Guatemala’s coffee belt runs along a chain of 34 volcanoes that crosses the country from East to West and benefits the coffee production with soils rich in minerals and nutrients. The soil is mostly volcanic, limestone and pumice. Consistent rainfall and year round warm climate guarantee the crops. The coffee is mostly grown under Gravilea and Inga shade trees which make 7% of the national forest. It is always hand-picked and dried under the sun, except for the Cobán coffee, which production region is sometimes too humid.
Coffee is cultivated on 305 000 hectares and accounts for 500 000 jobs per year giving wages to 8% of the economically active population. It also makes 13% of the agricultural exports, making it the second most important agricultural product in the country.
Guatemalan coffee is divided into eight regions that are distinct in flavor and quality due to the different microclimates that can be found in those regions. The coffee tastes thus, from bright and winey in the upper highlands to full-bodied nougat in the lower valleys.
The main coffee classifications for growing altitudes are:
- Prime: 850 – 1000 masl
- Extra Prime: 1000 – 1200 masl
- Semi-Hard Bean: 1200 – 1350 masl
- Hard Bean (HB): 1350 – 1500 masl
- Strictly Hard Bean (SHB): 1500 – 2000 masl