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Guatemalan Coffee:
The Ultimate Guide & 8 Best Coffee Beans

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

If there is a nation on Earth that feels like it was specifically designed for growing coffee, it would be Guatemala.

The combination of climate, altitude, and volcanic soil makes Guatemalan coffee some of the most exciting in the world. Whilst it may be hard to find a good cup of coffee if you’re visiting Guatemala, the good news is you’ll have no trouble at home – almost all of the good stuff is exported.

With so much to look into, we’ve picked out the best Guatemalan coffee beans for you to try alongside the flavors you can expect. For anyone who wants to really geek out, we’ll also run through everything you need to know about this Arabica-growing paradise.

This article may contain affiliate/ compensated links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information please see our disclaimer here.

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Best Overall

Altruistic Joe - Guatemalan  Huehuetenango Beans

Altruistic Joe – Guatemala Huehuetenango

This phenomenal coffee is bursting with flavors of caramel and fruity berries. The beans are lovingly grown by a father and son team before being sold by Altruistic Joe, a veteran-owned company that donates 20% of its profits to charity.

Great taste and great ethics, what’s not to love?

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Quick Comparison

Image Product Details
Altruistic Joe – Guatemalan Huehuetenango
  • Medium roast
  • From Huehuetenango
  • Flavors of fresh fruit and sweet caramel
Volcanica Guatemala Peaberry Coffee
  • Medium roast
  • From Antigua
  • Flavors of sweet berries, gentle citrus, fresh acidity
Volcanica Guatemala Antigua Decaf
  • Medium roast
  • From Antigua
  • Flavors of chocolate, nuts
Bean & Bean Guatemala Gesha Washed
  • Light roast
  • From Acatenango
  • Flavors of Peach, Kiwi, Sweet tea, Bergamot
Out of the Grey – Guatemalan Antigua SHB
  • Medium/Dark roast
  • From Antigua
  • Flavors of lychee, caramel, vanilla
Cooper’s Cask – Guatemalan Cold Brew
  • Medium roast
  • Guatemalan coffee blend
  • Flavors of milk chocolate, caramel, orange
Two Volcanoes – Guatemalan Espresso Blend
  • Medium roast
  • From San Marcos
  • Flavors of caramel, nuts, chocolate, citrus fruits
Guatemala by Portland Coffee Roasters
  • Light roast
  • From Highland Huehue
  • Flavors of chocolate, cinnamon, raisin, molasses
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Best Guatemalan Coffee Beans

Guatemalan coffee lovers can feel pretty smug about the variety of flavors on offers. The country’s exciting topography means there’s a lot of variation in the flavor profiles from each of the different coffee regions. So if something isn’t quite for you, take a look at a neighbouring region and you’ll likely find something you do love.

It also means that blends of different areas can have a wonderfully rich and complex flavor.

To help you find the best options for you, we’ve picked out some of the very best Guatemalan coffee beans. They all taste pretty different so we’re sure there’s one you’ll love – or give them all a go to truly appreciate this amazing coffee nation!

Guatemalan Huehuetenango, Altruistic Joe (Best Overall)

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium Roast

Region: Single-origin from Huehuetenango

Varietals: Bourbon and Caturra group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Sweet caramel with fruity berries

Important notes: Altruistic Joe is a veteran-owned company and donates 20% of profits to charity

Father and son team, Arturo and Vielmann Villatoro, grow caturra and bourbon coffee varietals on 98 of the 120 hectares of their farm in Huehuetenango. The coffee is shade-grown to ensure the best growing conditions and flavor.

Huehuetenango is situated in the largest non-volcanic mountain range in the country on the Mexican border. The cooler temperatures mean complex fruit flavors burst through in the coffee beans. We absolutely love this flavor profile, particularly as a straight espresso (no milk, creamer, etc) or brewed in a French press.

The use of washed processing shows off the delicious coffee flavors at their purest and best.

Altruistic Joe also donates 20% of profits to charitable causes, so you can feel good that the money you spend on coffee is going to all the right places.

