Finca Santa Paula
Coffee was first planted here in the mid-1990s by the farm’s previous owner, Sharón Echevarria: prior to that, the farm was home to dairy cattle and was used mostly for subsistence farming. When the current owners, brothers Oscar and Christian Schaps, took the reins in 2006, they immediately set about making some changes. When they purchased the farm, the land and its coffee plantations were in excellent shape…however all the plantings were of Catimor. The Schaps brothers – fourth generation coffee producers with a significant pedigree in the Guatemala and El Salvador coffee context – are committed to improving coffee quality on all of their farms. They decided to pull all the farm’s Catimor out little by little and renovate the farm’s 60 hectares completely. Today the farm’s production is roughly 80% Caturra, 18% Catuaí and 2% Catimor, all of which grows in the shade of native Inga and Pepeto trees. The brothers have also introduced a small plot of the lesser-known Híbrido San Francisco, a natural hybrid of Pacas and Old Bourbon that first appeared in El Salvador. The variety performs well in Cobán’s cool, humid climate, and the brothers plan to plant the variety on an additional 4.5 hectares.
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.