Review: Passion House Coffee Roasters // Guatemala El Limonar

Guatemala El Limonar Passion House

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This is going to be a unique week here at the Table, as we’ll be sipping four coffees that I received as part of The Great Coffee Exchange—a trade-off that I was part of with four really great guys, from four really great cities, via Twitter. Represented were Seattle, Boston, New York City, and my home sweet home, Chicago; the participants, respectively, were Daniel (@ddavidn), David (@_Simple_Simon), and one of my favorite coffee bloggers around, Randy (@randylevine).

We each picked the latest offering from our favorite local roaster, divided the beans equally four ways, kept one fourth for ourselves, then sent the other three-fourths to the other participants. There were no guidelines, and the only rule was that the coffee had to be bought from a locally-owned small business—the region didn’t matter, the varietal didn’t matter, whether the coffee was a single origin or a blend didn’t matter.

After taking part in this exchange, I am left wondering why I had never thought of doing this before. In exchange for my share of coffee, I received three really great, unique coffees.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. To start this week of reviews off, we’re going to sip a cup of Guatemala El Limonar that was provided by, who I’ve decided is my favorite roasting operation in Chicago, Passion House Coffee Roasters. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Today’s coffee comes from Finca El Limonar, located in the heart of Guatemala’s most famous coffee producing region, Huehuetenango. The farm got its start around the mid-1900′s and has been churning out fantastic high-quality coffees ever since. It was born when the Aguirre brothers inherited their late father’s farm and divided it in half; nowadays, Finca El Limonar is operated and managed by their mother, Rosa María Ovalle Mont.

Her main goal has been to produce a quality cup of coffee under conditions that are environmentally sustainable. She achieves this by employing as little chemical substances as possible on her farm—if chemicals aren’t absolutely necessary to enable or assist her coffee’s growth, she doesn’t use it. Instead, coffees are removed by hand or by machete. This as about as close as to organic as you can get.

El Limonar has a wet mill on site, where treatment tanks are used to purify and recycle the waste water in order to avoid polluting the many local rivers and streams. Left over coffee pulp is then recycled as a fertilizer for young plants.

the basics:

origin: El Injerto, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
farm: Finca El Limonar
elevation: ~2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Catuai and Caturra
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

As soon as I rip open the packaging, a burst of peaches, floral aromatics, and lemon-lime zestiness comes exploding out. It smells like this is going to be a really sweet cup of coffee.

Immediately post-brew, while the cup is still hot, my palate is greeted by the sweetness of Georgia peaches, apricots, pears, white grapes, and a flutter of floral aromatics, that flit in over the top and tickle the roof of my mouth.  I’m particularly fond of the bed of sweetness that coats my palate, that all of the fruitiness comes gliding in on.

As the cup cools off a bit, a very zesty lime acidity suddenly appears, from out of nowhere. The cup cools off just a little more and now the cup is starting to resemble all the best qualities of a gin and tonic. It has the bubbly mouthfeel, the slight carbonation of tonic or soda water that makes your taste buds stand at attention, and the zestiness of the lime wedge without any of the “burnt plastic” aftertaste that gin and tonics sometimes have (depending on the quality of the gin in the well). I let the cup cool just a little bit more and the peach and honey sweetness makes a reappearance, gently caressing the sides of my palate while the lime and tonic glide right down the middle of my tongue, creating a massive taste experience.

At room temperature, the limy-ness backs off a bit, the acidity rounds out and becomes more balanced, the mouthfeel smooths out, and flavors of creamy milk chocolate and sweet caramel and brown sugar come out. A soothing flavor and mouthfeel that relaxes my palate after all of the excitement of the cup’s middle stages.

Medium body; medium lemon-lime acidity; honey and “bubbly” (for lack of better descriptors) mouthfeel; crisp, clean finish.

the bottom line:

I know it already seems like I’m on the payroll at Passion House Coffee Roasters since I’m always, always, always raving about their coffees, but I swear to you that I’m not! I really am this over the moon about what Joshua Millman and Shannon Steele are doing inside of their Fulton Street warehouse. In the year or so that I’ve been drinking Passion House, I think there’s only been one roast I’ve tried that left me thinking “That was pretty good”; the rest of the coffees I’ve had left me exclaiming, “Wow! This is really good!”

The Guatemala El Limonar is certainly no exception. This was such a fabulous cup of coffee. Crystal clear clarity, sparkling, well-defined acidity, smooth and refreshing, and, most importantly, so very, very tasty.

When you participate in something like a Great Coffee Exchange with three strangers from different cities, you want to send them a brew that you think is the best your city has to offer. I didn’t have much to worry about with Passion House because, like I say over and over, everything they do is great; but I am pleased as punch that the Guatemala El Limonar was this good.

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