When Don Luis first planted the farm out in Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai, Cobán didn’t necessarily have a reputation for high-quality coffee, due in part to the fact that coffee from the region must often be mechanically dried because of the humid climate. Don Luis and Wicho, however, knew that the region had more to offer.
Wicho’s background in agronomy, combined with his passion for coffee farming, has led him to implement experimental practices that are paying off, as well, in the battle against coffee leaf rust. The farm’s innovative pruning schedule, which took some 15 years of experimentation to develop, has succeeded in greatly reducing the severity of rust’s impact on the plantation.
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.