As in El Salvador, coffee became an important crop only in Guatemala after 1856, when the world’s invention of chemical dyes reduced demand for indigo, then the main crop. Coffee emerged as an alternative export crop, supported by the government through trade and tax incentives.
By 1859, more than half a million coffee trees had been planted around Antigua, Coban, Fraijanes, and San Marcos and nearly 400 bags (45kg) had been exported to Europe. In the late 1800s, Guatemala was exporting nearly 150 thousand tons of coffee a year. Until 2011, Guatemala was still one of the five largest coffee-producing countries in the world, although in recent years Honduras has outperformed.
Guatemalan coffee production
About the same size as the state of Ohio, Guatemala ranks second in the world (after Colombia) in specialty coffee, and has the highest percentage of quality coffee crops in the region. More than half of Guatemala’s coffee is exported to the US, which accounts for one-eighth of the country’s GNP and generates about one-third of its foreign exchange.
And like many other coffee-growing countries, Guatemala is Not out of the scenario of injustice, of the hundreds of millions of dollars collected, only a few trickle down to the working class in this country’s coffee industry. The following information is compiled by Cafeimports in 2017:
- The population involved in the coffee industry: Approximately 500,000 people.
- Average farm size: 1 to 50 hectares.
- Annual export output: 3.4 million bags (60 kg).
Guatemala coffee farming activities:
- Coffee growing areas: Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Chimaltenango, Cobán, Fraijanes, Huehuetenango, Nuevo Oriente, ..
- Popular coffee varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Typica, Maragogype, Pache,…
- Processing Method: Mostly wet-processed
Classification: According to cultivation altitude, altitude descends from SHB ( Strictly Hard Bean); FHB (Fancy Hard Bean); HB (Hard Bean)
Difficulties and challenges
Despite facing numerous obstacles, from longstanding racism and social unrest caused by the global economic downturn to government coups, reform.
However, the production of Guatemala’s coffee still peaked at the beginning of the 21st century with about 5 million bags, however, production decreased by a third only a few years later (to 345,000 bags in 2004) when coffee prices plummeted.
The sharp drop in coffee prices has increased the already difficult conditions for coffee farmers in Guatemala.
“During the recent crisis, those lucky enough to find work in the coffee harvest received an average wage of around $3.00 per day down to about $2.00 per day.” – Larry Thompson from Refugees International’s.
Although statistics can vary considerably, USAID estimates that 56% of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty and 20% in extreme poverty
If in Brazil frost is a big problem for the coffee industry, Guatemala coffee also has another big problem called coffee leaf rust. The reason for the decline of Guatemalan coffee in the world market is that as early as 2012 and for many years after, an outbreak of rust disease became a serious impact on coffee production in the world, reducing production by 25% and prompting the government to declare a state of emergency
Farmers have tried to combine chemical and organic treatments, pruning, reducing shade trees, and replacing susceptible Arabica varieties such as Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai with more resistant varieties.
The Guatemalan Coffee Alliance
From futile difficulties and return to the throne, Guatemala has had for itself strong alliances that are working for the goal of sustainably increasing the livelihoods of farmers involved in the country’s coffee industry, most notably These include the National Coffee Association (Anacafé) and the Federation of Specialty Coffee Marketing of Guatemala (FECCEG).
Anacafé – Asosiación Nacional del Café was established in 1960, and operates as a private organization with independent funding. Anacafé currently represents more than 125 thousand families of coffee growers from all over Guatema, conducting various trials and studies to assist farmers in production, product promotion (see more about Anacafé ).
Meanwhile, the Federation of Marketing of Specialty Coffees of Guatemala (FECCEG), is a second-tier cooperative consisting of 12 small producer cooperatives in the Central Highlands of Guatemala (this area includes parts of Chimaltenango, Huehuetenango, Quiché, Sololá, San Marcos, and Quetzaltenango).
In total, FECCEG represents 1,943 smallholder farmers, of which 529 are women, Seventy percent of the members depend on agricultural production as their main livelihood (see more about FECCEG ).
The main coffee beans growing regions in Guatemala
Guatemalan coffee is usually traced back to the farm coffee growing region, or to a cooperative group or producer. While some regions in Guatemala are now protected of origin, the country has a long history of traceability and high-quality coffee production facilities as many of the farmers have processing plants wet turn their own coffee.
Antigua is perhaps the most famous coffee-producing region in Guatemala, and one of the most famous in the world. The area is named after the city of Antigua, famous for its Spanish architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region obtained its Certificate of Origin in 2000 as “ Genuine Antigua Coffee ” (“ Genuine Antigua Coffee ”), after the market depreciated due to coffee being labeled as counterfeit Antigua.
This has prevented coffee beans from other origins from being sold under the Antigua name but has not stopped counterfeiters from bringing cherries from other regions to Antigua for processing.
Antigua has a sunny climate with less rain than other regions and is also surrounded by three large volcanoes, Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. Volcanic soils help retain moisture better, creating more favorable conditions for coffee plants. Antigua fair trade coffee is considered to have the typical qualities of Guatemala coffee.
Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 340m, it’s a surface area of more than 130 km 2. The Atitlan coffee-growing area that surrounds Lake Atitlan in Guatemala lies at the foot of three volcanoes south of Lake Atitlan. Unlike Antigua, this area receives heavy rainfall year-round, but coffee trees grow on fertile volcanic soil, giving them a richer flavor.
This is one of the famous areas of Guatemala, and the pronunciation is also quite interesting (generally “way-way-ten-an-go”) The name translates from Nahuatl as “place of the ancients” or “ancestral place”. This area has the highest non-volcanic mountains in Central America and they are well suited for growing coffee. Huehuetenango is still heavily dependent on coffee as export and there are some truly incredible coffees produced here.
Huehuetenango is located near the Mexican border, enjoying the hot winds from Mexico’s Tehuantepec plain, so the coffee trees here grow very tall but are not affected by frost.
Is a small area on the eastern edge of the country along the Honduras border, with elevations between 1,300 and 1,600 meters. The climate here has more rain than other regions, the temperature is relatively stable and the sunlight is moderate, very favorable for coffee remains Guatemala trees.
Finally, the map of coffee and coffee Guatemala has too much to say, although I have tried to filter it, the information is countless, so I will stop here, but also partly because I am tired of writing here.