Guatemala Peaberry Coffee, Volcanica (Best Peaberry)

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium Roast

Region: Antigua

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Sweet berries, gentle citrus notes, and fresh acidity

Important notes: Peaberry coffee is rare, making up only 5% of the crop

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Peaberry coffee beans occur naturally in around 5% of the crop. It’s a biological freak of nature where there is just a single bean in the coffee cherry, rather than the usual two facing each other.

What it means for you, the coffee lover, is a smoother finish and more intense flavors than you would expect from non-peaberry Guatemalan coffee beans.

This particular Guatemala peaberry coffee is from the Antigua region. It shows the immense flavor complexity and softer acidity that are associated with this region. To taste, you will get notes of rich strawberry and blueberry alongside delicate citrus and balanced acidity.

Santa Felisa, Gesha, Bean & Bean (Best Light Roast)

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Light Roast

Region: Acatenango

Varietals: Gesha

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Peach, Kiwi, Sweet Earl Grey

Important notes: Bean & Bean donate a portion of profits to protect sloths

Santa Felisa farm is run by the incredibly talented ecologist, agronomist, and Q Grader Annabella Meneses. Annabella has been researching innovative processing methods to develop new flavors in coffee. This dedication resulted in first place in the 2017 Guatemalan Cup of Excellence.

This farm also takes sustainability seriously:

This stunning Gesha coffee can rival any you’ll find across Central America. The washed process preserves a delicate flavor and really allows the natural excellence of the beans to shine. Similarly, lightly roasting the beans brings out the floral notes that make this coffee so special.

For me, these beans are best as a pour over. I always reach for my V60 or Chemex to allow the flavors to sing.

Bean & Bean is an NYC-based roaster run by a Mother and Daughter team, who are both Q graders. All their coffees are exceptional but we feel this Gesha from Acatenango is the pick of the bunch.

They also donate a portion of the profits to The Sloth Institute. And we love sloths, so it’s a win all around!

Volcanica Guatemala Antigua Coffee (Decaf)

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium Roast

Region: Antigua

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Chocolate and nuts

Important notes: Decaffeinated using Swiss Water Process

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If you can’t or don’t want to consume caffeine, you can still enjoy the famous Guatemalan coffee beans thanks to Volcanica. 

Hailing from a single farm in the beautiful Antigua region of Guatemala, this coffee has the bold flavors and gentle acidity associated with the best coffees this country has to offer.

You will experience notes of fresh apples, raisins, chocolate, and a bright finish. This full-bodied decaf coffee is really impressive. The farm, Finca Medina,  has been growing coffee since 1842 and you can really taste the depth of their experience. They are committed to sustainability and to preserving the natural forests around them.

This coffee is decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process. In other words, no chemicals have been used – just pure water to soak the beans, extracting all the flavors and the caffeine. The caffeine is then stripped from the water by charcoal and, when the next batch of beans is soaked, only the caffeine is removed. Pretty cool and the result is some of best decaf coffee out here.

Guatemala Antigua Coffee Las Nubes SHB, Out of the Grey

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium-Dark Roast

Region: Antigua

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Lychee, caramel, and vanilla with soft acidity

Important notes: Owned by the Echeverría family who has been growing coffee on this land for over 50 years

On the slopes of Guatemala’s third tallest volcano – Volcan de Acatenango – and facing the beautiful city of Antigua comes “las Nubes” or “Clouds” coffee. The slightly higher humidity causes the coffee cherries to ripen a little bit sooner than in other areas. This gives a gentler acidity that can be ideal for those with sensitive stomachs.

Strictly Hard Bean coffees (SHB) are the highest grade of Guatemalan coffee beans. Only the best hard bean coffees are allowed to be sold with regional designations. So, if you see any SHB coffee labeled as just “Guatemalan”, it will be of lower quality.

This coffee is slightly softer in style but still has excellent complexity. Grown between 5,000 and 6,200 feet asl, the flavor profile features sweet lychee and berries, vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and gentle acidity.

