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Tasting the Fruits of Their Labor

Anacafé’s New Roasting Course Teaches Guatemalan Coffee Growers How to Taste Their Beans

In 2010, the Guatemalan National Coffee Association (Anacafé) received a new Probatino as part of the annual Roasters Guild Roastmaster Challenge. After the roaster was up and running, we sat down with Blanca Castro, Anacafé’s director of marketing, to talk about how the association is making a real difference in Guatemala through coffee roasting. Many thanks to the winning roastmasters from Planet X Roasters, who designated Anacafé as the beneficiary of their prize!

Overcoming a difficult history

The history of coffee in Guatemala dates back to the 1750s and is rife with warfare, inequality and poverty. Today, most small producers either own their own land or work as seasonal farm laborers. In spite of this difficult livelihood, the country produces many of the world’s finest coffees. With the recent decrease in tourism, the country depends on coffee more than ever as a primary source of income.

Anacafé provides vital support through coffee education. The association opened Escuela de Café (Coffee School) at its Guatemala City headquarters in 2003 with two goals: to increase Guatemalan coffee growers’ knowledge of coffee and to increase the quality and quantity of domestic coffee consumption. As Blanca puts it, “Guatemalans are just beginning to understand the proper way to roast coffee, and why the technique is so important.” She predicts that if more growers understand how to roast and cup coffee, appreciation for the beans will grow — as will the industry as a whole. Coffee shops have been growing in popularity in Guatemala’s big cities, but Blanca hopes to see more pop up across the country so that residents as well as tourists can experience Guatemala’s world-renowned coffee by the cup, just steps away from where it was grown.

The coffee school

The school has already taught more than 20,000 students, including coffee growers, coffee shop owners, restaurant owners, students and coffee lovers in the community. Enrollment is expected to significantly increase with the addition of the recently developed two-day roasting course, where students get to use the Probatino, a P5 roaster and one other machine to learn how to roast their own beans. Anacafé began promoting this new course in January 2012 with the goal of teaching it in February. Students learn the basics about coffee beans and the chemical reaction that happens during the roasting process, which creates the aromas and flavors that make Guatemalan coffee so popular around the world. If coffee growers roast and cup their beans, they will be able to adjust their growing conditions and harvesting schedules to achieve the optimal taste.

“We did some preliminary research to gauge coffee growers’ interest in the roasting course, and everyone we talked to was excited about the opportunity,” Blanca said. “We want coffee growers to learn how to roast, to enjoy the process and to leave with a big smile, knowing they can repeat the process back on their farms or at Anacafé’s seven regional cupping labs.”

Involvement beyond education

Aside from its educational initiatives, Anacafé also provides technical coffee preparation and cupping support across the country, supports rural development, and builds national and international coffee support strategies to help Guatemalan coffees remain competitive. Anacafé tastes and approves all of Guatemala’s distinct coffees to verify that each one meets the flavor profile criteria the association has established for each region, such as Antigua, Atitlán and Cobán, etc. Anacafé was founded in 1960 when coffee growers put pressure on the government to provide more support, and coffee growers’ concerns continue to be the main focus of all it does. Today the association employs around 300 people, 117 of whom are technicians.

“As we take on more educational projects throughout the country, we have to be ready to adapt to new trends,” Blanca said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Further reading

Anacafé works hard to uphold coffee quality while supporting economic and social development in Guatemala. Please visit anacafe.org for more information.

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