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Your complete guide to Guatemala coffee
Despite being a small country (totalling just 108,889 km2), Guatemala is the world’s 10th largest coffee producer and is known for creating some of the most loved speciality coffees on the market.
From the rich, chocolatey flavours of Guatemalan beans to the country’s turbulent coffee history, below we take a closer look at this popular Central American coffee.
What is Guatemala coffee?
Guatemalan coffee is produced in Central America, in the country’s eight coffee-growing regions - Antigua, Acatenango Valley, Conbán, Atitlán, Huehuetenango, Fraijanes Plateau, Nueva Oriente and San Marcos.
Due to the diverse terroirs of these mountainous growing regions, Guatemala tasting notes can be incredibly varied. One roast from the region will have a full body, giving you luxuriously rich flavours of chocolate, spice and nuts. Another roast will be much lighter and when brewed, results in a complex, fruity cup.
Guatemala coffee history
Although Guatemala is now highly praised for its delicious coffees, this wasn’t always the case. Coffee was first introduced to the country in the late 1700s by the incoming Jesuit missionaries. However, coffee-growing didn’t really take off until the mid-19th century after textile manufacturing led to a decline in Gautamala’s export of Indigo.
Taking advantage of the country's ideal coffee-growing land, the then dictatorial President Justo Rufio Barrios concentrated on building Guatemala’s coffee export industry. He did this by taking over once communally-owned land, which mainly belonged to the indigenous Mayans, and transforming it into coffee plantations. Barrios’ plan was hugely successful - by 1880, coffee accounted for over 90% of Guatemala’s exports.
The unstable political climate in Central America during the 1950s and 60’s impacted the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, resulting in a civil war that didn’t end until 1996. In Guatemala, coffee production and the coffee industry were not spared from the impacts of war. Many farms struggled to have enough workers to tend to their plants and harvest coffee beans. The effects of the war have been long-lasting and it's not unusual to find a Guatemalan coffee plantation still facing these problems today.
Difficulties from long-term instability have created a coffee industry that relies on producing some of the world’s best speciality coffee beans so that farmers can maximise their profits. In fact, Guatemala is second only to Columbia in production of speciality-grade beans. Our Dark Maragogype coffee is made from one of these speciality beans - the Elephant coffee bean.
In more recent times, Guatemala has become a great option for sustainable coffee lovers due to an influx of Rainforest Alliance certified growers. The Rainforest Alliance ensures that all beans come from eco-friendly coffee plantations and conservation areas.
Where is coffee grown in Guatemala?
It’s almost as if the land in Guatemala was designed to grow the perfect coffee cherries. In Guatemala, coffee plantations benefit from a range of microclimates found in its eight coffee regions. These regions include:
- Antigua. In Guatemala, Antigua coffee is the most popular and expensive coffee in the country. This area is best known for being surrounded by three enormous volcanoes. If your coffee delivery comes from Antigua, don’t be surprised if it costs more than your usual coffee delivery.
- Acatenango Valley. In the west of the country lies the valley where world-renowned Bourbon, Caturra and Catuaí coffee beans are produced. Plants grow under a dense canopy provided by wild flora on the slopes which reach up to 2000m above sea level.
- Conbán. Coffee growers have their work cut out for them in this region. Near-constant rainfall for nine to ten months of the year causes a slower flowering process of coffee plants. This results in a staggered harvesting method and it can take up to ten passes to harvest ripe cherries. As coffee farmers in Conbán can’t rely on the sun to dry their cherries, they’ve become somewhat experimental in their drying techniques, giving beans unique flavours.
- Atitlán. On the shores of Lake Atitlán lie several dramatic volcanoes. The coffee here is grown on the sides of these volcanoes, in the richest soil the country has to offer. The farmers here are dedicated artisans, sticking to traditional and natural methods of coffee production during harvest season.
- Huehuetenango. This non-volcanic region is extremely remote. It’s also the highest and driest coffee-producing area in Guatemala (Highland Huehue for example, is cultivated at an altitude up to 6500m). The region is crisscrossed with natural rivers and streams which are used by mountainside mills to wet process beans.
