Zelaya Espresso, Guatemala


by Ricardo Zelaya
Tastes: Chocolate, balanced, fudgy
Farms: Santa Clara, San Agustin
Region: Antigua, Guatemala
Process: Fully washed
Altitude: 1,600-1,830m
Importer: WestCoast Coffee Traders



Zelaya Espresso Guatemala JJ Bean Single Origin coffee 2A perennial favourite returns with chocolaty vigour! Tastes: Chocolate, balanced, fudgy.

The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations, and produces a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees on their own farms. True Antigua coffees are grown in the Antigua Valley, bounded by the Agua, Acatenango and Fuego volcanos.

The Zelayas treat workers on their farms as members of the family. In 2010, Ricardo began a scholarship program to help workers pay for the education of their children. This program is funded by Ricardo and has the support of buyers from abroad, who have supported the cause since 2012. Managed now by his daughter Bel, who has a degree in Special Education, the dream is for the project to achieve formal non-profit status and expand to include not only all the children whose parents work on the farm but also those from surrounding communities.

Many workers on Zelaya family farms have been with the farms and the family for generations. For instance, the farm administrator, Marcos Rompiche, has worked for the Zelayas for 22 years and is the third generation to work the land. The Production Manager, Israel Yool, has 16 years working for the family and is the 2nd generation to do so. The farm provides work for 25 permanent employees year-round, all of whom help Ricardo manage the processing and production for Fincas Juaja, Santa Clara, Puerta Verde and San Augustin. The family hires an additional 332 additional individuals during the harvest, including 250 for picking alone!

Every cherry on the farm is hand-picked and then sorted by hand before being approved by the foreman for delivery to the wet mill. The farm also hires ‘special pickers’ who have demonstrated particular dexterity and are selected to hand harvest some of the farms’ micro-lots. These employees can receive more than double the minimum daily wage through picking coffee at the farm. According to Ricardo, although they are very demanding about picking practices, people come back year upon year. This is a testament to the fair treatment they receive. In fact, Ricardo’s employees recently made a ‘happy’ video for him and his family to express their satisfaction with their work environment.

Zelaya Espresso Guatemala JJ Bean Single Origin coffee 5Fermentation for these washed coffees runs around 14-22 hours. Santa Clara mill, where the coffees are wet milled, is very careful with their scarce water resources, as Antigua experiences an extended dry season and water reserves are increasingly threatened by population growth and urbanization. Water that is used to wash fermented coffee is recycled after having all solids removed and is reused during the de-pulping stage for the following lot to be processed. This has the added benefit of inoculating the next batch as it is pulped, which speeds fermentation times and helps maintain consistent mix of yeasts and bacteria during fermentation. After being used twice in this way, the water is filtered through a complex treatment system of filters and sedimentation tanks, with all solids being recycled and composted as fertilizer.