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My First Fair Trade Coffee
Guatemala is home to some really good coffees–clean, fragrant, and fruity. While the Antigua region garners the lion’s share of attention for their complexity, chocolate and spice flavors, Huehuetenango tends to produce some fruitier stuff.
Guatemala is also a place that has suffered more than its share of political problems. Coffee farmers here live hard lives, and low market prices have eaten into what little profit–if any–remains. The Fair Trade system provides family farmers and small co-ops with subsidized pricing, a network of buyers that are committed to maintaining equitable trade… sometimes micro-loans so that farmers don’t fall prey to “coyotes”–local middlemen with reputations for shoddy business practices.
In turn, the Fair Trade system asks a slighter higher price of the coffee consumer, in effect selling both coffee, and a small investment in the future of these unstable growing regions. Niggling questions remain… Is the subsidy a sustainable business practice? Are growers benefiting? Is it good coffee? Well, this one is.
The Asobagri Huehuetenango roasts up peppery and fragrant, and remarkably even given the fairly odd assortment of beans in the mix. [All typica, says Tom at Sweet Maria's--maybe the co-op has a wide range of farms.]
In the cup? Refreshing. The Huehuetenango is a light, brisk, clean brew. It’s aromatics are peppery, its high notes tangy lemon citrus [rather like a Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.] It’s a straightforward, uncomplicated cup, with nutty pecan flavors, light body and a slightly sweet finish. It’s a great summer slurper, whether you’re beatin’ the heat poolside, or moppin’ ribs on the barbecue.
The roast: Keep this one fairly light. While you’d have to roast these beans quite a lot to mute the lemony tang in this cup, you’d probably introduce pungency that this coffee just won’t benefit from. A City roast is just fine… a Full City will tone down the zippier notes, but I can’t think of any good reason to roast darker.
This is the first Fair Trade coffee I’ve tried. I suspect it won’t be the last. Ultimately, though, it’s about the coffee. So long as Fair Trade certified coffees cup well, we might all be better for it.