Guatemala Santa Isabel
Free delivery for orders above SGD 50 in Singapore
This variant is currently sold out
Country/Region: Guatemala/San Cristóbal Verapaz
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Elevation: 1400 - 1600 m.a.s.l.
We Taste: Pink Guava, Black Cherry, Hibiscus Tea
With a rich history dating back to 1875, Finca Santa Isabel is located near the town of San Cristóbal Verapaz in Cobán, Guatemala. It is run by Don Luis and his son Wicho, who has a diverse background in agronomy. Hence, they pride themselves on their unique farming techniques that took over 15 years to perfect.
The 300 acre land that Finca Santa Isabel sits on was first acquired by Luis Valdes I's grandfather, when the land was granted to the Valdes family by the Guatemalan President in 1875. The farm changed hands when it was inherited by a nephew who sold the farm to a third party, but it returned to the Valdes family in 1960, when Luis Valdes I purchased it back, and subsequently started a coffee plantation in 1965.
Today, Luis Valdes I and his son Luis Valdes II - nicknamed Wicho - manage the farm as general manager and agricultural manager respectively. Taking after his father, Wicho's 5 year old son now spends his school holidays at the farm. Wicho has a background in agronomy, leading him to experiment with new techniques.
When Don Luis Valdes I first planted the farm with Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai varieties, the Cobán region did not have a reputation for high-quality coffee as it does today. Back then, coffee has to be mechanically dried due to the humid climate. Knowing the region had more to offer, Don Luis placed attention on improved cultivation techniques and drying practices. With the help of Wicho, they managed to transform the quality of the coffee, going on to place in Guatemala's Cup of Excellence twice in a row.
Santa Isabel prides itself on their innovative pruning schedule, taking 15 years of experimentation to develop, succeeding in reducing the impact of leaf rush on the plantation. The coffee plants are pruned in a five-row, five-year cycle, paying attention to the different needs of each varietal. This also reduces the need for fertilisers and pest control, at half of what their neighbours have to apply. This is achieved by reducing excess humidity and eradicating fungal diseases.
Due to the constant rainfall during harvest season, flowering is rather staggered, leading to gradually ripening of coffee cherries. Hence, the cherries are harvested in several passes (up to 10) across the duration of the season, to ensure only the ripest cherries are collected. The cherries are transported to the receiving tanks by truck, and mechanically pulped. Here, the coffee is fermented for up to 48 hours, covered at night to maintain constant temperatures.
Thereafter, the coffee is washed and soaked in clean water for 24 hours to remove mucilage. The coffee is then dried on patios for a day, and transferred to wooden boxes and moved to greenhouses to dry for 15 to 30 days, until 30% humidity is reached. Lastly, the coffee is finished in mechanical dryers called guardiolas, according to a strict, controlled schedule. This takes place at no more than 40°C, with rests between to regulate humidity. Once 15% humidity is achieved, the coffee is rested in the warehouse for 21 days before further preparation for export.
Santa Isabel employs 40 permanent workers year-round, with up to 500 seasonal workers during the harvest season. With a stable and reliable workforce, the farm has a reputation for strict coffee cherry picking criteria, but at the same time paying fairly for higher quality work. This means that workers return to work for Santa Isabel year after year.