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Guatemala’s geography and climate make it an enviable location for coffee production. High altitudes are the norm; in fact, over 80% of green coffee beans are considered Strictly Hard Bean (SHB). SHB coffee is grown at higher altitudes, and it takes longer to mature and is denser. As a measure of quality, these beans are more consistent and, therefore, produce a better cup.
In addition to its altitudes, the country is crossed by a volcano chain, called the Coffee Belt. Volcanic soils are ideal for coffee production, due to their higher nutrient levels. With more than 25 volcanoes (extinct and active), Guatemala has an abundance of high-quality coffee terrain.
Guatemala is Central America’s second largest coffee producer, behind El Salvador. Similar to its neighbor, it owes the prevalence of coffee to a decline in exports of indigo due to the invention of chemical dyes. Coffee production began to ramp up in the 1850s and 1860s, with a push by the government resulting in it being 90% of exports by 1880.
This early period continued to impact the production model for over a century, as it included a consolidation of land into large plantations. In the past twenty years, however, much production has shifted to smaller producers, due in large part to the demand for high-quality SHB coffees. Many larger, historical coffee plantations were at lower altitudes.
The country has eight well-defined coffee regions, and Café Britt sources coffee from two of the most recognized. Both are known for their volcanic soil, abundant sun, and aromatic coffee beans.
Antigua is perhaps Guatemala’s best-known coffee-producing region. Our Antigua blend comes from small producers on the slopes of the Volcán del Agua, where coffee production takes place at over 1,500 meters. In addition to favorable weather, the area enjoys a great deal of tree cover, which helps against frost and other extremes.
For our coffee from Atitlán, we source from producers who still work with traditional cultivation and processing techniques. They take advantage of the fertile soil and optimum climate conditions on the volcano slopes around Atitlán Lake. The region is considered to have the richest soil in Guatemala.
Guatemala’s coffees are known to have a wide range of flavors. We invite you to try a cup of history with Café Britt!