Coffee is one of the most important cash crops in Guatemala, alongside sugar. The Central American country has diverse microclimates and rich volcanic soils that create perfect conditions for coffee plants to mature.
Guatemalan coffee has many complex flavors that vary by region. Here you’ll find some helpful information about Guatemalan coffee, its benefits, and some suggestions for Guatemalan coffee brands to try.
at a glance: Our Top 5 Guatemalan Coffee Brands
About Guatemalan Coffee
The coffee industry has been a major part of Guatemala’s economy since it was grown for export in the mid-19th century. Guatemalan coffee has been known for its high-quality beans and distinct flavor profiles that are specific to each of its coffee-producing regions.
Guatemala ranks tenth in the global export ranking. It has fallen slightly behind due to increased coffee production in competing Central American countries, such as Honduras.
Despite the competition, Guatemala still exports millions of 60-kg bags each year. The top export locations for Guatemalan coffee are the US, Japan, Germany, and Canada.
Between February 2021 and January 2022, it exported almost 3.8 million bags around the world.
Where Is Guatemalan Coffee Grown?
Guatemala was the first coffee-producing country to create an origin system that separated its coffee bean flavor profiles from each other by region.
There are eight coffee-producing regions in Guatemala, with several consisting of volcanic soils, lots of rain, and high altitudes.
The different climates and environments in that the coffee beans are grown in allow them to have distinct and complex flavor profiles. The eight coffee-producing regions in Guatemala include:
- Fraijanes Plateau
- New Oriente
- Acatenango Valley
- San Marcos
Most of the regions are in the southern portion of the country, known as the Guatemalan Highlands, which borders the North Pacific Ocean.
Six of the regions consist of fertile volcanic soils. Some are surrounded by active volcanoes, which spread mineral-rich ash that give coffee plants important nutrients.
There are about 175,000 coffee farms in Guatemala. Almost half of the coffee produced comes from smallholder farms.
Most of these farms are located at altitudes of 1,200 meters or higher, which results in Strictly High Grown (SHG) beans. Coffee grown at higher altitudes tend to produce higher-quality beans.
Benefits of Guatemalan Coffee
Guatemalan coffee is pretty special to many coffee lovers. It offers unique flavor profiles that vary depending upon the region. Some of the key benefits that you may look forward to in Guatemalan coffee include:
- Grown in fertile volcanic soils
- Diverse microclimates that offer complex flavor profiles
- Grown in high altitudes
Several of Guatemala’s coffee-growing regions have volcanic soils enriched with minerals. Acatenango Valley, Antigua, Atitlán, San Marcos, and Fraijanes Plateau are all located near volcanoes, and New Oriente is on an old volcanic range.
Each of the coffee regions has special micro-climates. For example, Huehuetenango is the highest and driest coffee cultivation area. San Marcos is the warmest and experiences the most rainfall, with up to five meters of precipitation per year.
Some of the tallest mountains and volcanoes in Guatemala are in the coffee-producing regions. Volcán Tajumulco is the highest peak in the country, towering over the San Marcos region at 4,203 meters above sea level.
High altitudes slow down the maturation of the coffee plant, which allows the beans to develop more intense and complex flavors.
Guatemalan Coffee Flavour Profiles
Guatemala has a wide range of flavor profiles. There are some flavors that are distinct to each region, but some tasting notes are pretty consistent throughout most of the country.
Since several of the coffee regions are located in the southern half of Guatemala, they will have similar flavors. The distinction ultimately comes down to the type of micro-climates the coffee plants are grown in, which can lead to a number of differences.
Some of the key tasting notes that make up a consistent Guatemalan coffee flavor profile include:
- Bright acidity
- Medium body
Generally, Guatemalan coffees have some chocolatey flavor to them, which is paired with fruity or nutty notes. Cherry and orange are common fruit flavors you’ll see in many different Guatemalan coffees.
Multiple regions in the Guatemalan Highlands also produce beans that give off hints of spices. The combination of these flavors can also give off winey notes, which is more common at very high altitudes.
Several Central American countries are known for their full-bodied coffee, but Guatemalan coffee is a little different. It has a smoother, medium body that is well-balanced between a thin and full mouthfeel.
The acidity of Guatemalan beans can be a good or bad thing depending upon your own preference. Higher altitudes have an effect on acidity levels.
Many Guatemalan coffees are medium to dark roasts, which can help draw out some of that acidity. However, you may still have enough of that acidity leftover for it to be noticeable in your cup.
