I first read about Guatemala’s Finca Vista Hermosa in Roast Magazine, in a series written by Edwin Martinez, Diary of a Grower. FVH is the Martinez family farm, and it was interesting to get a first-hand look at various aspects of coffee growing. Edwin also writes a blog about FVH, and the farm as a very nice web site. FVH has to have one of the most visible Internet presences of any coffee farm in the specialty coffee world!
FVH is in northwest Guatemala, in the Huehuetanago region. The growing area of the farm is around 35 ha, and they have just added some additional plots. Altitude ranges from 1600 to 2000 meters. Although not certified, FVH is “is ecologically sound and healthy, a model for many shade grown and organic plantations” according to the web site. I’ve gleaned from various sources that weeds are controlled the old-fashioned way (machete), a flock of sheep contribute natural fertilizer, and photos depict a jungle-like setting.
FVH coffee is used by ANACAFE (the Guatemalan coffee trade organization) to represent the Huehue region at trade shows, etc. FVH has won many awards, most recently placing 8th in the 2007 Cup of Excellence. The Japanese snapped up the CoE lot, but other lots of FVH coffee are available. Here we review:
We chose Brown Coffee Co. because they have a great relationship with FVH, much of which is outlined in owner Aaron Blanco’s blog, the Coffee Press. In fact, to commemorate that this is the 50th anniversary of FVH, Brown put out a pretty cool t-shirt honoring this fact. It’s not easy for a smaller roaster like Brown to have direct relationships with growers, and they are to be admired and supported for their efforts. The whole Brown philosophy and manifesto is also right up our alley.
Brown’s crop comes from a section of the farm called El Eden, a pretty rugged plot with much intact natural habitat. It was a light roast, which we have concluded is a must to bring out the subtle flavors in Central Americans. The beans had an intoxicating aroma, with a hint of spice; one person also smelled fruit, perhaps cherry. In the cup, it was another classic coffee –with notes of chocolate and caramel — and felt a little fuller on the palate and richer than many Guatemalas we’ve had. This was one of the sweetest Centrals we’ve ever tasted. Sweetness is not surprising in a Central, but we all noted the very long finish, which we tend to associate with Asian, African, or more complex coffees. That lingering sweetness gave the FVH a depth that we found pretty unique and very enjoyable. 3.25 motmots. Here’s another review of Brown’s FVH, at Barisimo. And P.S. — Brown’s service is outstanding.
As an aside, now that we’ve reviewed over 30 coffees (yes, this post says #26, but short reviews are usually not numbered), something is obvious. There are a few dogs at 2 or fewer motmots, very few exceptional coffees at 3.75 or above, and a whole lot bunched up in the middle. Not only is the process of reviewing coffee this way (= amateurs!) really subjective, but providing a lot of ratings between 3-3.5 isn’t especially useful.
It is my hope and goal that much of the value in these reviews lies in the background information provided about the origin/region, farm, growing methods, and roaster. It’s my way of educating consumers on how to make responsible, sustainable choices, and highlight sources of coffee to seek out — or avoid. It’s the most time-consuming part of writing these reviews, and quite unusual (unique?) in the realm of coffee reviews. So don’t just go by motmots alone — the other stuff is just as important!