Raul Perez has grown up around coffee, he comes from a fifth generation coffee farming family on his father's side, and a third generation family on his mother's side. Coffee has always been part of his life. He has told me about stories his grandparents would share with him about their experiences.
But I think it's fair to say that Raul has made plenty of his own coffee stories in his ten years of involvement in the specialty coffee industry.
It was ten years ago when Raul first became involved in the family business. After living in Guatemala City in his youth (so he was able to go to a good school and university), he returned to the farm where his family had still been working and commuting.
This coincided with a visit from an international buyer who made the family view coffee production in a different way. The speciality market was blossoming and the visitor gave them new ideas for varietals, picking, and processing that changed the direction of their farm and their cup quality. As Raul puts it, they began to work in a "more interactive way".
Finca La Soledad has been a Pérez family coffee farm since 1895, the farm is located in Acatenango, near to the Acatenango volcano. It has a great microclimate and an altitude of 1,650 metres above sea level.
The Pérez family invested heavily in their mill, rebuilding it with the environment in mind. They have a clever system through which they are able to recycle the water they use for processing many times.
Raul and his dad Henio work together on the farm to raise quality standards every day. Since that visit which sparked the changes, they have built a cupping and roasting lab on the farm and Raul has been roasting and cupping samples of days' pickings so they can learn at farm level what they can do to improve the cup.
The first time I met Raul was at a friend's wedding in Guatemala. I didn't know him (like most of the other guests), but we got talking and I enjoyed his company. At no time did he try to push his coffee on me, and I think only in passing did he say his family worked in coffee.
Raul was so kind he offered to take us back to our hotel that evening to save us having to get in a dodgy cab in Guatemala City.
I have an exporting partner in Guatemala who sent me this amazing sample, which I decided there and then we had to but. I was only after I committed to buying the coffee that I found out it was from Raul's farm.
Since then I've been lucky enough to visit the farm and meet the whole family. A fond memory that will stay with me is sitting on the unused drying patio with them all, enjoying a beer and watching the sun go down. They are a professional team and a lovely, warm family.
All our lots from La Soledad this year are washed coffees - meaning they are soaked in water to remove the fruit from the beans. This fermentation process plays a key part in developing the flavours that make a great coffee something special. It’s a super interesting (and complex!) part of the beans journey from the plant to us and one which clever producers like the Perez family are really starting to explore and experiment with.
In the cup expect a thick, sweet coffee. It’s golden sugar and cream, shifting in to chocolate coated raisins on the finish. This is the heaviest and gloopiest of the lots from the farm which really kicks that chocolate up a notch!
- Country: Guatemala
- Region: Acatenango
- Producers: Raul Pérez & Family
- Farm: Finca La Soledad
- Altitude: 1,650 m.a.s.l.
- Varietals grown: Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Typica & Pache
- Processing method: Washed
Cupping notes: Golden sugar, cream, chocolate coated raisins.