Atitlan Finca San Jose Del Lago Bourbon
Finca San José del Lago is on the southern shore of Guatemala’s breathtaking lake Atitlán, long considered a place of ancient importance and still home to some of Guatemala’s most visible indigenous communities. Atitlán’s surface sits at almost 1600 meters and is a volcanic basin surrounded by dramatically steep escarpments, and, as Eduardo describes, numerous volcanoes. As one might imagine, the terroir here is exquisite for coffee, and a lot of coffee is grown in various communities around the lake, many of whom still successfully grow Typica and bourbon, the first varieties planted in the area. However, it is rare to find coffee from single large estates such as San José del Lago. Most of the coffee from Atitlán is smallholder grown and either cooperatively represented or bought by independent processors at competitive local rates.
Eduardo’s great-grandfather first purchased the family land in 1909. He approached the land as a broker, whose business was buying and selling properties, but he became so enamored with the landscape that he could not bring himself to sell it. The original 200 hectares remained completely forested for decades. Coffee was first planted in the 1940s by Eduardo’s grandfather, and although more recent cultivars have been added to the mix, the bourbon and Typica plants that first went into the ground are still providing seed stock for the now 45 hectares of coffee that Eduardo oversees. When his grandfather passed away the farm became his father’s and uncle’s to manage, and they set about improving the infrastructure and adding crops to the land’s rotation such as bananas, avocados, corn, beans, tomatoes, chayote, cabbage, and heirloom squash. Finally, in 2016 the decision was made to divide the farm into equal portions, one of which Eduardo and his immediate family named San José del Lago. Processing on the farm takes place in the family’s historic wet mill.
Except for the nails and a bit of concrete the entire operation was built from timber and stone native to the family land. The only mechanical portion of processing remains de-pulping. Cherry comes in from the farm, is de-pulped, sorted by density, and fermented in handmade tanks. After fermentation, it is cleaned and then dried on a combination of raised screen beds and tarps. Selective picking for ripe cherry means the farm crew of 100 is usually harvesting the early-ripening Typica trees first during the year, then the bourbons, leading to a natural separation by variety.
San José del Lago shares farm profits with employees and invests in their education, as well as donates portions of its land for community development projects which so far has included a medical clinic, a school, and a water tank for the town of Santiago Atitlán.