Cooper’s Cask Guatemalan Coffee Cold Brew

Cooper's Cask Guatemalan Coffee Cold Brew (Smooth and Sweet Whole Bean)

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium Roast

Region: Blend of Guatemalan coffees

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Milk chocolate, caramel, and orange

Important notes: USDA Organic Certified, roasted specifically for cold brewing

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Roasted especially with cold brew coffee in mind, this option from Cooper’s Cask shows off the great flavors many Guatemalan coffees are so well-known for. Plus, it delivers a rich and smooth cold brew experience with ease.

You can expect a smooth caramel and milk chocolate flavor with hints of orange and citrus in the background of this organic Guatemalan coffee (USDA Certified).

As a company, Cooper’s Cask Coffee is known for small-batch roasting and for its superb customer service. So if for any reason, you are unhappy with the coffee you’ve received they will issue a replacement or refund.

Two Volcanoes Guatemala Coffee

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Medium Roast

Region: San Marcos

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Caramel, nuts, chocolate, and citrus fruits

Important notes: This USDA Organic Certified coffee is grown, roasted, and shipped by the same company

Two Volcanoes know exactly where their coffee comes from. They take control of the entire process from growing to shipping, ensuring that they only send you the very best quality Guatemalan coffee.

All their coffee is sourced from the San Marcos region of Guatemala, between two volcanoes. As the warmest and wettest region, San Marcos is known for complex specialty coffee bean production with a unique profile.

The classic flavors of chocolate, caramel, complex berry notes, and balanced acidity come bursting through in this medium roast.

They’re not just interested in great flavor but also in doing great things too. As a company, Two Volcanoes Coffee, are very active in the local community to promote and ensure the sustainability of coffee farming practices. Plus, they are 100% USDA Certified Organic.

Overall, this is one of the best Guatemalan coffee brands. By controlling everything from farm to cup, they have complete oversight and can promise greatness.

Guatemala, Portland Coffee Roasters

What to Expect:

Roast Level: Light Roast

Region: Highland Huehue

Varietals: Bourbon and Typica group

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Chocolate, cinnamon, raisin, and molasses

Important notes: Single origin coffee beans from a single farm purchased via Direct Trade for nearly 20 years

The all-around excellent Portland Coffee Roasters have been buying from a single farm in the Highland Huehue region of Guatemala for nearly 20 years. This long-term relationship has been a fantastic partnership for both sides, resulting in a superb light roast coffee for us.

With notes of raisin, chocolate, and caramel, this coffee packs the kind of punch that really highlights Guatemalan coffee at its finest. The sweet round notes are balanced with bright acidity on the finish and the light roast really allows you to experience the uniqueness of the region.

Portland Coffee Roasters has been steadily improving the sustainability of its business with renewable energy and recycling processes. This dedication to constant improvement is good to see as it hopefully means they’ll continue to work as green technologies develop.

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Flavor Profile

When drinking or buying coffee from this fine coffee-growing nation, one thing is for certain: you can expect delicious coffee beans.

The Guatemalan coffee flavor profile is bold flavor with a full body, complex aromatics, and moderate acidity.

As a land of volcanoes and with over 1,631 named mountains, the growing conditions in Guatemala lend themselves very favorably to producing high cup quality coffee.

The high altitudes lead to slower ripening of the coffee cherries, allowing complex flavor compounds to develop. The result? Better coffee.

If that wasn’t enough, the mineral-rich volcanic soils of Guatemala are also ideal for growing top-quality coffee. Many of the compounds needed for plants to thrive are abundant in volcanic soil. So the constant eruptions of Guatemala’s volcanoes ensure a continuous supply of these rarer minerals in the soil of volcanic regions.

Depending on which region your coffee has come from, the flavor profile will vary. From the floral and delicate flavors of San Marco, to the chocolatey coffee of New Oriente, to the more fruit-driven tastes of Fraijanes Plateau – the Guatemalan coffee experience has it all.

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Coffee Growing Regions

The coffee grown in Guatemala is amongst the best in the world. Most of the coffee grown is higher-grade varietals of the Arabica coffee plant, generally from the Typica and Bourbon group.

