Something New: Santa Isabel Guatemala

June 20, 2013

We’re always excited about a great bean and today, we’d like to tell you all about the Santa Isabel Guatemala. It’s an amazingly complex organic coffee with a fruity, red wine aroma, sparkling raspberry taste, light body and a sweet lemon finish.

Grown at an altitude of 3500-5000 Feet on the Finca Santa Isabel Estate, the species is Arabica, and the variety name for this bean is rather long, and winding, like a mountain road: Catuai, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Bourbon, Pacamara. Unlike most Guatemalas, its processing is natural, rather than the wet processing more typical to the type. It is harvested November through February. The aroma is fruity, rather like red wine, the taste complex, with a touch of raspberry sparkle. The body is light, the finish is sweet-lemon, and short.

Finca Santa Isabel is a family estate started in 1899 by Federico Keller. Today, it is still managed by the Keller family, by Dieter Keller, Martin Keller and Alex Keller. The farm has about 2220 acres. Approximately, 1480 acres are planted with coffee. The rest of the farm is a natural reserve, registered with the Guatemalan Conservation Authorities. The coffee plantation is under several species of shade trades.  Presently, they are increasing the number of species of shade trees and ground cover in order to create more diversity. In 2012, they installed 16,000 broca traps, which have worked well.  This program helps to control insects and to eliminate the use of chemical insecticides. Presently, the management of weeds is all manual.  They stopped using herbicides three years ago and are happy with the results in the plantation.

The current generation of Kellers have brought a much fresher feel to the family plantation, leaving it shinier and healthier than before. They built their own wet and dry mill. The wet mill has water recirculation and a water filter system which attempts to collect sediments as much as possible… again to be used in compost fabrication. For seasonal workers, Finca Santa Isabel has created an industrial kitchen which provides three meals a day of balanced and clean food. They also built a kindergarten and a primary school for the locality, a health center and a church.  These facilities are maintained with the help of local authorities. The Kellers have obtained 16 computers for the school.

Rainforest Alliance provides more information about the positive impact that the Finca Santa Isabel estate has made on its community:

• The water used to process the coffee, often a major source of river

pollution and water use throughout Latin America, is recycled.

• The farm’s forest reserve is recognized by the government as a

wildlife refuge and managed accordingly.

• Pulp and other organic waste materials are composted and used as

fertilizer in the coffee plant nursery.

• The coffee mill is equipped with the most modern technology —

some of it invented by the Kellers themselves — to prevent pollution.

• Environmental education is incorporated into the farm’s school

curriculum at all grade levels.

• Potable water is provided to all employees free of charge and a

private doctor is on hand for all of their medical needs.

• Workers, even seasonal ones, have good housing — with lights,

running water and sanitary facilities — that is adapted to the

traditions of the various ethnic groups that gather at Finca Santa

Isabel each harvest season.

• All workers receive three full meals per day, including tortillas made in the farm’s industrial kitchen — an important detail given the fact

that the traditional manner of tortilla-making involves the cutting

and burning of firewood.

• The farm has contributed to local infrastructure projects such as

bridge construction and road maintenance.

The Keller’s estate is a perfect example of the way that we hope that our own work through coffee, can make a positive impact. Come in to try their bean, and let us know what you think.

Here’s a link to a video on YouTube, shot by a visitor to the plantation!

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