The Sierra Morena blend is a micro-region specific lot that was collected from sixty smallholder producers around La Libertad and San Pedro Necta municipalities in the Huehuetenango region. Descendants from the Mam indigenous group inhabit the region, hence the name of the coffee. In this area, coffee is cultivated at 1600 meters and above. The cherries for this lot were picked end of January/early February, at some of the highest altitudes in the region.
Sierra Morena coffees are typically grown with little exposure to direct sunlight, as the region is mostly covered by a thick blanket of clouds. High altitudes and low temperatures make for slow development of the cherries, which shows in the rich cup profile of the Sierra Morena coffee. It has a much more winey cup profile than our regular Huehuetenango regional coffee, which is bright and crisp with a more balanced sweetness. Our exporter’s quality team specifically screens the coffees they take in at their mill on this “Sierra Morena” profile, just because it is so specific. Producers actually get paid a premium for this profile, as the cup profile fetches a higher cup score.
Huehuetenango shares a border with Mexico, and is connected with the rest of the country thanks to the Pan-American Highway. Coffee produced in the Huehuetenango highland region sets itself apart from the typical Guatemalan taste profile thanks to the non-volcanic limestone soil of the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Soil pH is pretty high in this area (pH4.5), partly due to the limestone soil.
Coffea arabica can grow in a wide range of acidic soils from acidic (pH4) to neutral (pH7). This is partly explained by the solubility of nitrogen, one of coffee’s most important macronutrients, which is most soluble in soils with pH from 4 to 8. Soil acidity determines the solubility of nutrients – they have to remain soluble long enough to travel all the way down the soil to the roots of the plants. It also affects the decomposition of mineral rock into elements that the plants can use.
This Sierra Morena regional blend was produced by various smallholder farmers in the Huehuetenango region in northern Guatemala. The producers here typically own a couple of hectares for growing coffee, and wet-process and dry the coffee on their own land. The parchment is dried in the sun. Next, the producers try to find the best selling price for their beans at the many coffee collection points in the region. Our origin partner Unex works hard to offer better returns for the producers than those offered by middlemen buying opportunistically in the region. Unex has a couple of buying points and a quality lab in Huehuetenango, as well as in other regions in Guatemala.