Nestled in the western highlands of Guatemala, the San Marcos coffee-growing region, pronounced as "sahn-MAR-kohs," is a treasure trove for specialty coffee enthusiasts. Located at an altitude between 1,200 and 1,800 meters above sea level, San Marcos is known for its distinct microclimate, which contributes to the unique flavor profiles of the coffee beans grown there. An interesting fact about this region is that it experiences the highest rainfall in the country and has the warmest average temperature among all Guatemalan coffee regions.
Coffee has been an integral part of the San Marcos region for more than a century. The first coffee plantations were established in the late 19th century, and the region soon gained a reputation for producing high-quality beans. Over time, coffee cultivation steadily expanded as farmers recognized the potential of San Marcos' rich volcanic soils and unique microclimate to produce exceptional coffee. Today, the region is renowned for its dedication to sustainable farming practices and its commitment to preserving the area's biodiversity.
While specific farming and processing methods can vary across the San Marcos region, most coffee growers in Guatemala follow a set of common practices that are deeply rooted in tradition. The majority of coffee farms in San Marcos are small, family-owned operations that prioritize quality over quantity. This means that farmers typically handpick their coffee cherries, selecting only the ripest and most uniformly matured fruits for processing.
In terms of processing, the most common method used in Guatemala is the washed process. This involves removing the outer pulp of the coffee cherries and then fermenting the beans in water to remove any remaining mucilage. The beans are then washed and laid out to dry on patios or raised beds, where they are carefully monitored and regularly turned to ensure even drying. This method is known to produce clean and consistent coffee profiles with bright acidity and well-defined flavors.
However, it is worth noting that some producers in San Marcos may also experiment with other processing methods, such as honey processing or natural processing, to create unique and distinctive flavor profiles.
Coffees from the San Marcos region are often characterized by their bright acidity, medium to full body, and complex flavor profiles. Typical tasting notes include stone fruits, such as apricot and peach, chocolate, and a subtle floral undertone. The region's high rainfall and warm temperatures contribute to a pronounced sweetness in the cup, making these coffees particularly enjoyable as single-origin offerings or as part of well-balanced blends.
As the specialty coffee industry continues to grow and evolve, the San Marcos region maintains its commitment to producing exceptional coffee through sustainable farming practices and innovative processing methods. With its unique microclimate, rich volcanic soils, and dedicated coffee producers, San Marcos is a region that will undoubtedly continue to captivate coffee enthusiasts for years to come.