- Fraijanes Plateau. This area, situated on Pacaya - the most active volcano in Guatemala, features natural pumice soil, lots of rain and mineral boosts from light deposits of ash. The beans that grow here are generally sun-dried.
- Nueva Oriente. The newest coffee-growing area on the scene, coffee farms only existed in Nueva Oriente from the 1950s. Coffee has helped to transform the area from one of the poorest and most isolated, into a thriving and vibrant community.
- Volcan San Marcos (also known as San Marcos). Influenced by its exposure to powerful Pacific Ocean gusts, San Marcos is both the warmest and the wettest of all the coffee-growing regions. Due to early rainfall, coffee plants flower earlier than in other regions, giving farmers an advantage. As the region is still somewhat remote, all coffee harvested here is processed on-site. As the rain can be unpredictable, beans are typically part sun-dried and then transferred into mechanical dryers.
Guatemala's best coffees
We’ve sourced two of the very best Guatemalan coffee beans, offering coffee lovers dark and medium roast varieties. Like all our coffees, our Guatemalan coffee beans are roasted in small batches and roasted to order, guaranteeing optimum freshness.
You can also choose from whole beans or a range of pre-ground coffees, expertly ground for your brewing methods of choice. Delivery of all our products to UK addresses is also free of charge.
Our Dark Maragogype coffee has a rich and rounded flavour with full body and hints of chocolate. Whilst being a more robust coffee, it’s low in acidity, creating impeccable smooth and mellow flavour notes.
The beans of the Dark Maragogype coffee are famous around the world and are affectionately known as the ‘Elephant Bean’. These large coffee beans are said to create a smoother and richer coffee than your average Arabica bean. If you're after a punchy espresso roast, this is certainly the coffee for you.
“This is a low acidity coffee that has an unbelievable full-bodied flavour. If you like Central American coffee then you'll love this!”
Nick W. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This single-origin, medium roast is the ideal all-rounder and is packed full of flavour. We recommend brewing this quality coffee with a cafetiere or by filter to really bring out the flavours.
“Great tasting coffee! Coffee Direct’s Guatemalan coffee is the nicest we have ever tasted. Will definitely be ordering some more.”
Ian K. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you’re looking for a great tasting, high quality roast without the caffeine kick, you should try our brand new Guatemala Swiss Water Decaffeinated coffee. It has all the outstanding tasting notes of caramel and citrus but can be enjoyed at any time of the day, morning or night, as it won’t keep you awake.
Is Guatemala coffee good?
Yes. Many people argue that when it comes to coffee, Guatemala produces the best roasts. From bean-to-cup to filter drinkers, Guatemalan coffee suits all brewing methods and taste buds. Guatemala coffee offers excellent variety in taste, acidity and flavour. One Guatemalan coffee will give you a light, fruity, complex brew, whereas another roast which is fuller-bodied will be more robust and have hints of chocolate and toffee.
Is Guatemala known for coffee?
Yes. Guatemala is a famous and popular coffee-growing region. Its coffee estates are known for producing some of the most loved speciality coffees. When it comes to coffee, Guatemala is renowned for its Antigua coffee, as well as its 'Elephant Bean' coffee.
Is Guatemala good for growing coffee?
Yes. Guatemala is one of those countries made for coffee growing. Single-origin coffees are produced in eight main coffee-growing regions found in Guatemala - Antigua, Acatenango Valley, Conbán, Atitlán, Huehuetenango, Fraijanes Plateau, Nueva Oriente and San Marcos. Volcanic soil and the microclimates of these areas allow Guatemala to produce a wide variety of coffee flavours.
Where can I buy the best Guatemala coffee?
Right here at Coffee Direct. In fact, we pride ourselves on being one of the best Guatemalan coffee brands, only offering the very best coffee beans from Guatemala to our UK customers. Coffee producers we work with are all Rainforest Alliance certified and UK delivery of all items on our site is also available free of charge.
If green not roasted coffee is for you, check out our Guatemala green coffee beans. Roasting your own beans by exploring different Guatemala coffee roast profiles is an amazing way to really get to know your favourite Guatemalan roast.
Not sure which size bag you need? See How Many Cups each size provides.