourbon
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of the Flor del Cafe is certainly indicative of its name—sweet, fragrant, and aromatic with its scents of red grape, cantaloupe, berries, honeysuckle, and violet.
The first few sips up front present my palate with a coffee that’s a touch roasty and a little faded, or aged; the coffee clearly isn’t stale, but it does taste that way with notes of roast, paper, earth, and dried wood. Once I get past those first few sips, though, the coffee definitely settles into something more pleasant: milk chocolate, salted caramel, vanilla, honey, raisin, and panela.
As the coffee cools even further, it really brightens and gets lively as juicy flavors blackberry, grape jelly, raspberry, elderberry, pomegranate, and cherry gush all over the palate, while red wine tannins, a touch of fermentation, and oak barrel show up in the finish.
Medium body; juicy mouthfeel; grape acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
“Flor del Cafe” is an appropriate name for the coffee produced by this Guatemalan farm; Venia Coffee’s Prenda Linda is sweet, floral, juicy, and aromatic, but it isn’t without flaw. The coffee’s a little roasty and faded up front, but it settles into a pretty nice finish.
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