Behind the Beans: Finca San Lorenzo from Guatemala

Guatemala San Lorenzo is famous for producing world-class coffee beans on various farms. One of such favorite farms is Finca San Lorenzo, located in the town of San Cristóbal Verapaz at a sea level of 1500 meters. The farm, after being purchased by the Valdés family, grew in size a lot. The number of plots under coffee plantations increased from 1 to 20. Moreover, it covers over 110 hectares, with another 35 hectares present in deep forest cover. The Valdés family owns these farms for decades and has immense experience in coffee farming for generations. This means the beans produced carry an essence of love and devotion in them. Don Luis manages the farm in general, his son is the agricultural manager of the farm, and Rodrigo (Lui's other son) manages the export business of the family. 

Owing to its unique climate and high altitude, various varieties such as Caturra, Catuaí & Sarchimor are produced at Finca San Lorenzo. The Santa Isabel variety wasn't of a high quality earlier because the area has a humid climate, meaning that the mechanical drying of the coffee was necessary. The Valdés family diverted their attention towards better cultivation techniques and perfect drying techniques. This results in the production of one of the best quality coffee around the globe. Since the San Lorenzo and Santa Isabel are only 5 miles apart, the Catuaí and Caturra varietals are similar to Santa Isabel in the cup.

Moreover, Sarchimor covers 50 percent of the San Lorenzo, a hybrid of Timor and Costa Rican Villa Sarchi. The dedication and devotion of the family for producing the coffee leaf rust-resistant varieties is visible on the ground. Proper scientific pruning techniques combined with reduced use of chemical fertilizers is another excellent outcome of the farm. 

San Lorenzo receives rainfall for a significant part of the year, with annual precipitation around 3000 mm. The flowering also matches the rainfall (8-9 flowering per anum); thus, it becomes necessary to select the ripened cherries only. After harvesting the ripened cherries, they are taken for mechanical pulping to a wet mill in Santa Isabel. After fermentation for about 48 hours at constant temperatures, the coffee is cleaned by washing with water to remove any mucilage. Great care is taken at both the farms (San Lorenzo and Santa Isabel) to maintain the quality. After drying for one day on patios, the coffee stored in wooden boxes is taken to greenhouses for drying for 15 to 30 days. The humidity is about 30 percent at this stage, which is further reduced to 15 percent in mechanical driers. The coffee is then delivered to the dry mill before resting for more than 21 days. 

This careful, loving, process creates a delightful bean that evokes notes of honey and chocolate, with fruity aftertastes of red apple.

At San Lorenzo farm, numerous workers are offered a desirable job. Over 40 permanent workers are working year-round on both the farms, which provides livelihood to the locals. Educating children and supporting them is the primary focus area for the farm. Moreover, over 500 laborers are offered a chance to work in coffee harvest seasons. Unlike other farms, the Valdés family farms provide a stable workspace to the workers, sustaining their lives. In addition, a lot of seasonal workers come back year after year to work. 

San Lorenzo puts a significant focus on the preservation of the ecosystem. The farm has above 30 hectares of land under forest conservation, and no hunting of any animal on the farm is allowed. The farm highly restricts the use of agrochemicals which may cause some harm to natural flora. Moreover, maintaining such a forest cover is highly necessary as it makes the farm sustainable as far as lumber is concerned. The 30-hectare patch is quite helpful in conserving the native flora and fauna, thereby saving the environment. However, at the same time, environment conservation is a challenge. The insect and disease manifestation has highly affected large chunks of natural woodland, primarily because of monocropping. The Wicho family is working hard to introduce the lost native species into the farm that were beneficial for all diversity. This way, they want to develop a sustainable environment on the farm that existed decades ago. 



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