This week, we're shining the spotlight on another lovely coffee from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala, Guatemala Rio Azul.
Rio Azul (Blue River in English) lives up to its name*. Look it up online and you’ll find photos of gorgeous turquoise blue water running between steep rainforest covered slopes. The people who live along the Rio Azul are of Mayan descent, and despite the rugged terrain manage to grow some spectacular coffee.
It helps that the altitude of those steep slopes is high, between 5000 and 6000 feet above sea level. It also helps that in 1967 approximately 200 farmers in the region joined together to create the Cooperativa Rio Azul. The cooperative provides a central wet mill to process the coffee cherries. Farmers bring the cherries from their small holdings, about 3 square acres each, to the co-op's mill, where they’re processed and prepared for export.
The co-op ensures the farmers get high quality processing for their coffee beans, which improves both the quality of the coffee and the price they can charge for it. The co-op also helps the farmers improve and modernize their farms. A good example is all the co-op members' coffee is now shade-grown, with trees such as papaya and avocado providing both shade for the coffee and additional crops for the farmers. The ground under and between the coffee bushes provide yet more crops like squash and melons. The farms mirror the rainforest around them, which is also beneficial for the area's wildlife.
Even with the co-op’s support, the farmers who grow coffee around the Rio Azul face many obstacles. In addition to the challenging terrain, the co-op and its members are battling an airborne fungus, ojo de gallo, brought on by increasing amounts of rainfall in the region. The co-op has been working to provide the farmers access to coffee varieties that are resistant to the fungus while still providing quality coffee beans.
They must be doing a good job, because this season’s coffee is lovely. At a light (City) to medium (Full City) roast level, the brewed coffee is smooth and balanced with rich chocolate aromatics, soft herbal topnotes and butterscotch sweetness that melts into a lingering cocoa finish. Guatemala Rio Azul makes a wonderful breakfast coffee, but be sure to brew enough. It’s a great coffee to sip all day.
For a coffee to enjoy after dinner or with dessert , try Guatemala Rio Azul a little darker. At a medium-dark or dark roast level (Vienna or Northern Italian), the brewed coffee has a rich, heavy body and even more sweetness. However you prefer your coffee, Guatemala Rio Azul is sure to please.
Do you enjoy coffee from Guatemala? If so, we'd love to hear from you. You can share your thoughts on the Facebook thread or in a comment on this blog. Or, if you'd like to share your opinion with the wider world, leave us a coffee review on Google or on your favorite review site. Not only do we value your opinions, but reviews help more people find us. Help us connect coffee lovers to fresh, quality coffee!
~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast
*To see photos of the Rio Azul, click here.