Antigua – A Place of Elegance

Guatemala Antigua has been one of my favorite coffees in the 14 years I have worked for Starbucks. It’s an elegant and complex coffee with great depth. In our coffee glossary, “elegant” coffees are defined bt having a luxurious mouthfeel and intriguing flavors.

I was extremely excited when I got to visit Guatemala on my first trip to a coffee origin country. I spent lots of time preparing for my trip by reading books and reviewing maps – but no book or website could have prepared me for the experience I had.

A few of my favorite experiences were visiting wet mills and coffee tree nurseries. The wet mill is where coffee is processed after harvest. As you approach the mill the smell of sweet fruit fills the air. I loved seeing coffee sitting in the fermentation tank. This is where the coffee’s honey-like mucilage is removed, developing the acidity of the coffee. There are so many steps from beginning to end, and each one is important to support the flavor and quality of the coffee.

The coffee nursery is a special place where young coffee trees will spend their first year before being planted. I learned that when a coffee tree starts its life it goes through two different growth stages –the “soldier” and “butterfly” stages. The names refer to its visual appearance. I got such an appreciation for the care needed during this vulnerable time in the coffee tree’s life.

The best part of my visit though was the elegance of the town and its people. Walking through the cobblestone streets of Antigua I connected with the culture, history and beauty of this magical place. I enjoyed the farmer’s market where locals sold fresh, vibrantly-colored fruits and vegetables.

My favorite picture, which I think captures Antigua at its best, was taken early in the morning with the sun rising on the Acatenango Volcano. When I look at that photo I understand the meaning of “elegance” and appreciate that I got to experience it.

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