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
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.
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.
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.