Guatemala

Fast Facts on San Marcos

  • Varieties: Arabica
  • Established in 1992
  • Membership: 400 families 
  • Region: Located in the southwestern highlands of San Marcos, on the slopes of volcano Tajmulco (the highest volcano in Central America) in Guatemala

APECAFORM (Asociación de Pequeños Caficultores Orgánicos Maya-Mames) is comprised of 350 members living in 17 communities. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making authority and is responsible of electing the Boards of Directors. The central one guides and executes the main activities of Apecaform and coordinates tasks with  five Local Boards of Directors, based in community centers. In addition, 21 local promoters coordinate and conduct technical trainings to improve organic agricultural practices, and to facilitate commercialization and a variety of social projects.

The coordinating community center was established in Pueblo Nuevo, because of its central location; it is only a two-hour drive to the city of San Marcos and on average a two and a half-hour walk from the remaining 17 APECAFORM communities!

APECAFORM is in its fifth harvest of organic certified production.  Now, between 80% and 85% of their production is organic and the rest is in transition. There are now 266 members under certification and 80 percent of their total production goes to the cooperative for sale to the Fair Trade market. Exporting through Manos Campesinas to Fair Trade markets has meant the difference between selling coffee at Q.250.00 (US$32.50) per QQ parchment to coyotes and Q.714.05 (US$92.75) per QQ now as APECAFORM members.  Cooperative Coffees has purchased coffee from Apecaform through its umbrella marketing organization, Manos Campesinas since our first year of operations. Through a strategic credit partnership between EcoLogic - Apecaform – Cooperative Coffees, producers have been able to increase direct Fair Trade sales by 50% annually for the last 3 years. Their actual average yield of organic coffee is 22 quintal an hectare.

Fast Facts on Rio Azul

  • Altitude: 1500 - 1800 meters
  • Varieties: Bourbon and Caturra, Márago caturra
  • Established in 1967
  • Membership: 200 - 46 are women
  • Region: Located in the Jacaltenango valley, in the Huehuetenango region

Founded in 1967, the cooperative has a long history of producing some of the best coffee exported under the famed “Huehuetenango” mark. 

The members of Rio Azul all live no more than a 1.5 hour walk to the wet mill in Jacaltenango. This allows the cooperative complete control over several stages of the quality process. Coffee is picked by members until early afternoon and then delivered in cherry form to the mill each day beginning around 3 pm. All coffee is depulped, fermented, washed and dried at the coop's mill. Adjacent to the mill is a warehouse and office - capable of storing about 500 sacks of pergamino. Once a container quantity of pergamino is accumulated, a transfer to the exporter's warehouse in the city of Huehuetenango is organized. This coffee is then transferred to Guatemala City for final processing and export preparation in an organic dry mill. All of the production is graded SHB (strictly hard bean), the best grade available, due to the careful attention given in the central processing facility and the excellent conditions for growing coffee in this area.

Until recently, Rio Azul was receiving assistance from Oxfam in the form of capacity building grants to provide technical processing and administrative training. An alternative income project to raise bees for improved pollination and honey production has been quite successful. Twenty eight farmers currently participate and each manages 10 boxes. They typically produce about 50 pounds of honey resulting in annual honey production for the coop of over 15,000 pounds. They also received a support from the organization AECI, to improve the infrastructure. Their are changing their wet mill, that is now transitional into a more ecologic one.

All members of the cooperative are of the Mayan group Jacaltec, also commonly called Pobp’ al Ti’ or Popti. About 40,000 people speak this language – most living in the Guatemala department of Huehuetenango with some living just across the border in Chiapas, Mexico. The cooperative's meetings are conducted in Popti as well as Spanish. The main priorities of the coop members are to become more financially sustainable and self-sufficient as an administration, to provide members with technical assistance to better manage the coffee fields and shade trees, to have more members certified, and to increase the productivity.

Fast Fact on Chajul

  • Altitude: 1100 - 1800 meters
  • Varieties: Typica, Caturra & Bourbon
  • Established in 1988
  • Membership: 1600 
  • Region: Located in the Chajul area, Triángulo Ixil, Quiché

The Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Qujol was founded by some 40 coffee farmers of the Chajul area Triángulo Ixil, Quiché. The organization obtained its legal status in 1990. At present, the organization has over 1600 active members, most of whom are coffee farmers. Its main goal is to promote a sustainable development model that is environmentally sound, economically feasible, fair from a social point of view and appropriate from a cultural standpoint. The organization is working in 56 communities of the Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal and Chiantla areas. 

Coffee is their main export market and the first exports began at the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, expanding the fair trade opportunities through the FLO registration, as well as organic certification. 90% of the members produce certificed organic coffee and the remaining 10% are internally certificed as producing transitional organic coffee.  The organization is not actively looking for new members, but accepts new ones if they are organic or if they have new, young plantations that have been run organically for at least one or two years. Their organic production now have an average yield of 22 quintals per hectares

In 2006, Cooperative Coffees purchased one of the first containers of fair trade, organic coffee shipped to the US market from Chajul.  The organization had attempted to diversify with other products such as cardamom, cheese, honey, and handicrafts but found that some projects were not be sustainable and cost the organization too much time and effort to be profitable. At present, the organization is further developing and working with four projects: coffee, cardamom, bee honey and The Posada, which is a lodge for tourists and visitors. Within Chajul's cooperative, Chajulense de Mujeres "Unidas por la vida" (United for Life) is a group made up of over 100 women who work together to benefit the lives of their coop sisters as well as their families. They are engaged in a number of projects but have been particularly successful in creating the weaving group.

Flavour profile

San Marcos
Sweet, well rounded with a hint of cocoa and a smooth full body. Dark chocolate overtones with vanilla and berry highlights

Rio Azul
This special small lot roast is very spicy and has highlights of caramel. It is clean and sweet, with a medium acidity.

Chajul
A crisp and very sweet coffee, with flavours of chocolate and caramel.

Please follow the links to purchase Guatemalan coffees:

Guatemalan - San Marcos

Guatemalan - Rio Azul

Guatamalan - Chajul

* photos courtesy of Cooperative coffees - http://www.coopcoffees.com and fairtradewire.com

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