A combination of the topography and weather conditions make this country absolutely ideal for growing the popular Guatemalan coffee beans. There are over 1631 mountains and 37 official volcanoes (many of which are still active). This makes the soil nutrient-rich and the coffee cherries can ripen more slowly, giving them time to develop complex, incredible flavor profiles. 

Similar to other coffee-producing countries, when you pick up a bag of coffee from Guatemala, it will often proudly display the region it came from. So, to help you make sense of what this means for quality and flavor here’s a quick guide to the main coffee regions:

Map of Guatemala's Coffee Regions

Acatenango Valley

Here, coffee is grown in the shadow of the dormant Acatenango Volcano and the very active Fuego Volcano. Thanks to the thriving forests of the region, the coffee plants grow under a canopy of shade. 

With altitudes ranging from 4,300-6,500 feet asl and cooling winds of the Pacific Ocean, the cherries ripen slowly, developing intense flavors.

The soil is kept mineral-rich by the constant daily explosions of the Fuego volcano – there are between 2 to 14 per hour and can often be seen all the way in Antigua! These are perfect growing conditions for Arabica coffee so the cup quality from this region is among the best in Guatemala.

Acatenango Valley coffee beans feature bright acidity, strong aromatics, a full body, and great balance.

Antigua

Located between 3 volcanoes – Volcán de Agua, Acatenango, and Volcán de Fuego – the Antigua coffee region has lower humidity and cooler nights than the nearby Acatenango Valley region. The coffee farms surrounding the beautiful town of Antigua use the dense forests to help stave off the occasional frosts that can affect the region.

Volcán de Fuego keeps the soil rich in volcanic minerals and, whilst the elevation isn’t as extreme as other parts of Guatemala, the farms are still a lofty 5000-5600 feet asl.

The famed Guatemala Antigua coffee holds a special place in the hearts and homes of many coffee lovers. This is thanks to the sweet, rich, elegant, and extremely aromatic cup of coffee they brew.

Traditional Atitlan

Traditional Atitlan is arguably the most beautiful coffee region in Guatemala – which is saying a lot given the tough competition.

The volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan mean that the soil here has the highest density of organic material of any of Guatemala’s coffee regions. This is great news for all the crops and for growing top-quality coffee beans.

The cooling winds from the lake, known as Xocomil, moderate the temperature with growing elevations of 5,000-5,600 feet asl. 

If you are enjoying a cup of coffee from Traditional Atitlan you will experience intense aromatics with citrus acidity and a full body.

Rainforest Cobán

The wettest region of Guatemala, Cobán sits in the Atlantic basin where there are limestone and clay soils. Here, the coffee must be dried by machine as it’s too wet to reliably dry by only the sun. The misty rain known locally as chipi-chipi often covers the region and isn’t ideal for coffee drying.

However, the cooler and wetter climate also means there are some lower-lying coffee farms than elsewhere. You can find farms at altitudes ranging from 4,300 to 5,600 feet asl.

Coffee from Rainforest Cobán is more fruit-driven, with a delicate aroma and medium body.

Coffee tree at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Coffee tree on the slopes around Lake Atitlan, Southern Guatemala

Fraijanes Plateau

Near the Honduran border lies the Fraijanes plateau with fantastic coffee-growing potential:

Here there are high altitudes, consistent seasons, volcanic pumice soil, and an active volcano continuously topping up the nutrients. With conditions like these, it’s really no surprise they produce some fine Guatemalan coffee. 

Fraijanes Plateau lies next to the most active volcano in Guatemala – Pacaya. The wet season is very wet, but the dry season is consistent enough to allow sun drying to take place. Altitudes here are between 4,500 and 6,000 feet asl.

Coffee from Fraijanes Plateau has the highest acidity of the Guatemalan coffee regions but this is balanced with a full body and rich fruit notes.

Highland Huehue

Huehuetenango, often shortened to HueHue, is a region located in the Western Highlands area. It is the highest non-volcanic region in Guatemala under coffee cultivation.

