This past February we visited one of the new farms we’re working with this year, Los Rabanales. It’s one of few farms left in close proximity to Guatemala City. Sitting on the porch at the farm house and hearing the heavy traffic from highways in the distance really brings home the severity of the urban sprawl eating its way through the rich, fertile farmland which traditionally has been reserved for coffee production. The pressure from developers and the temptation of quick cash from selling off land that has been in families for generations, makes it even more admirable that the team behind Rabanales are choosing to focus on specialty coffee as the solution to a challenging commodity market, rather than selling up and closing down.
The farm is currently in the care of the 5th generation, each of them having contributed major factors to build and develop Rabanales. The first generation built the mill, the 2nd created a network of roads, the 3rd extended the planting, the 4th technified the prosesses, and the 5th are specialising. Believing in the coffee and taking control of all the stages has been the key to Rabanales’ success, and will be key in its future.
A lot of experimentation is going on at Rabanales. On what used to be strawberry fields, they currently have around 14 varieties that are being tested for compatibility with and responsiveness to soil, pruning, shade etc, in order to identify the most suitable plants of the best quality. They have been reading up on old techniques for planting, digging holes and maintaining the farm systems, and it has been working well as the neat rows of 2-3 year old trees are already full of flowers.
On the 85 manzanas of farm there is a single plot of Pacamara trees, about 200 in total, producing only 7 quintales of cherry. While they normally just go in with the rest of the crop, this year Gabi decided to process them separately, so we’re very happy to have bought the lone half bag of Pacamara from Rabanales this year!
Interestingly, Rabanales receives cherries in the late afternoon and lets it rest in the tanks til early the next morning. They then run the coffee through a demucilager and takes it to the patios with no fermentation.
We’re really glad Rabanales have decided to take a chance on the specialty market, and we look forward to working with them in the future!