María Andrée Is Honing Olfactory Skills in Antigua 

A sensorial class in Guatemala at Artista de Café teaches how to use your nose for the ultimate coffee experience.


Photos courtesy of Arista de Café

Walking into a specialty café in Guatemala, your nostrils are infused with aromas from the best coffees in the country. Your nose recollects the wonders of the washed Laurina that it inhaled prior to coming here. Your nose becomes excited about the potential delights it is about to encounter.  

The trained coffee protagonist knows the importance of the nose in analyzing (and enjoying) a cup of specialty coffee. This is why María Andrée established a sensorial class at her Artista de Café in Antigua, Guatemala—so that all people with a passion for specialty coffee can explore each coffee bean’s complexity through exercising and learning about their nose.  

Artista de Cafe's interior is sleek and minimal in style, with white walls and wooden accents like striped wainscoating on the front of the bar. They use a baby blue La Marzocco, and have a bouquet of pink flowers on the bar. There is a built-in clear glass pastry case dispalying treats. The high ceilings are exposed wood with 3 large industrial lamps hanging down. Artista de Cafe is lettered on the wall in big brass capital letters.
The interior of Artista de Café in Antigua, Guatemala.

Training in Paris

María began her specialty-coffee career when she moved from Guatemala to Paris in 2016. There, she cut her teeth in the trade at La Caféothèque under the mentorship of Gloria Montenegro. María got to know the coffee protagonist Jean Lenoir, who created Le Nez du Café—a box that contains a collection of 36 aromas that help you memorize the smells related to your coffee experience. It was inspired by his other sensorial box for wine; he recognized the importance of aroma for both products.  

Maria behind the espresso machine. She is pouring milk from a steaming pitcher and smiling. She wears a black top and wide brimmed black hat.
María learned about specialty coffee in Paris, working with coffee professionals like Gloria Montenegro and Jean Lenoir.

After learning from Jean and his daughter Viva, María’s olfactory system was better equipped for her ambitions in specialty coffee. She returned to Guatemala and opened Artista de Café in 2018. She also launched a class that employs Le Nez du Café for specialty enthusiasts living in or passing through her home country.  

Finding the Scent at Artista de Café

The olfactory system is connected with the sense of taste. In order to improve your coffee tasting, you need to develop your sense of smell. That’s why María prioritizes the training of your nose in her sensory class. In the course, María Andrée gathers a variety of natural smells by using real-life products—e.g., cacao, peppers, and limes.  

An assortment of bowls containing foods for sniffing, papers with instructions, and flavor wheels. Some of the bowls contain dates, walnuts, coffee beans, star anise, and apples, to name a few.
Smelling a variety of natural foods and objects can help hone your coffee-tasting technique.

You might be left wondering what sniffing leather has to do with coffee, but there is a clear learning objective. By using the natural smells of these products, María helps train your olfactory senses to recognize the different scents that connect to and advance your palate. She gently works with each person to expose them to these smells while blindfolded, as they try to guess what they are smelling. Then, once you’ve improved your memory and recognition of smell, you put yourself to the test with Le Nez du Café vials. Then the class moves on to explore filtered coffees and espresso shots with your newly acquired olfactory tools.  

A Natural Teacher

With her skilled pedagogical techniques, María smoothly complements this experience with attention to individual needs and care for the people and products she works with. Being blindfolded in a room full of strangers would normally make you feel a little anxious. But María Andrée provides a learning environment that makes you feel calm and comfortable, allowing your senses to concentrate solely on olfactory stimulation. The outcome is an improved understanding and appreciation of the smells and tastes of coffee. 

This class is a valuable addition to the offerings of specialty cafés. At Artista de Café, specialty-coffee lovers, as well as novices to the specialty-coffee world, can enter into the sensorial sphere of the industry to improve their coffee-tasting abilities. The result is a better coffee experience for all consumers graduating from the class. They can better distinguish the tasting notes of coffee and experience the sensorial rush that takes place on the palates of refined specialty coffee protagonists.  

Maria holds up a small vessel to smell in front of her sniffing station set up on a sleek wooden table with matching chairs. She wears a white collared dress.
María Andrée aims to make her class comfortable for everyone interested in improving their olfactory skills.

A Valuable Experience

Alongside personal development, the course also offers a valuable tourist experience—immersing oneself in the specialty-café culture of Guatemala. Artista de Café is vital stitching in the fabric of Guatemala’s budding specialty culture. Here, you can interact with María Andrée, while learning about tasting coffee, Guatemala, and its coffee culture. As tourists, we seek novel experiences to trigger a dopamine release. This sensorial course will help you on your way to this internal smile.  

María Andrée’s sensorial class supports her motivation for working in the coffee industry. ”I can experience feelings, sensations, and memories through a cup of specialty coffee,” she says. This emotional interaction with coffee inspires her work, and her work can also inspire you to have the same feeling about Guatemalan coffee and Guatemala’s vibrant specialty-café culture.  


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. 

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