Dos Marias, a family estate founded in 1870, is a two hour journey up a twisty, treacherous track, above the San Marcos village of Coatepeque.
On the shoulders of a volcanic mountain range known as the Ring of Fire, the distinctive steeples of Finca Dos Marias puncture the cloudline.
Row upon row of coffee trees stretch as far as the eye can see, shaded not by a canopy of trees, but by the clouds themselves. This is farming in a cloudforest.
In the nursery, thousands of coffee plants – catui, caturra, bourbon – are treated with tender loving care.
Each tiny tree is doubled… two plants together. A great number of these are grafted… matching tender, high-quality cherry producers with hardier root-stock.
Nestled in the valley floor, a tiny hydro-electric power plant captures the power of a tumbling stream. Fresh water is abundant here… one of the many ecological advantages of the cloudforest.
A hike at dawn reveals another advantage… the cloudforest is one of the last refuges of the Quetzal, the emerald-plumed, and exceptionally endangered national bird of Guatemala.
At the mill, depulped cherries, gently fermenting to loosen the mucilage that still clings to them. They’ll be held here for 20 to 30 hours, and then washed and further sorted…
by sluice channels that wander the perimeter of the mill. Like panning for gold, the best beans are heavy and dense, and they sink to the bottom of the channel while lesser beans float away.
The regular cloud-cover makes patio drying mostly impractical. Dos Marias employs mechanical dryers – big ones! – and efficient, too. About 80% of the heat for the dryers comes from using parchment, the tough outer hull of the coffee bean, for fuel.
Dos Marias is a model estate in a great many ways… from its ecological footprint, to its wealth of social, health and educational programs for its farming families. These cows are part of an extension project for the farm workers.
A volcano sends up a steam plume in the distance while the school shines in the morning sun. This finca is a special place – as progressive as it is ruggedly beautiful. It’s time to leave… and nobody wants to go.