Antigua’s coffee tourism is almost unrivaled in its completeness. So is the quality of the knowledge and experience when visiting.
BY JORDAN BUCHANAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Jordan Buchanan
Exploring the world of coffee adds exciting complexity to our travels. Many of us like to travel, learn, and drink coffee; combining all three into one experience is more than the sum of its parts: It’s a holistic immersion into understanding other people’s lives, the environment, and both actors’ roles in our own lives.
Antigua: An Ideal Place to Visit
Antigua in Guatemala yields this experience. It is auspiciously located to allow for the traveling coffee enthusiast to visit all parts of the coffee chain from one setting. Coffee growers here are not just open to having you visit; they assist you to do so. On a daily basis, you can reach coffee farms, specialty cafés, coffee laboratories, workshops, roasteries, urban comforts, and rural delights.
Visiting a coffee farm is a coveted experience for many coffee enthusiasts at origin. Along with visiting a specialty farm in Antigua, it might be worth observing how commercial coffee actors operate in their system. Visiting commercial production will likely give you a more diverse perspective on coffee-producing practices and how specialty coffee deviates from commercial norms. Finca Filadelfia has been offering tours of their estate for years, and they provide an opportunity to learn more about large-scale coffee enterprises at the origin.
The intimate experience of visiting a specialty farm and its micro-lots contrasts strikingly with what you encounter at large-scale sites. At the specialty farm, you will meet the owner, their workers, and likely some family members and pets. The specialty experience invites you into the farm; the commercial experience puts the farm in front of you. Having both types of farms surrounding Antigua is what makes the city ideal for curious and novelty-seeking coffee tourists to explore the industry.
Two specialty farms have recently initiated tours of their farms as a way to promote their activities and share knowledge on the specialty-coffee industry.
Finca Gascón in Antigua
Finca Gascón is a project started by Felipe Contreras, which is less than an hour away from Antigua’s center. In a 4×4 pickup, you’ll bump your way over the cobbled streets of Antigua and up the dirt tracks to Gascón’s rainforest-covered coffee slopes.
The young and ambitious Felipe is from the city. He wanted to innovate in the Guatemalan coffee industry with experimental processes to achieve new heights of coffee quality. His coffee can be found around the world, and he has built a steady reputation after only a few years in the industry. Moving away from the traditional washed process in Guatemala is a challenge that Felipe has taken on with ease. The farm is inspiring other actors to adopt different processing methods, giving them an opportunity to learn about recent innovations within Guatemala and understand these innovations from Felipe’s unique perspective. And the farm is so close by that you can be back in Antigua for afternoon coffee, where you will find Felipe’s coffee ready to grind into your preferred drink at Alegría Café and Café Sol.
Finca de Félix in San Miguel Dueñas
Félix Porón is another specialty-coffee producer who has recently opened up to tourism. He has been working in coffee for decades while also supporting community development projects in his local area. Located in San Miguel Dueñas, Sacatepequez, the farm is well-positioned for visitors to arrive quickly from Antigua. This is a chance for them to explore different towns in the country without needing a long journey to get there.
Félix moved into specialty coffee in the last few years and has had great success at producing some indelible coffees. His farm sprawls over a picturesque mountain that overlooks the Antigua region (a view from his farm is the featured photo of this article). The view stretches beyond the volcanoes and into the ocean (on a clear day). Cristian Girón, also known as “Frosty,” of the café Coffea in Antigua has a close working relationship with Félix. They collaborate to improve coffee processing methods, as well as share feedback on the harvests. You can find Félix’s coffee at Coffea ready to brew after you return from the mountaintops into the city.
Have an Experience
Overall, the proximity between the comfort of a UNESCO-preserved urban center and the verdant skylines of rural coffee farm areas makes Antigua a perfect place to access these environments. And the people who inhabit these spaces make the experience all the more worthwhile and accessible. Visiting them will lead you to accumulate even more places on your map of coffee sites to visit while in Guatemala. The specialty community will gladly guide you to explore even more of the country’s wonders.
But before you shoot off from Antigua to your next stop, make sure you expand your coffee experience and knowledge at the specialty café outlets in the city, which we’ll explore in part two of this article, coming soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Buchanan (he/they) is completing their Ph.D. in Latin American history at UC San Diego. Their research focuses on the growth of specialty-café cultures in producer nations in Latin America. Jordan grew up in Scotland and currently lives between there and Mexico when not doing doctoral work in San Diego. After purchasing their first AeroPress, Jordan has been an avid specialty-coffee enthusiast, which has added a new perspective to their lust for travel and exploration.