Cream of the Crop from Finca Nueva Armenia
One of the coolest things about Finca Nueva Armenia in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, is the sheer drama of its geography. The house and coffee mill sit nestled on a valley floor, near a beautiful river. The coffee farm proper begins a few yards beyond, and almost immediately shoots up a steep valley wall almost to the top of a mountain that towers over the farm house. The dizzying change in altitude from the lowest parts of the farm to the highest is a critical part of Nueva Armenia's character; the high parts of the farm develop slower, harvest later, and taste different than other parts of the farm. In our very first meeting with the Recinos brothers, we discussed the idea of isolating and separating the coffee from different parts of the farm. Cupping led us to the part of the farm called "Area 7," which seemed to consistently taste spectacular.
The next year, immediately upon my late-afternoon arrival to Finca Nueva Armenia, we set out to hike the mountain and see if we could figure out what made coffee from area 7 so special. It took a while for us to there, but I'll never forget our arrival: it was the waning hours of the day, and misty clouds were sweeping through the tall trees that tower over the coffee bushes. Our destination was the landmark of area 7: a small, cavelike spring that emerges magically from the forested slope in this part of the farm. As Jorge Recinos led me to the spot, I exclaimed: "Oh, wow! Un grotto!" in my trademark Spanglish.
Now, it turns out that our word "grotto" (which comes from the Italian grotta) is not all that common in Spanish, but I feel it is one of the most beautiful and evocative words we have. Jorge must have agreed, because from that day he began referring to the coffee from that part of the farm as "El Grotto."
Name aside, we've separated coffee from El Grotto ever since, and it can be fairly called the cream of Finca Nueva Armenia's crop. To taste Finca Nueva Armenia Grotto Microlot beside the main lot from Finca Nueva Armenia is a dramatic experience of geography and discovery, and every time I taste it I am transported back to that moment I first saw the spring, and understood the magic of a little part of a little farm in a little canyon in Guatemala.