Raul Pérez 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 the stories his grandparents shared 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 it's at 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 with which they are able to recycle the water they use for processing many times.
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 that 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 an amazing sample, which I decided there and then we had to buy. It 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.
You want to know something else cool about La Soledad? They have an Instagram page! And they're really active on there too, so go have a look at what they're up to: https://www.instagram.com/fincalasoledad
Our coffees from La Soledad are washed coffees. This means 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 into something special. It’s a super interesting (and complex!) part of the bean's journey from the plant to us, and one which clever producers like the Pérez family are really starting to explore and experiment with.
This lot has been fermented for 67 hours. The typical time for a dry fermentation would be 35–40 hours at 20°C to 26°C, so this has had about 30 hours longer than a typical dry fermentation on the farm. If a lot ferments for too long, it usually develops unpleasant flavours. This one hasn't, though; it’s super tasty!
This is possible because the team at La Soledad have got a clever trick to control the temperature. By running copper pipes around the tank and pumping cold water through those pipes, they can cool the fermenting beans down. This slows down the rate of fermentation, but it also changes the kind of flavour compounds the yeast and bacteria produce, allowing the fermentation to progress further without developing unpleasant flavours.
That’s all a bit clever, but what matters is how it tastes, right? Well, it really delivers on the sweet and clean flavours from that long, slow fermentation.
When I think of La Soledad, I think of a very refined coffee. That's exactly what you see here. It's delicate and very clean, and full of sugary sweetness that makes me think of a simple syrup. A white wine-like acidity balances that, and a hint of cocoa powder on the aftertaste adds complexity.
- Country: Guatemala
- Region: Acatenango
- Farm: La Soledad
- Farmer: Raul Pérez and family
- Altitude: 1,500 m.a.s.l.
- Variety: Caturra
- Processing system: Washed
- Fermentation: 67 hours
Cupping notes: Sugar syrup, white wine, cocoa powder
- Clean cup (1–8): 7
- Sweetness (1–8): 6.5
- Acidity (1–8): 6.5
- Mouthfeel (1–8): 6
- Flavour (1–8): 6
- Aftertaste (1–8): 6
- Balance (1–8): 6.5
- Overall (1–8): 6.5
Correction (+36): +36
Total: (max. 100): 87
Roasting Information: Medium-dark – take this through first crack and give it time in between to develop the sweetness. You're looking for a fraction lighter than most Guatemalan coffees, so drop it just before second gets going.