Finca El Zapote can be found high up in the mountains of Huehuetenango, on the border with Mexico near the small town of Aguas Dulces. The coffee from Hernan Pérez has been a steady contribution to the assortment of The Coffee Quest. It started out as one of the first Guatemalan coffees imported in 2016, and the constant collaboration brought several Estate lots and even a price winning Geisha.
Over time we have noticed a good consistency in quality, thanks to the high production standards, altitude, segmentation of varieties and the steady weather conditions high up in the mountains. After discussing our findings with Hernán Pérez we were able to set a profile with a signature farm blend for The Coffee Quest, combining the beans from his Catuai and Bourbon plot (sometimes adding some of his Caturra). This unique relationship with the Pérez Family helps us to find the blend that fits our customers.
El Zapote is a family story: they transmit at each generation the passion for coffee and the pride to grow better quality. Hernan is the fifth generation from the Perez family owning El Zapote. With his father, they share the managing tasks of the Finca: Hernan takes care of everything related to the logistics, the quality control, the marketing, the sales and some strategic decisions like the choice of new varieties. His father supervises the plantations, the harvesting part and the processes.
The Perez family acquired El Zapote y Anexos in the late 1950’s, the production of green coffee was around 20 qq (907 kg). At the beginning they only grew Typica Coffee, in 1960 they started introducing new varieties like Red Bourbon and Red Caturra.
El Zapote y Anexos is now 80 (ha) of coffee plantations from varied varieties: (40%) Red Catuaí, (25%) Red Caturra and the rest are Red Bourbon, Yellow Catuaí, Villa Sarchí, Gesha and A-14.
El Zapote lands are divided in the main Finca and different annexes: El Roble, El Güishnai, Ponderosa, Rincon…. Each annexe has some distinctive features: the varieties, the altitude, or specificities such as the shape of rock or a tree species. An annexe is for example called El Naranjo and one of the coffee lots from El Zapote imported by The Coffee Quest this year is also called El Naranjo because on this piece of land are growing orange fruit trees.
The Hernan Family lives in Huehuetenango City most of the time, and moves to the farm during the harvest (between January and April, during the dry season). During the harvest season, El Zapote hires between 150 and 200 people depending on the trend of high or low harvest. They mostly come from communities near the farm. Pickers are usually men, women tend to stay at home and take care of the household. Some women are hired to harvest fruits and very few are coffee pickers.
Harvesting is the important time of the cultivation cycle. The harvest begins in the low areas of the farm, where the coffee matures earlier. Hernan’s father makes sure with the pickers that the cherries are picked at their optimum point of ripeness, without cutting green beans or camagües (unripes), avoiding hurting the coffee plant and leaving no beans lying on the ground that may attract pests.
In the same neighborhood as El Zapote is Family Bond’s San Antonio from whom we also source coffee. Both families are the result of a long coffee tradition in Huehuetenango. Together they share experiences and knowledge in all processes, to improve and seek sustainability so that future generations can continue to produce unique, distinctive and exotic coffees.
The new challenges of growing coffees for Hernan and his family are the same as most of the coffee producers in Central America: the low prices of the coffee on the C market and an unstable climate with heavy rains in the Huehuetenango region.