La Soledad sits at an altitude of 1,585–1,750m above sea level on the slopes of Volcan de Agua in Antigua. The estate is owned by Ana Lucia Zelaya and her husband Rony Asensio. The two make a dynamic coffee duo—Ana Lucia is a fourth-generation coffee producer from a well-established and long-standing coffee producing family. Her husband, Rony, also comes from coffee-producing heritage and is a very talented, passionate and meticulous farmer who works incredibly hard to produce great coffee. He owns and manages several farms, and takes great pride in doing things exceptionally well.
La Soledad was originally part of the larger Finca Santa Clara, founded in 1908 by Lucia’s great grandfather, Sr. Luis Pedro Aguirre Matheu. His farm was passed down through the generations until the late 1990s when the farm was finally divided between the four children of Ricardo Zelaya Aguirre. At this time, Lucia and Rony took over the eleven-hectare part of the farm and called it ‘La Soledad’.
All the coffee trees at La Soledad grow under a canopy of Grevillea shade trees, which protect the coffee trees from frost and too much sun and encourage the coffee to ripen slowly.
Rony maintains a strict coffee pruning regime at La Soledad, removing around a third of the coffee branches each year to help combat disease and ensure efficient production. This pruning program is part of a broader, integrated farm management program that has seen a dramatic decrease in the reliance on chemical inputs for the farm.
Due to varying altitude of La Soledad, the coffee cherries ripen at different times during the harvest, so Julio instructs his team of pickers to do around eight passes of the entire farm during the season to ensure only the ripest cherries are selected.
Once the perfectly ripe cherries are picked, the coffee is processed at the Zelaya’s beneficio (mill) Bella Vista in the traditional washed manner. The cherries are mechanically pulped before they’re fermented for 24 hours to remove the mucilage. The beans are then washed to remove any remaining pulp and carefully dried first on a patio for a couple of days, and then on raised beds in a greenhouse, which ensures the coffee is dried slowly and evenly.
It has been a number of years since we have featured a Guatemalan coffee. This is a beautiful example of a small-farm coffee and love and care that has gone into producing and processing specialty grade coffee.