Guatemala Las Aguas Altas

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CREMA, yesterday, offered me the opportunity to try a coffee from a region from which I’ve never had coffee before—Yemen (there has got to be an easier way to write that sentence!).

That was an awful lot of adventure for me for one day so I want to take a few steps back to recuperate from all the excitement. That’s why I’m really happy that CREMA also sent me a sample from (quite possibly) my favorite coffee-producing region in the world: Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Guatemala Las Aguas Altas, from CREMA in Nashville, Tennessee. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Las Aguas Altas hails from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. This farm, owned by Gabino Mendez, is located in San Pedro Necta, an eight hour drive from Guatemala City.

2011 was also the first year that Gabino directly sold coffee to a roaster—our good friends at Madcap Coffee Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When they purchased Gabino’s coffee, they inquired about what they should name it, since Mendez, believe it or not, didn’t have a name for his farm.

He responded, “I should probably name my farm shouldn’t I? Do you have any suggestions?”

Their very own Production Roaster, Ben Baker-Jackson, named the farm “Las Aguas Altas”, or “The High Waters”, after reminiscing about overlooking nature from the heights of coffee farms in the Huehuetenango region.

the basics:

origin: San Pedro Necta, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Las Aguas Altas
elevation: 1700 meters above sea level
cultivars: Pache, Caturra and Bourbon
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

The aroma of the Las Aguas Altas is light, sweet, and fragrant. This aroma doesn’t boom out of the cup—it subtly lulls you in with its subtle scents of milk chocolate, pralines, and even more subtle lilac aromatics.

Immediately post brew, this cup is sweet and creamy, but lightly so. Milk chocolate (chocolate milk, more accurately), just as it did in the aroma, is the most prolific flavor up front. It lays down a savory foundation on the palate while the dryness of lightly toasted almonds show up in the finish.

As it cools off, the coffee livens up itself with notes of sweet and tart berries. Furthermore, the texture of the cup changes quite a bit, too. Instead of the light creaminess that was present up front, the mouthfeel has coagulated, become concentrated, and is now thick and syrupy. Not maple syrupy, though—heavens, no. No, this a lot more like raspberry pancake syrup. I’m also picking up notes of strawberry, mango, and boysenberry.

After a little while, closer to room temperature, the syrup dilutes just a little bit taking something more of a cranberry juice flavor, while green apple acidity emerges from the bottom of the cup rounding out the finish with perfect balance.

Light body; syrupy mouthfeel; green apple acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

CREMA’s Guatemala Las Aguas Altas is a magical coffee; in that it’s a lot like magic; in that, like a magic trick, it presents you with the long, slow reveal. It doesn’t play all of its cards up front; instead, it holds them close to its chest.

At certain points in the cup, however, it pulls an Ace out of its sleeve and really wows the palate.

This cup is a prime example of how varied Guatemalan coffees can be from one another. While some Guatemalan coffees are very sweet, some are very savory, and some are very tart, this one is very dynamic and complex.

So, as you can probably tell from the notes I provided above, this coffee has an extensive history with Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Madcap Coffee Company, and their current offering of it was even selected as a finalist in the 2013 Good Food Awards. I can’t say one way or the other about Madcap’s roast of it, but I can tell you that CREMA did a great job with it. A really great job.

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