TOWN: San Pedro Necta
ALTITUDE: 1,550-1,950m above sea level
VARIETALS: Caturra (75%), Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Catuai
PROCESSING: Fully Washed
OWNER: Max Ariel Palacios Villatoro
IN THE CUP: Full bodied, with plum, berries, dark chocolate, orange blossom and black tea.
La Providencia has been in the Palacios family since 1940s, and in that time it has been passed down through three generations. Today it is owned and managed by Max Ariel Palacios Villatoro, who has been working on the farm since 1975.
The farm is located in HueHuetenango (or “HueHue” for short), a stunning region located in the west of Guatemala near the border of Mexico. HueHue is known for its vast ethnic diversity and Cuchumatanes mountain range, the highest non volcanic mountain range in all of Central America. It is also home to some of the most complex and celebrated coffees in the country, which frequently appear in the top ten of the Cup of Excellence competition. This is in part due to the incredibly high altitudes that coffee is able to grow at (up to 2,000m above sea level), and thanks to the dry, hot winds that blow into the mountains from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain which protect the region from frost. These high altitudes combined with a relatively predictable climate make for exceptional quality coffee, like this very special lot from La Providencia.
La Providencia is 220 hectares in size, and sits at an altitude of 1,550–1,950m above sea level. The high altitude of the farm means that the beans mature very slowly, giving time for the sugars to develop and resulting in a clean, sweet and complex cup. The topography is steep and irregular, making harvesting very labour intensive and time consuming. All of the coffee is picked by hand by a team of 700 seasonal workers, most of whom live locally and join the farm each year. They typically do a least four passes throughout the season (which typically runs from December–April) to ensure only the very ripest cherries are selected.
At the end of the day each of the workers delivers their carefully selected coffees to the beautifully maintained wet mill, which is located at the heart of the farm. This mill begins at a highpoint on the steeply sloped property and has been designed to take full advantage of gravity, using water to carry the coffee through the depulping process via a series of intricate canals to the drying patios below.
At the end of a day’s picking, the coffees are carefully hand sorted and then weighed, and then pulped using Penagos Eco-Pulpers that reduce the environmental impact of wet processing by reducing water usage and waste. After pulping, the coffee is fermented for 30–32 hours, and put through a washer to remove any remaining mucilage. It is then graded by weight in long channels and carefully dried—first on the farm’s pristine patios for at least eight hours and then in Guardiola driers for 24–26 hours.
La Providencia is blessed with very good access to water, with several springs across the area, which is useful for processing and irrigation. The nature of the steep slopes and typography means that fertilisation of the clay loam soil must be done with stringent attention to detail in order to avoid erosion and soil ‘washing’. For this reason, shade trees are planted throughout the plantation, and nearly one third of the 342 hectare farm is dedicated to native forest, which helps prevent the soil washing down the steep inclines, and also acts to preserve the local ecology and biodiversity.
Max, who is 76, currently oversees all aspects of the farm, from its administration through to managing its agriculture. He is a highly experienced and dedicated coffee producer with over 40 years of experience, a deep love of the land, and a comprehensive knowledge of the region. Max is currently grooming his two children, Ana Lucia and Javier to take over the farm. They both already play quite an active role in operations and support the administrative side of the plantation.
(information courtesy of Melbourne Coffee Merchants)