Dozens of accolades are attached to the name of Family Bonds coffee. Each year we usually make the trek to Huehuetenango to cup alongside the Perez family at the end of the harvest. Prior to 2018, this included a six-hour drive through the mountains of Guatemala. (Or four hours if Danny is driving…) Now there is a direct flight that will take you straight to Huehue on a prop plane. Each year we are met by the unparalleled hospitality of the Perez family. This season was quite different, as COVID radically changed the way we purchased coffee. As the harvest drew close, it was logical for us to move a full container of coffee with Family Bonds, and they were generous in helping us plan for that. They shipped all the vetted lots for our selection, and we cupped them in our homes in March, carefully selected two Pacamara lots and two San Antonio Chaguite Lots that we believed represented the best of Finca Isnul and the work of Family Bonds coffee. The Perez family worked hard to dry mill these lots with a limited team, who no doubt put in long hours to prepare these coffees for export. While we may have not been able to visit them directly, their hard work and hospitality shone through each step of the way. We look forward to next season when we can travel down to their facility to cup their shining coffees alongside them.
FINCA SAN ANTONIO CHAGUITE
San Antonio Chaguite is the highest farm in elevation, located near the gorge of the Agua Dulce river. This creates a microclimate perfect for growing dense Caturra and bourbon varieties. This third-generation farm took 10th place in the Cup of Excellence 2019, no doubt due to the many years of experience behind each harvest, as well as the rigorous QC standards upheld within Family bonds coffee. William Perez continues to progress coffee production at San Antonio Chaguite through improved picking, innovative processing, and seeking better methods of sustainability so that San Antonio Chaguite will be around for many more generations.
Processing in coffee refers to the conversion of the raw coffee cherry into green coffee, a finished product for roasters to manipulate. Washed coffee can also be known as “wet-processed.” It refers to the removal of the fruit that covers the beans (seeds) before they are laid to dry. There is a density sorting step in washing coffee, where the floaters are taken out of the main harvest and sold as a sub-product. The cherries that drop in water are then squeezed through a screen called a pulper. The fruit/skin travels down one chute, while the coffee beans go into a large tank. The seeds at this point still are covered in a sticky, mucilage-like substance, think of the stringy fruit left on a peach pit.
From here the coffee goes through a 36-hour fermentation. This step is a delicate time in processing where microbes are eating and converting the mucilage and changing the flavor of the coffee. If this fermentation happens for too long and the coffee becomes vinegary, too little and you end up drying coffee with mucilage semi-intact. The coffee is finally set out to dry on raised beds, allowing airflow and even drying among all the beans. All of these steps have to be subtly altered depending on temperature, time of the harvest, rainfall, and other factors. The Perez family has shown incredible consistency and attention to detail when it comes to processing.