Guatemala El Tempixque
Certain coffees we carry here at Mission elicit a unique sense of pride and dignity in me when I reflect on them. It is not the satisfaction of having a specific flavor profile. Or having spent exorbitant amounts of money on a given coffee. Instead, it is tasting a coffee I have known for several years before and reflecting on the team and hard work behind it. It is the relationship. The collaboration. The people. All of which makes the coffee special to me. And the coffee I would like to talk about today is super approachable. It's one that I recommend to almost anyone looking to try a new coffee (or make it their new favorite). I am talking specifically about the Guatemala El Tempixque (pronounced Tem-peeks-keh) we just released.
I first visited Finca El Tempixque back in 2014. I was traveling with a small group in El Salvador, seeing and learning about some fantastic coffee producers there. Our next stop was driving north into Guatemala. We met our hosts at a random gas station outside of the city of Santa Ana. (It was an accessible landmark…) The cars, well, they didn't have enough seats for all of us. So, my friend Sam and I elected to jump into the back of the pick-up truck. We took in all the views while driving over the border. That was quite the experience, especially as we transitioned from rural El Salvador into urban Guatemala City and back out to the countryside of Antigua. When we reached the farm, we were greeted by the Falla family team, especially Estuardo (who owns the farm), Edgar (the customer relationships person), and his son Adrian.
That's a pale me on the left hand side traveling with my friend Sam from El Sal to Guatemala.
Their sense of hospitality was immediately impactful. We were welcomed into their space and handed a set of freshly made corn tortillas and fresh farm cheese. And immediately, their attention was not on selling us coffee. It was getting to know us. What did we want to focus on? What were our backgrounds? What did we hope to see at the farm? I learned later in conversations with them that it was essential for them to first focus on the people and the relationship. They wanted to know us; once they knew we were aligned, it would be easy to just do the rest of the "business" stuff. The impact of that philosophy still sticks with me to this day.
A newer plantation area of the farm. Coffee plants are evenly spaced with rows of grass (aka natural mulch when mowed). And, shade trees planted to protect the coffee from extreme temperature changes.
Over the next few days, they gave us a most amazing tour of Tempixque and their sister farm San Sebastian (which many of you had the chance to enjoy last year in our line). We rode around the farm, looking at acres and acres of pristine coffee farm spanned an entire portion of a volcano face. It was uncanny how well it was kept. So much so that we had not really seen anything like this in our previous visits. That kind of upkeep takes investment, both in terms of time and resources. Especially one that is so large. And then to discover that this philosophy was just part of how they operate. They just believed this was necessary to have a consistent and quality product. We asked: "Why exactly are you doing all this? Why aren't you certified?" Their answer: we don't feel like we need to be, and we know how much it costs to produce a pound of coffee so that everything is taken care of. And indeed, as we continued to tour the farm complex, we saw those values manifested in their operations. Two progressive wet mills were part of the farm operations. There was a school on the farm for workers' children to attend (in fact, it was open to anyone in the neighboring village as well). There was a free health care clinic to listen to the needs of those working at the farm.
What also struck me was their willingness to learn and gain feedback from roasters. When I first met them, they had just started to focus on developing projects for smaller craft-style roasters like Mission. They worked with roasters and professionals to refine their processing and improve their cup quality. For example, they transitioned from a patio drying system to a complex raised bed system. And that is no small feat, as they process tons of coffee. Literally. Why? Because it helped improve their coffee quality and consistency.
A beautiful view of San Sebastian / El Tempixque
Just recently, their coffee mill (named San Miguel, found only a few steps away from Tempixque) added a special micromill to help other producers focus on developing top lots of coffee. You'll get to taste one of these in our line shortly (Entre Volcanes Microlot, which should be out in the next couple of weeks).
So, why do I love the flavor profile of El Tempixque? Well, it is always consistent. There is a beautiful long mouthfeel with a slight cocoa-type texture. It has bright florals from the Bourbon and Caturra varieties grown on the farm. It always has an underlying complexity to it as well. This lot has many complex fruit notes: it reminds me of dried figs, melon, and caramel.
But most importantly, whenever I taste this coffee, it takes me back to that first visit. That hospitality. Those memories I made when seeing the farm on the side of the volcano in Antigua. And the reminder that it is relationships that make coffee great.