Guatemala Origin Trip: Los Volcanes Coffee

Origin Trips
  • October 08, 2023

Here at Servant Coffee, we are dedicated to creating lasting, mutually beneficial, and transparent relationships with everyone and every organization we work with. Nowhere is this more directly practiced than in fostering close relationships with the farmers, producers, and cooperatives that grow and process the coffees we buy. This is the story of our recent trip to our partners in Guatemala, Los Volcanes Coffee.

Building Relationships With Our Growers

One of the main tenets of what is sometimes called ‘Third Wave’ or, more commonly, ‘specialty’ coffee is working to form direct relationships with these growers and producers – the people and organizations at the source who actually grow and process the coffee we love. Every coffee-producing country has its own unique and complex coffee ecosystem driven by government regulation and oversight, geography/terroir, infrastructure, and socioeconomic concerns among many other considerations. This makes traceability easier in some countries, such as many in Central and South America, and much more difficult in others, like those in East Africa. While it’s not always possible to engage in direct relationships with coffee growers and producers, we are very lucky to have a unique and personal relationship with our producers in Guatemala, Los Volcanes Coffee.

Guatemala and Brazil

Guatemala plays a huge role in our coffee offerings, more so than any other coffee or origin we offer. The base coffee we use for our Tribute blend has almost always been a washed Guatemalan coffee since we rolled it out 3 years ago. Soon, Tribute will be comprised of not one but two Guatemalan coffees, a washed and a natural. We’ve also had the pleasure of releasing multiple single-origin coffees from LVC, like our latest offering, Finca Patzibir.

Although LVC is based in Antigua Guatemala, near the beautiful Lake Atitlan, there is an added benefit from our relationship with them – Brazilian coffees! Brazilian coffees have also been heavy hitters for us, although these can sometimes fly below the radar. Since we launched our Prosper project a few years ago, this rotating single-origin offering has represented largely Brazilian coffee, which we also get exclusively through LVC. In fact, we had a visit planned to go see the farm in Brazil where we source our coffee from, Fazenda Rio Brilhante, but due to some logistical challenges we decided to visit another time.

Getting to Know the Los Volcanes Coffee Team

We source more coffee through LVC than through any other relationship, so the team and their mission mean a lot to us. Getting to know Josue and his crew has been an amazing experience, and our trip down there in February of this year was our 2nd visit to their HQ in Antigua. Our first visit, in April 2022, was primarily to get to know the team, see the facility, and understand their philosophies around partnerships, processing, sustainability, and quality. It was on this first visit that we met Estefani and Loyren, two key members of the LVC team. As the face of LVC to the customer, Estefani plays a vital role in forming relationships with farmers and customers, coffee evaluation/selection, sales, business development, and quality control. Loyren focuses on sustainability across the LVC scope, including responsible farming practices and techniques, organic and chemical-free farming, composting, biodiversity and land/resource preservation. She plays a key role in helping farmers choose synergistic and native shade cover, understand what other crops to grow in and around the coffee trees to maintain soil and plant health and increase revenue, and choose which coffee varietals to plant.

LVC is a fairly large operation by specialty coffee production standards, and thus visiting them brings opportunities for some unique experiences. LVC works with many farmers in and around Lake Atitlan, and many different types of coffee come through these relationships. This gives us the opportunity to witness different farming techniques in practice and allows us to see and taste many different varietals of the coffee plant, from common cultivars like Caturra and Typica to some more rare species like Gesha and Villa Sarchi. The geography around Lake Atitlan and the active volcanoes on its shores produce many local microclimates that offer a striking variety of terroir in which local farmers can grow coffee and other crops.

LVC also has a wet mill on site called Benefico de Café la Esperanza where most of the milling/processing is done after the farmers deliver their cherries. This 2nd visit in February 2023 allowed us to be present at the height of harvest and processing season, and to see the wet mill in action. This is truly an amazing process, and one that really drives home the astonishing amount of work, care, and knowledge that goes into producing our coffees.

Preserving Guatemalan Coffee Production Traditions

Another important aspect of LVC’s approach to coffee production, and one that we really appreciate, is tradition. In the world of specialty coffee today, people are doing some amazing things and really pushing the limits of what’s possible. The industry is experimenting with many different fermentation techniques (more on this in another post), fruit macerations, and other ways of developing new and exciting flavor profiles. While this is all very exciting and can produce some truly amazing coffee experiences, there is something to be said for letting the plant speak for itself. One of Josue’s main goals with LVC is to honor and strengthen the long relationship between Guatemala and coffee production. As a native Guatemalan, Josue and the LVC team encourage farmers to focus on growing the right cultivars in the right environments with the right techniques to produce the best possible coffee while preserving the rich heritage and inherent flavors of each cultivar and terroir. This ethos extends throughout the entire process that LVC oversees, including milling, fermentation, and patio drying, and really comes through in the quality and consistency of the coffee.

We are so grateful to have partners like Los Volcanes in our coffee journey, and we’re excited to continue deepening our relationship for many harvests to come.