The benefits of growing coffee in Huehuetenango benefits are the warm winds from the Tehuantepec Plain in Mexico, which staves off frost. This allows coffee to be grown up to 6,500 feet asl.

It’s an extremely remote location which means all Huehuetenango coffee beans must be processed in the region. Luckily there is an abundance of water from the many streams and rivers of the region so coffee mills can be located pretty much anywhere.

Highland Huehue coffee is very full-bodied with intense acidity and fine wine-like notes.

Nuevo Oriente (New Oriente)

Pretty much every farm in New Oriente grows coffee now. It was first cultivated here in the 1950s and has helped turn around one of the poorest areas of Guatemala. Although the farms are on a volcanic range, the soil is very different from those with active volcanoes.

Coffee farms range from 4,300 to 5,600 feet asl and the coffee from this region is full-bodied and nicely balanced. It also has the most pronounced chocolate flavor of any Guatemalan region.

Volcanic San Marcos

As the warmest and wettest coffee region in Guatemala, San Marcos has a slightly different harvest season to the others with earlier flowering and picking. The intense rainfall often means the coffee needs to be mechanically dried, as well as sun-dried.

This is another remote region so all coffee processing needs to take place nearby.

Here, you will find coffee farms at altitudes between 4,300 and 6,000 feet asl. The coffee from San Marcos is floral and delicate, medium-bodied, and has a pronounced acidity on the finish.

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Best Brewing Methods

Having bought some of the best Guatemala coffees, you’re going to want to make sure you do them justice with your brewing method.

You may already have a favorite type of coffee maker, but here are our top choices for experiencing Guatemalan coffee at its finest:

Guatemalan Coffee: 4 best brewing methods

French Press

It’s easy, the equipment is cheap, and it preserves all those flavorsome oils that exist in your beans. What’s not to love?

French press is a great way to experience any new coffee beans as it works for all roasts, doesn’t require any skill, and ensures all the flavor goes where it should.

It doesn’t leave you with many options with the final form of your coffee, just black or…..white. But you’ll definitely experience all the unique flavors from your Guatemalan coffee beans.

Psst.. Want to know more about making French Press coffee? We’ve got some useful guides to transport you straight to the streets of Paris – you just need to bring the croissants:

Ultimate Guide to French Press Coffee | Best Coffee Beans for French Press | French Press Ratio Made Easy (With Calculator)

Pour Over

Similar to the French press in that pour over coffee makers are cheap, work for all coffee roast levels, and preserve the volatile oils on the beans. However, making pour over does require a little more effort than making French press and a touch of skill too.

The purity of the aromatics from a well-executed pour over is incredible and totally worth the effort. It’s particularly good for brewing lightly roasted coffee beans.

If you’re not a fan of the texture of French press, pour over can be a great option for you to get clean, clear coffee but with all the flavor. If you’re not sure where to start, the Kalita Wave, Hario V60, or Chemex are the big hitters. But, for beginners, we recommend grabbing a Chemex as it is easier to use. Then, once you’re a bit more confident you can graduate to making Hario V60 coffee.

Cold Brew

This might not be an obvious choice, but cold brewing Guatemala coffee beans will bring out the rich flavors, particularly the sweetness, of the nation’s best coffees. 

It’s not a quick option as it takes 12-24 hours to brew, but the concentrate can last over a week in the fridge so it’s ready to go when you are.

When you’re choosing your coffee beans for cold brew, look for darker roast coffees. This is where this brewing method will really shine. Medium roast is the lightest that will work well.

The distinctive cold brew coffee taste is smooth, sweet, and easy-to-drink particularly on a hot day. So, you might want to skip it during the winter months. But it’s a nice option to have in your back pocket for summertime brewing.

To make cold brew, you can use a French press or just a big mason jar with a filter.

AeroPress

Last, but certainly not least, is the old faithful: the AeroPress coffee maker.

This little device is the darling of millions of coffee lovers around the world. There are endless online recipes and tutorials, it’s cheap to buy and really easy to use.

The Aeropress is always a good option when you’re trying out some new beans to really get a feel for the profile of a coffee region.

