Farm: Finca Las Nubes
Varietal: Caturra, Catuaí & Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & Sun dried on patios
Altitude: 1,500 metres above sea level
Owner: Fabio Solis
Town / City: Aldea La Granadilla, Esquipulas
Finca Las Nubes (Esquipulas) - Guatemala
Finca Las Nubes is located high in the mountainous region of Esquipulas on Guatemala’s eastern border – almost edging on Honduras. The area is populated with pine and cypress trees and is a natural haven for many species of wild birds. The farm is remote - some 236kms from Guatemala City and around a 10 hour drive round-trip. Owner Don Fabio Solís & his wife, Doña Sonia, do not mind being removed from the hustle and bustle of the city life, though. They prefer it and love their small farm and the green hillsides that surround their chosen home.
‘Las Nubes’ means ‘The Clouds’, and is so called because its location high in the mountains means that it is often draped in clouds. When Fabio gave up his job as a lorry driver and bought the finca in the 1980s, there were no roads up to his land, no house and no coffee trees. It took the couple four hours to walk up to the farm and three hours back. Gradually, they built up the finca, first selling semi-processed coffee on the local market. Their breakthrough came in 2001 when, out of nowhere, Las Nubes won Guatemala’s first Cup of Excellence competition, with a massive score of 96 out of 100. It was unheard of, as Esquipulas is not widely known for its coffees. Mercanta began working with Don Fabio and Doña Sonia that year and has been buying their coffee ever since. We now count them as firm friends as well as partners.
From the beginning, Don Fabio has engaged in continual research and investigation into improving quality. The farm is situated at an elevation of 1,500m above sea level and has a sandy-clay soil type. At this altitude, the climate is temperate with low night time temperature ideally suited to the cultivation of the highest quality strictly hard bean (SHB) Arabica coffee. The farm measures just 45 manzanas of which 20 are permanently under coffee. Average production is 50 quintales of pergamino per manzana.
According to Don Fabio, the secret to quality (apart from hard work) lies in the land itself. He says, “We believe that it is the land (tierra) that generates quality…. Our responsibility, as farmers, is not to damage this – we must nurture what the land gives us.” Doña Sonia thinks that the couple’s egalitarian approach has also had its benefits. “What we want is for everyone to treat coffee the way we treat it. And to let women farm too,” she adds. “We can do a lot more than make tortillas and tidy the house. Because even if Fabio goes away, the finca stays behind, and it needs looking after.” Their partnership has resulted in some of the best coffee Guatemala has to offer.
The relationship with Mercanta has been crucial to helping the Solis’s develop the farm’s potential. Don Fabio recounts the early days, “Before you started buying from us, I only had one tiny pulper, now we have been able to afford two de-pulping machines, patios, a tornillo [a device for transporting beans during the washing process], tanks for the pulp, oxygenation streams, sedimentation tanks… It has improved our entire way of life.” Undeniably it has contributed, as well, to the continued high quality of the coffee.
In recent years, an eco-tourism lodge has been established at Finca Las Nubes offering hiking through the coffee growing areas, excursions into the nature reserves, as well as a chance to learn about and participate in the cultivation and processing of the coffee itself. This means the Solis have the opportunity to continue passing on their vision and sharing their passion for this extraordinary place.