Farm: Finca Santa Sofia, Coban
Varietal: Primarily Caturra & Catuaí
Processing: Natural Process
Altitude: 1,675 metres above sea level
Owner: Pablo José Ferrigno Figueroa
Town / City: Tactic
Region: Alta Verapaz, Cobán
Overall: Black olives, berries, boozy, strawberry
Finca Santa Sofia Natural - Guatemala
In the late 1980s, Pablo José Ferrigno Figueroa, a third generation coffee grower, had the fortune to attend a conference in which the topic of ‘quality’ was widely discussed as the future of coffee. Just three years later, in 1991, Pablo decided to embark on the new adventure of establishing a coffee farm devoted entirely to the production of speciality coffee.
Pablo’s roots were in coffee: his grandfather came from Italy and had established several farms alongside a coffee exporting business. His father also had a farm. Pablo had cultivated an interest in coffee from an early age and had worked on his family’s farms for years as a young adult. However, all of the family’s experience was with low grown coffee in Guatemala’s warm coastal areas. Speciality coffee required a different climate, not to mention a different approach!
The only question was where to begin this new endeavour. Being a young entrepreneur and something of a maverick, Pablo opted for Alta Verapaz – a region that despite its wet cool climate gathered together all the growing conditions he was looking for. He found a medium sized plot of land for sale in the town of Tactic - not at all a common place for coffee production due to its unusually cold weather. Many friends and family (not to mention other coffee farmers) were sceptical about the location and his plans, and Pablo knew that the road ahead would be difficult. Nonetheless, on October 15th 1991, he carried a bag of coffee seeds to the area in order to start his nursery and, in that moment Finca Santa Sofia was born. Pablo named the farm for his first daughter, who was born in the same year.
Even today, Santa Sofia is the only coffee farm in the immediate micro-region and produces one of the best coffees in the region. Today the farm produces Caturra, Catuaí, Typica and small amounts of Catimor with a total annual production of some 500 bags per year, 100% of which is sold as speciality coffee.
For this very special natural lot, Pablo has had to take very great care, and the results are extraordinary. In the past, most of the farm’s coffee has been fully washed. 2016/17 marks the first harvest where natural processed coffee from the farm has been exported. Leading up to this moment, however, Pablo has spent time experimenting in order to produce the absolute best product possible. Coffee for natural lots is selectively harvested, with cherries being selected only at the perfect moment of ripeness. Pablo has found that for these natural lots, the MOST ripe cherries often connote too strong of a flavour. Wanting a more elegant and restrained profile, he selects cherries that are *just* ripe enough but, perhaps, not as ripe (and thus not quite as sugary) as some of the cherries selected for wet processing.
After harvesting, the red cherries are hand sorted remove debris and any underripe cherries. Because no water is used, the sorting has to be meticulous.
Because of Alta Verapaz’s wet climate, it is often hard to dry the cherries out of doors. Currently, Pedro plans to build greenhouses for drying future natural lots, but for the time being, some of the natural lots are started at a very low heat in the farm’s guardiolas. Pablo is very careful to maintain a strict and controlled drying schedule. Coffee is rotated in these mechanical driers at no more than 40°C and is rested between dryings to stabilise humidity. Some lots have been finished on the farm’s patios, but only in warmer conditions where the ambient moisture is limited. Once the coffee reaches an ideal humidity, it is rested for at least 21 days in the warehouse before being delivered to the dry mill for milling.