If you’re a fan of bright, acidic coffees and darker roasts, you might like this feature.
What to Look for When Buying Guatemalan Coffee Brands
Now that you have some insight into what Guatemalan coffee is like, it’s time to talk about what you may want to look for when exploring different Guatemalan coffee brands. Something you might want to keep in mind is the distinct flavor profiles that differ between each region.
If you’re looking for a specific set of tasting notes, you may decide to check out single-origin Guatemalan coffee that will give you a clear flavor profile. The type of roast also plays a key role in what kind of flavors you might experience.
Medium to dark roasts will compliment chocolatey and nutty tasting notes to create a rich cup of coffee. Lighter roasts will help uplift the bright acidity and citrusy notes.
You can really go either way with the roast because there are flavourful benefits for each type.
We generally recommend coffee that is grown in high altitudes because the beans tend to be of better quality. Most Guatemalan coffee is grown at higher altitudes in the eight main regions, so finding high-quality beans may be easier than in less-mountainous countries.
5 Guatemalan Coffee Brands to Try
1. Peerless Guatemala Dark
- Rich and smooth
- Intense flavor
- Direct trade
- Acidic (depending on preference)
Peerless Guatemala Dark is a single-origin coffee from Finca Las Salinas in the Antigua region. It is a dark roast with notes of milk chocolate, dried fig, and a hint of nuttiness.
The chocolatey flavor compliments the richness of the dark roast. It is somewhat acidic for a darker roast, so this may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a low-acidic dark roast coffee.
2. Peace Coffee Guatemala
- Organic and fair trade
- Small batch coffee
- Flavour lacks intensity
Peace Coffee specializes in organic and fair trade coffee. This brand has a special history with Guatemalan coffee. It first purchased its coffee from Guatemala in 1997 and was originally named Guatemalan Peace Coffee.
The name was changed to Peace Coffee after exploring coffees from other countries.
This whole bean dark roast is from Pueblo Nuevo, located near the southeastern San Marcos region. It has bittersweet flavors of chocolate and cherry.
It also has notes of anise, which bring a natural sweetness that resembles licorice. Despite these strong tasting notes, the coffee does lack a punch you might expect with this flavor combo.
3. Stone Street Guatemala Antigua Gourmet Coffee
- Grown in volcanic, high-altitude soils
- Small batch roasted
- Not very rich for a dark roast
Stone Street’s Guatemala Antigua gourmet coffee is grown in volcanic soils of the highlands. This is a smooth dark roast that gives off a smoky aroma.
It has a medium body, which Antigua is most known for, and offers well-balanced tasting notes of florals and velvety chocolate. The beans are roasted in small batches, which allows for even roasting and heightens the flavors.
4. Cooper’s Cask Coffee Single Origin Guatemalan
- Available whole bean or coarsely ground
- Small batch roasted
- Smooth and creamy
- A little light for a cold brew roast
Cooper’s Cask Guatemalan coffee is an organic medium roast specifically made for cold brew coffee. Cold brew is typically made with medium dark to dark roasts, so this might be a little too light if you like a darker cold brew.
The back of the bag gives you helpful step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the cold brew properly. It can be ordered as whole beans or coarsely ground.
It has a bold flavor profile with hints of sweet caramel and fruity notes of cherry and orange.
5. Fresh Roasted Coffee Guatemala Huehuetenango
- Wet-washed and sun-dried
- Signature Guatemalan tasting notes
- Dark roast is slightly bitter
Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Guatemala beans come from the Huehuetenango region known for their mild body and lively acidity. These beans are grown between 1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level and are wet-washed and sun-dried.
This is a medium roast coffee that also comes in a dark roast. It has distinct Guatemalan flavor notes of cherry and chocolate, with a hint of spices.
Overview: Guatemalan Coffee Brands
If you need a little help picking out a brand, we recommend Fresh Roasted Coffee Guatemala Huehuetenango. It has distinct flavor notes of chocolate, cherry, and spices, which are common in Guatemalan beans.
It is Strictly High Grown in one of Guatemala’s main coffee-producing regions. The medium roast is recommended, as the dark roast may be more bitter.
Overall, Guatemalan coffee beans hold some pretty complex flavors. A light roast is recommended if you want to taste the bright acidity and fruity flavors of the mountainous regions.
Medium to dark roasts may produce a more rich and smooth cup of coffee complemented by a chocolatey flavor.