Farm: Finca Agua Tibia
Varietal: Caturra, Pache, Bourbon, Catuaí & Mundo Novo
Processing: Full washed & sun dried on patios
Altitude: 1,500 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Industrias Agricolas Centro Americanas, S.A. / Castillo Family
Town / City: San Jose Pinula
Finca Agua Tibia - Guatemala
Finca Agua Tibia has been in the Castillo Family since 1886. Originally the large farm, which lies just outside of Guatemala City, was purchased with the aim of providing wood and fuel for one of family’s other industries. At the beginning of the 20th century, wood and coal became replaced by petroleum based fuels, which freed up space on the farm for conversion to other agricultural activities. The first herd of beef cattle were purchased in 1930 and in 1960 the family planted their first coffee plantation. Although the farm ceased to graze cattle in 2005, to this day coffee remains a primary activity of Agua Tibia.
At the time that coffee was first planted on the farm, almost no one in the region had coffee plantations. The area chosen for coffee was, at the time, very small and very experimental. By the 1980s, only around 112 hectares were planted under coffee. It wasn’t until 2012 that the family began truly focusing on coffee production as a serious endeavour. To this date, the coffee farm size has grown to 228 hectares and the plan is for this area to reach 350 hectares by 2020. Other economic activities include agritourism and hosting special events at the farm’s beautiful main house.
The name Finca Agua Tibia predates the Castillo family and to their knowledge has always been the name of the farm. Agua Tibia means Warm Water in Spanish, and with still active volcanoes to the west of the region, it is highly likely that at one point there may have been hot springs in the area.
Agua Tibia’s agricultural calendar begins in May with the planting of seedlings, both in new areas of the farm and to replace old and damaged trees. All seedlings are reared in the farm’s own nursery from specially selected seeds from the previous harvest. In this way, the family is able to assure themselves of the quality of their plants. Seedlings are usually started in the month of June the previous year, so seedlings are almost a full year old and have received the best nourishment possible by the time they are planted out.
Once ‘in situ’ trees are given regular applications of fertiliser several times a year, with foliar applications being realised in October – the best time for the prevention and control of diseases during the cooler winter months. Pruning is conducted in the months of February and March, which helps maintain the health and productivity of the trees. Agua Tibia maintains a staff of 45 individuals year-round to conduct these important labours.
Harvest time at Agua Tibia beings in November and concludes at the end of March. 300 people are given employment during this time, which helps sustain the local economy. These temporary workers are trained in best picking techniques, and only ripe, red cherries are delivered through the wet mill. Coffee is brought from the fields down to the wet mill in the afternoon every day during the peak of the harvest season. Here it is pulped and delivered to tanks for fermentation. After around 42 hours, the coffee is washed using clean water and then delivered to dry on the farm’s patios. The parchment is thinly spread and regularly raked over the course of 7 to 12 days so as to ensure even drying.
Agua Tibia has big plans for the future. As mentioned previously, they plan to extend the area under coffee significantly by 2020. Accordingly, they are taking measures that will increase the processing capacity of the wet mill and will purchase Guardiolas (mechanical driers) to help with the increased volume by 2019. They have begun planting high quality varieties such as Geisha and Pacamara in selected areas of the farm and are also increasing the area under Catuaí in an effort to more widely improve their production. Their expansion plan is not just about productivity but also intrinsically about quality.