During the harvest, after the cherries are carefully handpicked, they are delivered via truck to the wet mill, located 20 minutes away from the farm. The cherries are submerged in water to remove any floaters and then pulped with a machine to remove the external fruit. The freshly cleaned beans are then fermented in tanks for 24 hours. After fermentation, the beans are cleaned by hand in correteos to remove any remaining mucilage or foreign matter. Once cleaned, the coffee is evenly dispersed on patios to dry in the open sun for 15 – 20 days. To prevent mold growth, the coffee is moved every 30 minutes on the first day of drying, then every hour the second day, and every hour and a half onwards. As soon as the ideal moisture content is reached, the coffee is rested, 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.