Stories from the field: Coffee from Huehuetenango

The mountain road is rocky and the Toyota pick-up leaves a trail of dust as we wind upwards. After nearly an hour of ascension we reach our destination: Ixconlaj.

Located in HueHuetenango at about 1,970masl, Ixconlaj is a rural community where Mam, one of Guatemala’s indigenous languages, is principally spoken. The majority of Ixconlaj’s inhabitants are subsistence farmers who cultivate crops such as corn, plantain, legumes, and the most labor intensive of all—coffee.

By the time we arrive the first round of coffee cherries have already been hand picked and depulped.  Here, the coffee seeds are in “reposo” or rather, a resting stage. They will remain like this for the next 12-48 hours undergoing a fermentation process that removes the gooey layer of mucilage covering them.

The mountain air is brisk and the added wind turns our cheeks to red apples. Inside the women are cooking tortillas over a wood stove. I admire Central America’s highest mountain chain, Los Cuchumatanes, in front of me and the swirl of clouds settling across its peaks.

Guatemala’s western highlands are perfectly suited for coffee cultivation and the coffee produced here in HueHue is both complex as it is alluring. 


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