Finca El Tambor
Victor bought the farm at the beginning of 2001 with the aim of moving out of Robusta cultivation (in which his family had previously specialised) and into Arabica. The bottom was falling out of the Robusta market at the time, and while Arabica wasn’t particularly stable either, he had a dream of finding a farm that lay at 1,500 metres or above so that he could specialise in high-quality, speciality Arabica production.
He was so committed to this vision that he sold his house and car in exchange for El Tambor, and upon signing the documents immediately set about renovating the coffee plots, expanding areas under coffee and improving the farm’s small wet mill. However, Victor is a true iconoclast when it comes to coffee farming and refuses to accept conventional wisdom or accepted practices in farming. His innovative approaches have helped him with the spread of leaf rust in this region of Guatemala.
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.