Some may not like the fact it’s made of plastic, or that it uses throwaway filters. But there are very few drawbacks to this amazing little device.

Shop the Top Brewing Methods

Top Tip: Freshly Grind your Guatemalan Coffee

For all of these brewing methods we highly recommend freshly grinding your coffee beans. In fact, for any brewing method ever, this recommendation stands.

Once you’ve ground coffee, all the delicious volatile oils only last 20-45 mins. So for the freshest, most flavorful cup of joe, you’ve got to grind fresh.

It doesn’t matter whether you use an electric burr grinder or one of the best manual coffee grinders, you will always get infinitely better tasting coffee than if you opt for pre-ground coffee beans.

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What is the Best Roast for Guatemalan Coffee?

Guatemalan coffee has a very exciting flavor profile. The abundant fruit notes and balanced acidity mean it’s fantastic as a light or medium roast coffee.

Anything up to medium roast allows you to taste more of how the growing conditions in Guatemala affect the flavor in the cup. So, you can truly experience the region.

The sweetness also means that dark roast coffee drinkers will enjoy the coffee of Guatemala. If you’re an espresso drinker, this will be your roast of choice and you’ll be able to enjoy the sweet fruits of the beans.

We recommend avoiding very dark roasts for all single-origin Arabica coffee as you taste more of the roast than the beans. Which is a real shame with coffee this good.

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History of Guatemala Coffee

Infographic - History of Guatemalan Coffee

Coffee was brought to Guatemala in the mid-1700s by Jesuit missionaries. In an act of not seeing something’s true potential, they brought the coffee trees over to be decorative garden plants
So coffee didn’t start being used as a commercial crop until the mid-1800s.

Before coffee, Guatemala’s economy was based on producing dyes. This involved growing huge fields of indigo to be harvested and made into dyes. But, with the arrival of synthetic dyes in the 1850s, this industry collapsed. So a quick solution was needed.

Guatemala’s government turned to coffee as a source of income, quickly growing the industry across the country so farmers could support themselves. With an increasing global interest in drinking coffee, this provided the government with something to export and generate revenue.

By 1859 over half a million coffee seeds had been planted, and by 1890, 90% of Guatemalan exports were coffee. People were impressed with the quality and flavor of Guatemala’s coffee – they came to expect an enjoyable blend of complex aromas, rich flavors, and bright acidity.

In 1960, coffee farmers across the country formed the Guatemalan National Coffee Association (Asociacion Nacional del Café or ANACAFE) which is now responsible for marketing, research, and providing financial support to coffee farmers in Guatemala. In 2014 they even released their own coffee variety – Anacafe-14 which has high yields of very large coffee beans.

Nowadays it’s impossible to walk around the towns of this great country without coming across coffee tree after coffee tree. In fact, there are around 130,000 coffee farmers in Guatemala – a nation of only 17 million people.  All of the Guatemalan coffee varietals currently farmed are descended from the Bourbon and Typica varieties that were first brought to Central America all those years ago.

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The Industry Today

Guatemala is currently the 10th biggest coffee exporting country in the world with over 50% going to the US.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a dip in exports but this is recovering back to pre-pandemic levels. 

Around the country, there are over 130,000 coffee farms of which 44% are smallholders. In fact, the average Guatemalan coffee farm size for smallholders is just 1.1 hectares.

Over 96% of the coffee grown in Guatemala is Arabica, with a small amount of Robusta and no Liberica. The most common varietals are Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Catuai, and Pache. Arabica thrives in the high-altitude regions of Guatemala. 

As more people move from the countryside to the cities for better opportunities, the coffee farms are more reliant on seasonal labor for their harvests. There’s also a chance some coffee farms around Lake Atitlan and Antigua may be sold to developers as tourism increases in these regions.

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Summing Up

Guatemalan coffee is popular due to its availability and high quality.

With the variety of volcanic and non-volcanic regions, soil types, and elevations, there are a lot of different styles to try. When brewing Guatemalan coffee, it’s key to preserve the volatile oils from the beans that produce much of the coffee’s signature aromatics.

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Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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