Roast Level: Medium
Process: Fully washed/Washed & silo dried
Varietal: Caturra, Typica, Garnica, Colombia, Castillo
Roaster's Notes: This finely balanced blend makes for an espresso with notes of milk and dark chocolate, hazelnuts and figs with a very creamy mouthfeel.
Producer: Eduardo 'Teddy' Esteve/Various smallholders
Region: Chiapas, Mexico/Antioquia, Colombia
Altitude: 900 - 2000 metres
Background information - Finca Guadalupe Zaju, Mexico:
Beautiful Finca Guadalupe Zaju occupies 310 hectares right on Chiapas, Mexico’s famed ‘Ruta de Cafe’. This ‘Route of Coffee’ rides along the Guatemalan border, north from the border town of Tapachula, through Mexico’s famed Soconusco region. The route flows past some of Mexico’s most famous farms – including the Fincas Hamburgo and Irlanda. A neighbour of these farms, Guadelupe Zaju is well on its way to helping carry on the region’s (somewhat diminished in recent years) reputation as a location for high quality coffee.
The Soconusco region is one of Mexico’s most famous coffee locales. Founded in 1890, the region was established by Porfirio Díaz (Mexico’s then President) and Otto von Bismarck, who together collaborated to send 450 German families to an underdeveloped region near Tapachula, bordering Guatemala at Mexico’s southern tip. The region had great agricultural potential, thought Díaz – but the area was remote and lacked investment. Under the careful management of the German immigrants and with the great effort of local farmers and workers, Soconusco was transformed into coffee powerhouse! Between 1895 and 1900, 11.5 million kg of coffee was harvested – some 70% of which went directly to Germany.
Guadalupe Zaju was taken over in 1945 by Hamburg-born businessman Hans Asmus Luethje and his Peruvian wife. She was actually Mexican but the fact that she was born on the neighboring farm “Peru” made her Peruvian J. Their son Juan Luethje carried on the legacy. The farm was originally known simply as Zajú – named after the river that runs through it: Guadalupe was added only when the Virgin of Guadalupe icon was introduced to the farm’s chapel. The Luethje family ran the farm for more than 50 years with dedication; however, in the latter part of that century, low coffee prices challenged the farm’s economic viability. The farm was sold when coffee prices hit rock bottom in 2003.
When Guadalupe Zaju’s current owner, Eduardo ‘Teddy’ Esteve, purchased the farm in 2004, it was a true act of faith and commitment to making the formerly great farm into a bastion of quality again. Teddy’s family had been involved in commodity trading – including coffee, tea and cocoa – for over 150 years, and he had worked on the coffee end of the business for his whole life. In his own words, he says “I grew up cleaning up the cupping room in the office and being involved in clerical matters since my early days to complement my allowance.” He directly started working for the family company in 1983. However, he had never directly been involved in farming coffee.
After purchasing Guadalupe Zaju, Teddy purchased two neighbouring farms – La Gloria and Chanjul – in 2011, all of which are run, today, under the name of Guadalupe Zaju. Currently, only 350 hectares of the farm’s total 600 hectares are under coffee. Teddy has set about expanding the area under coffee – mostly with resistant varieties that, nonetheless, offer a great cup (such as Marsellesa and various Hybrids). Maintaining forestland is a commitment, however, and it is almost certain that a good portion of the farm will remain forested.
Teddy has complemented his passion for coffee farming by surrounding himself with experts. All of this is to ensure that Guadalupe Zaju establishes a name for itself as a producer of high quality coffee.
This team of experts and the passion with which Teddy approaches his role as a coffee producer have paid off. Guadalupe Zaju’s yields are unusually high for a Mexican farm. At 20-25 quintales (approx. 60 kg sacks of pergamino) per hectare, they are around double the average for Chiapas. These yields are achieved due to a strict regimen, intelligent fertilisation schedule and regular pruning and renovation. They have also renovated many areas where the older Caturra and Catuai plants have become diseased or non-productive, replacing these plants with Marsellesa and Hibrido (developed by CIRAD & ECOM). As the farm’s Marsellesa begin full production they expect yields will increase to up to 30 quintales per hectare.
The coffee at Guadalupe Zaju is 100% shade grown (in fact, the farm is Rainforest Alliance, Utz AND Cafe Practices certified). Shade is well-managed and designed to be multi-purpose. Magnolia from Guatemala has been selected due to the fact that it is evergreen and has less leaf fall. Even more importantly, it is a sturdy tree with a relatively high canopy. The area is known for being windy (high winds in of 2008’s Tropical Storm Odile almost ripped the entire harvest away). Magnolia can withstand high winds and help protect the vulnerable coffee trees below. Shade trees are also selected for their ability to control pests. Because of coffee leaf rust and rising temperatures, the farm still has to apply some fungicide and pesticide. But they are able to limit application by widely planting the Chalún tree (Inga spp.). Not only does this tree provide shade and help fix nitrogen into the soil, it provides a feast for the “Chulunero” insect (as it is known locally), which would otherwise attack the coffee trees.
Background Information – San Lorenzo, Colombia
In western Colombia, as one of the infamous coffee-producing departments, Nariño is filled with steep slopes and deep valleys, providing the area with a unique array of climates, diversifying the various tasting profiles of coffees grown in the area. Amongst the three important coffee-producing municipalities of Nariño lies San Lorenzo, a historical coffee-producing municipality, has recently been improving production by 3-4% annually whilst also significantly improving cup quality.
In Nariño sits the town of Pasto, whereby coffee producers bring their freshly collected cherries to be purchased by our exporting partners, Cóndor. The relationship with Nariño began in 2014 as Cóndor began working with new producers and purchasing new lots. The work conducted in this region has improved since 2019, with a stronger focus on quality analysis and direct relationships in addition to the provision of technical services for improved agricultural practices. Cóndor now has a working cupping lab and larger warehouse to expand purchasing power in Nariño.
Coffee is the main source of income for producers in San Lorenzo, but they also have additional income from Lulo, sugarcane and banana. This not only allows for diversified income, but also provides coffee with shade and improved nutrient access for the coffee. Intercropping similar to this can help alleviate the stresses of potential threats in Nariño.
Climate change has been a serious threat in addition to the lack of labour, increased cost of production and inability to maintain an increase in yields. With the alteration in climate, there is an alteration in the vegetative and productive cycle of coffee, decreased production, scattered blooms and an increase in disease spread. Quality is thus more difficult to maintain. In order to alleviate these changes, new coffee plantations are being planted with more adapted varietals, and improved farm infrastructure is enforced to improve the post-harvest process.
Generally, producers will harvest evenly ripened cherries and submerge them in a tank of water to remove floaters, helping to maintain quality. From here, the exterior pulp is removed, and the coffee fermented to breakdown the remaining mucilage. Once fermentation is complete, the coffee is set to dry in the sun. Producers transport the pergamino to the mill in Pasto where the coffee is hulled and analysed prior to being exported.
The relationship Cóndor maintains with the producers bringing their cherries to Pasto in Nariño has allowed for producers to improve quality and yield over time thanks to the direct relationship and increased incomes. Additionally, thanks to the access provided by Cóndor to agricultural resources, producers are thus creating a future for coffee production in areas such as San Lorenzo.