Farm: Finca Santa Paula
Owner: Oscar & Christian Schaps
Region: Alta Verapaz, Coban
Altitude: 1,375 m.a.s.l.
Process: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Varietals: Caturra, Catuai & Catimor
Supple mouthfeel, chocolate and brown sugar sweetness with a soft peach acidity.
Finca Santa Paula lies near the small town of San Pedro Carcha, in the cool, humid Alta Verapaz region in north-central Guatemala. The area is known locally as Tezulutlán and is still populated by indigenous peoples who live and work the land using traditional methods.
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 changes. When they purchased the farm, the land and its coffee plantations were in excellent shape, however, all the plantings were of Catimor. 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.
Cobán is known for being very, very wet despite the lack of above ground water sources in the region. Constant rain (much of it gentle drizzle accumulating to 3,000 to 4,000 ml a year!) means that flowering is very staggered, with 8-9 flowerings per year. Due to this prolonged flowering season, coffee ripens at different stages, which means that up to 10 passes (with breaks of up to 14 days between passes) are needed to ensure that only the very ripest cherries are selected. The accompanying low temperatures ensure a long and steady maturation of the coffee cherries, allowing the coffee to develop a complex and distinctive cup profile.
Due to the lack of above-ground water sources, the water that the farm uses for its wet mill comes from purpose built lagoons that capture rain water and remain nearly full for at least 10 months out of the year. Coffee is selectively harvested and hand sorted before being pulped and left to ferment for 36 hours. Coffee is then selected again (using water) according to density and size before being delivered to dry.
The washed coffee is then pre-dried for about 8 hours at a constant 40˚ C before being moved to the farm’s extensive greenhouse for approximately 21 days. In fact, there are no patios at Santa Paula due to the constant rain in the region. Controlled pre-drying helps prevent over fermentation, and the Schapp’s greenhouses are sealed at both ends with adjustable vents in the roof, which ensures more control over air circulation and, thus, drying.
The organic waste from the pulped coffee is recycled, in part, using lombriculture, whereby earth worms transform the organic waste into compost that is then returned to the farm as fertilizer. However, unusually, a part of the pulp is applied directly to the plant un-composted. Due to the wet conditions, this is actually the better way to fertilise in this area as it prevents the nutrients from dissipating to quickly.
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