Luis Pedro Zelaya is well known in the Specialty Coffee scene because he exports many of the very best Guatemalan coffees on the market, year after year. His buyer list is a who's who of specialty coffee, and we're fortunate and excited to have picked up a bunch of great coffees from him this year.
When you pass through the armed guards at the gate, you drive through the coffee growing on each side of the road. The bumpy cobblestones are similar to the downtown streets of Antigua, which, as it turns out, is really just a few minutes away. After passing through a few more guards, and lots of coffee, you end up at the mill.
The Bella Vista mill is situated at the base of Volcán De Agua. It's sort of surreal because it just towers right there in front of you. Pretty much everyone in coffee has photos of this spot, because coffee is drying on huge patios, and the volcano stretches up way into the sky just beyond the people working on the patios.
The cupping lab opposite Volcán de Agua is a model of efficiency. They set up table after table with 20+ coffees at a time, already prescreened for what they know you're in the market for. The tables move fast -- it's at your pace, but there are lots of coffees to get through. You also have to keep it moving to help from the overthinking that can come with tasting so many amazing coffees back to back while trying to nitpick the details and make sure you bring your favorites home. While we're tasting all the coffees, LPZ's team alternates tables, and is clearing, cleaning, grinding, and resetting constantly. They also jump in to taste and discuss especially when something interesting comes up -- good, bad, or just unexpected.
On this trip, I was with friends from Verve Coffee, and we were choosing some lots of coffee together. We'd usually end up choosing between 3-6 coffees that really jumped off each table, and then we'd confirm with Luis Pedro how many bags were represented for each of those we selected. Using a combo of an old school and new school approach, LPZ would flip through his stapled post-it style notepad, and then check a huge corresponding spreadsheet on his MacBook. Then he'd call out what farm and day lot the coffees were from, and call out "3 bags, 18 bags, 44 bags". If the supply lined up with what we were looking for, we'd book them then and there.
The first of these coffees we're launching this year is our new espresso and single origin filter offering called Candelaria. Up soon will be coffees from Finca Santa Clara, Los Santos, Aragon, and Hunapu. We can't wait to share them all in the coming months. Stay tuned for details!