Antigua is a stunning city. Seemingly ancient Spanish colonial buildings line cobblestone streets all nestled between three volcanos. Coffee farms are found scattered just outside the city, but so close that they feel like they are within the city itself.
Felicidad is owned by Elena Aguirre de Asensio and operated by Luis Pedro Zelaya. Varieties grown on the farm include Bourbon, Caturra and Villa Sarchí and gravilea trees are used for shade: strict management of the shade is employed, as it is very important for the growing process. Specialized agricultural activities including strict pruning schedules are overseen by Mr. Zelaya to ensure good production yields and high quality. In addition, cherries are hand-picked by workers living near the farm, creating a good source of local employment.
After cherries are picked, they are taken to Bella Vista for processing. Owned and operated by Luis Pedro Zelaya, Bella Vista is the crown jewel of specialty coffee in Antigua. Farmers arrange for their cherry to be delivered to Bella Vista where it is meticulously pulped, fermented, washed and dried, held separately by delivery day and tasted by a team of very good cuppers. From there it will be presented to clients. This lot from Felicidad was constructed by the Passenger green buying team during a January 2017 sourcing trip to Antigua. It is made up of two separate day lots that the green buying team decided to blend together.
This was a challenging year for some of the farms in and around Antigua. Early in the morning on January 24th, right in the middle of the harvest season, there was a relatively severe frost. The coffee plant cannot tolerate frost and the only option when faced with this climatic occurrence is to prune the plant all the way to the ground, a process known as stumping. Within two years the plant will be producing coffee and by the third harvest after stumping the plants will be quite fruitful. In fact, stumping is performed regularly on many farms around the world and is a crucial part of Luis Pedro Zelaya’s farm management plan. That said, this is usually done on a rotating basis so that there is always coffee, and thus income, from a certain number of the plants on any given farm. In the case of Mr. Zelaya’s farm management style, he stumps one third of the trees every year. Felicidad was forced to stump 75% of their coffee due to frost this year. The immediate result of which was a much smaller harvest than normal, with Felicidad producing roughly half of what it normally does. The long-term result being a couple of abnormal years ahead before the farm is back to a normal production cycle. Thanks to the management of Luis Pedro Zelaya, a healthy recovery is all but guaranteed, a testament to the importance of proper agricultural practices. That said, it is also a stark reminder of the fact that coffee is a crop and as such at the mercy of climate. A prospect made even more scary for a crop that grows in the tropics, the region of the world that will and in fact is already beginning to experience climate change more dramatically than anywhere else on the planet.
In The Cup
- Coffees from Antigua are perfect daily drinkers. This particular lot from Felicidad is full of rich and complex baking spice and fig qualities over a base of cocoa and toasted nuts.
- Owned by Elena Aguirre de Asensio, the coffee cherries grown on Felicidad are processed at the Bella Vista mill which is owned and operated by Luis Pedro Zelaya. This was a challenging year in Antigua, with many farms badly affected by a frost that formed early in the morning on January 24th. Coffee cannot tolerate frost and nearly 50% of Felicidad’s crop was lost. This particular lot was harvested before the devastating frost, but the ongoing effects of the frost will be felt in and around Antigua for a number of years to come.