During the harvest, the cherries are carefully handpicked and delivered by truck to the wet mill located in Antigua, 2 hours away. The cherries are then examined and sorted to remove any under or overripe cherries. Next, the cherries are pulped via machine then fermented in plastic barrels for 36 hours. After fermentation, the coffee is washed by hand in correteos to remove any remaining mucilage or debris. Finally, the coffee is dispersed evenly on patios to dry in the open sun. On the first day, the coffee is moved every 30 minutes, then every hour the following day, and every hour and a half for the remainder of drying time, which lasts 15 – 20 days. Once dried, the coffee is rested, then hulled, and prepared for export.
Coffee has helped fuel Guatemala’s economy for over a hundred years. Today, an estimated 125,000 coffee producers drive Guatemala’s coffee industry and coffee remains one of Guatemala’s principal export products, accounting for 40% of all agricultural export revenue.
It is most likely that Jesuit missionaries introduced coffee to Guatemala, and there are accounts of coffee being grown in the country as early as mid-18th century. Nonetheless, as in neighbouring El Salvador, coffee only became an important export crop for the country at the advent of synthetic dyes and industrialisation of textiles – in the mid-19th century. Throughout the latter half of the 1800s, various government programs sought to promote coffee as a means to stimulate the economy, including a massive land privatisation program initiated by President Justo Rufino Barrias in 1871, which resulted in the creation of large coffee estates, many of which still produce some of Guatemala’s best coffees today.