Agua Tibia, Friajanes Guatemala
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Coffee was introduced to Agua Tibia in the 1950s, and Bourbon and Typica varieties were planted. At this time, no one in the region had coffee plantations, so the initial plot for the land was very small and experimental. By the 1980s, around 112 hectares were planted with coffee, but it wasn’t until 2012, that the family began focusing all of its efforts on coffee production.
Today 300 of the 1,530 hectares are dedicated to coffee. The farm also produces avocado, corn, and ornamental plants, and also has some dairy cattle. In addition, 465 hectares are dedicated to natural forest and 400 are dedicated to commercial forest.
Agua Tibia is managed by Erick de la Roca, a fourth-generation coffee producer who also owns his own farm, La Esperanza, in Acatenango. Erick lives on the farm at Agua Tibia with his wife and three children, and has been managing it since 2011. He oversees all of the activities on the farm, however coffee is his primary focus and he has been charged with improving both the quality and yield.
Agua Tibia’s agricultural calendar begins in May with the planting of coffee seedlings, both in new areas of the farm and to replace old and damaged trees. All seedlings are reared in the farm’s own nursery using specially selected seeds from the previous harvest. Seedlings are usually planted in the month of June the year prior, so the seedlings are 11 months old and have received the best nourishment possible by the time they are planted out.
Currently the farm is planted out with Caturra, Pache, Bourbon Catuai and Mondo Novo. Geisha and Pacamara have also just been planted in 2019. They are grown under the shade of Ingas trees which drop large leaves on the ground, providing valuable organic matter that helps to preserve the moisture in the soil.
All the trees on the farm are given regular applications of fertiliser, and foliar applications in October—as this is the best time for the prevention and control of diseases, during the cooler winter months. Pruning is conducted in the months of February and March, which helps maintain the health and productivity of the trees. Agua Tibia maintains a staff of twenty permanent workers year-round to look after the farm.
Harvest time at Agua Tibia begins in November and concludes at the end of March. During this time 220 people are employed, which helps sustain the local economy. These seasonal workers are trained in best-picking techniques, and only ripe, red cherries are delivered through the wet mill. Coffee is delivered to the wet mill (located on the farm) in the afternoon each day during the peak of the harvest season. Once there, it is pulped and delivered to tanks for fermentation. After around 48 hours, the coffee is washed using clean water and then delivered for drying on the farm’s patios. The parchment is thinly spread and regularly raked over the course of 14 days so as to ensure slow even drying.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name Finca Agua Tibia predates the Castillo family and, to their knowledge, has always been the name of the farm. Agua Tibia means Warm Water in Spanish, and with active volcanoes to the west of the region, it is highly likely that at one point there may have been hot springs in the area.
The Castillo family is a very famous and successful family in Guatemala who also own Gallo beer, among other businesses in Guatemala. They have set up a foundation called Castillo Cordova Foundation which is focused on supporting their connected communities to improve their nutrition and education. As part of this foundation they have built a school at Agua Tibia for the workers’ children to attend. You can read more about this foundation here.