Beautiful Finca Guadalupe Zaju occupies 310 hectares right on Chiapas, Mexico’s famed ‘Ruta de Cafe’. This ‘Route of Coffee’ rides along the Guatemalan border, north from the border town of Tapachula, through Mexico’s famed Soconusco region. The route flows past some of Mexico’smost famous farms –including the Fincas Hamburgo and Irlanda.A neighbour of these farms, GuadalupeZaju is well on its way to helping carry on theregion’s (somewhat diminished in recent years) reputationas a location for high quality coffee.
When GuadalupeZaju’s current owner, Eduardo ‘Teddy’ Esteve, purchased the farm in 2004, it was a true act of faith and commitment to making the formerly great farm into a bastion of quality again. Teddy’s family had been involvedin commodity trading –including coffee, tea and cocoa –for over 150 years, and he had workedon the coffee end of the business for his wholelife. In his own words, he says “I grew up cleaning up the cupping room in the office and being involved in clerical matters since my early days to complement my allowance.” He directly started working for the family company in 1983. However, he had neverdirectly been involved in farming coffee.
After purchasing Guadalupe Zaju, Teddy purchased two neighbouringfarms –La Gloria and Chanjul –in 2011, all of which are run, today, under the name ofGuadalupe Zaju. Currently, only 350 hectares of the farm’stotal 600 hectares are under coffee. Teddy has set about expanding the area under coffee –mostly with resistant varieties that, nonetheless, offer a great cup (such as Marsellesa and various Hybrids). Maintaining forestland is a commitment, however, and it is almost certain that a portion of the farm will remain forested.
Teddy has complemented his passion for coffee farmingby surrounding himself with experts. All of this is to ensure that Guadalupe Zaju establishes a name for itself as a producer of high quality coffee.
This team of experts and the passion with which Teddy approaches his role as a coffee producer have paid off. GuadalupeZaju’s yields are unusuallyhigh for a Mexican farm. At 20-25 quintales(approx.60kg sacks of pergamino) per hectare, they are around double the average for Chiapas. These yields are achieved dueto a strict regimen, intelligent fertilisation schedule and regular pruningand renovation. They have also renovated many areas where the older Caturra and Catuaíplants have become diseased or non-productive, replacing these plants with Marsellesa and Hibrido (developed by CIRAD & ECOM). As the farm’s Marsellesa begin full productiontheyexpect yields willincrease to up to 30 quintalesper hectare.
The coffee at GuadalupeZaju is 100% shade grown (in fact, the farm is Rainforest Alliance, UtzAND Cafe Practices certified). Shade is well-managed and designed to be multi-purpose. Magnolia from Guatemala has been selected due to the fact that it is evergreen and has less leaf fall. Even more importantly, it is a sturdy tree with a relatively highcanopy. The area is known for being windy (high winds in of 2008’s Tropical Storm Odile almost ripped the entire harvest away). Magnolia can withstand high winds and help protect the vulnerable coffee trees below. Shade trees are also selected for their ability to control pests. Because of coffee leaf rust and rising temperatures, the farm still has toapply some fungicide and pesticide. But they are able to limit application by widely planting the Chalún tree (Inga spp.). Not only does this tree provide shade and help fix nitrogen into the soil, it provides a feast for the “Chulunero” insect (as it is known locally), which would otherwise attack the coffee trees.
The farm also takes water –increasingly a scarce resource in previously water-plentiful Chiapas –seriously. Filtered water fountains run for the workers and aqueducts bringpure water from the springs above for use not just for processing but also for drinking and cooking.Water conservation is also taken very seriously on the farm. Previously,each of the smaller farms had their own mill.The farm has a water treatment plant for all water used during processing and has consolidated operations and process all coffee at a single mill where water can be more adequately treated through the mill. The old mill at Chanjul has now been convertedto a school.
All coffee on the farm is selectively hand harvested and sorted, again, when it is delivered to the farms mill. The coffee is pulped using a Pinhalenseecopulper, purchased in 2009, which separates ripe and underripe/underweight cherries again, along with removing any debris remaining with the cherries.This pulper uses one cubic meter of water to process up to 20 tonnes! This is a huge water savings andcontributes greatly towards limiting the farm’s environmental footprint.
After pulping, coffee is sorted by density and delivered to separate tanks to ferment between 36to 40 hours, depending on the weather at the time. The coffee’s ‘readiness’ to be washed is done using the traditional methodof ‘prueba de palo’ (stick test), where the coffee is stirred with a long pole to see if it is the right consistency to be washed. The farm has experimented with temperature gauges, but the workers find that these traditional methods areequallyas accurate in determining fermentation levels.
After fermentation, the coffee is delivered to a demucilager to remove any last traces of mucilage, again helping the farm save water and limit waste.
The region experiences insufficient sun to dry the entirety of thefarm’s production on patios, so all of the export quality coffee is dried using the farm’s 10 guardiolas, or mechanical steel drums. Temperatures of these wood fired driers are carefully monitored, and coffee is dried at a slow and constant temperature of 40 degrees until they reach between 11-12% humidity. Thus, the coffee is dried on patios for 2 days and in guardiolas for another 3 days.
All in all, the story of GuadalupeZaju is the story ofa coffee lover passionate about what he does. Passion has led him to forget budgets when trying to produce a great coffee, and Teddy will continue to take every step possible to ensure that coffee from his farm is the absolute best in the region.
All coffees contributing to this lot are Marsellesa or Hybrid varietals. Marsellesa is a variety obtained from the hybridization of Sarchimor and Caturra. It is sought after for its superior cup quality and its resistance to leaf rust.Mundo Maya (H16 / EC16) is an F1 hybrid from a cross between T5296, a rust-resistant descendant of the Timor Hybrid, and a wild Ethiopian accession “ET01". The variety is high yielding when planted in healthy soil, with very good quality at elevations above 1,300 metres above sea level. Evaluna (H18 / EC18) is an F1 hybrid from a cross between rust-resistant Naryelis (a Catimor-type variety) and an Ethiopian landrace accession “ET06“. It is a very high yielding variety at high altitudes.Both Hybrids were developed and distributed byCIRAD& ECOM in the mid-2000sand compose a significant portion of GuadalupeZaju’s plantations, as they are rust resistant while also displaying exceptional cup profiles.
Dark Chocolate, Fudge, Toffee
Farm: Finca Guadalupe Zaju
Varietals: Marsellesa, Hybrids (H1and H16)
Processing: Fully washed & dried in guardiolas
Altitude: 900 to 1,400metres above sea level
Owner: Teddy Esteve & family