Farm: Finca Jauja
Varietal: Bourbon, Typica
Processing: Fully washed & Sundried
Altitude: 1,550 metres above sea level
Owner: Ricardo Zelaya & Herrera family
Town / City: Antigua
Region: Antigua Valley
Finca Jauja - Guatemala
Finca Jauja is located on the outskirts of the famed town of Antigua, riding along an average altitude of 1,550 meters above sea level. The plantation is interspersed with gravilea shade trees, allowing the coffee plants just the right amount of light during the different stages of development throughout the year whilst also providing leaf mulch for fertilizer and great habitat for local bird and insect species.
Jauja was one of the first farms to be planted with coffee in the Antigua area, and the Herrera family was well-known for coffee production in Guatemala. However, as time progressed, their descendants didn’t show much interest in farming and coffee production. The farm fell on hard times, and in December of 2010 Ricardo Zelaya began renting the property and has begun intensive rebuilding.
The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations and grows on their own family farms a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego). Santa Clara & Puerta Verde, just two of Ricardo’s farms in the region, are known around the world for the superior quality of their production and processing.
The key to restoring Jauja to its former glory has been renovation, particularly of the farm’s old Bourbon trees. Additional focus has been given to restoration of the topsoil, optimising plant nutrition, and pruning.
The Zelaya family is passionately committed to both quality and sustainability. The family’s farms are scrupulously well-managed right from the careful selection of varietals planted, to the close supervision of the dry and wet mills. Coffee on all of the farms that they own and/or manage is shade grown, which protects the plants from direct sunlight, maintains soil health, and provides an important habitat for birds and insect life. The family’s mills are also eco-friendly and feature sedimentation tanks that prevent pollution of the local river systems.
The Zelaya family treats workers on their farms as members of the family, which is why, in 2010, Ricardo began a scholarship program to help workers pay for the education of their children. This program is funded by Ricardo and has the support of buyers from abroad, who have supported the cause since 2012. Managed, now, by his daughter Bel, who has a degree in Special Education, the dream is for the project to achieve formal non-profit status and expand to include not only all the children whose parents work on the farm but also those from surrounding communities
Many workers on Zelaya family farms have been with the farms and the family for generations. For instance, the farm Administrator, Marcos Rompiche, has worked for the Zelayas for 22 years and is the 3rd generation to work the land. The Production Manager, Israel Yool, has 16 years working for the family and is the 2nd generation to do so. Including them, the farm provides work for 25 permanent employees year-round, all of whom help Ricardo manage the processing and production for Fincas Juaja, Santa Clara, Puerta Verde and San Augustin. The family hires an additional 332 additional individuals during the harvest (including 250 for picking alone!).
Every cherry on the farm is hand-picked and then sorted by hand before being approved by the foreman for delivery to the wet mill. The farm also hires ‘special pickers’ who have demonstrated particular dexterity and are selected to hand harvest some of the farms’ microlots using impressive attention to detail. These employees can receive more than double the minimum daily wage through picking coffee at the farm. According to Ricardo, although they are very demanding about picking practices, people come back year upon year, which is a testament to the fair treatment they receive. In fact, Ricardo’s employees recently made a ‘happy’ video for him and his family to express their satisfaction with their work environment.
For washed coffees, fermentation runs around 14-22 hours. Santa Clara mill, where this coffee is wet milled, is very careful with their scarce water resources, as Antigua experiences an extended dry season and water reserves are increasingly threatened by population growth and urbanization. Water that is used to wash fermented coffee is recycled after having all solids removed and is reused during the depulping stage for the following lot to be processed. This has the added benefit of inoculating the next batch as it is pulped, which speeds fermentation times and helps maintain consistent mix of yeasts and bacteria during fermentation. After being used twice in this way, the water is filtered through a complex treatment system of filters and sedimentation tanks, with all solids being recycled and composted as fertilizer.