Region: Patzun Chimaltenango
Average altitude: 1805 masl
Farm size: 21 hectares
Wet mill: Florida
Dry mill: Bella Vista
Coffee Varieties: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Catuaí, Pache
Shade: Native trees, Gravileas, Ingas
Owner: Rodolfo Benavente
Managed by: Víctor Hugo Juárez
Harvest season: February- April (Peak: beginning of March)
Annual rainfall: 1200 mm
About La Florida
La Florida is owned by Rodolfo Benavente, who has worked in the coffee world pretty much all his life. The farm is managed by a relative, Víctor Hugo Juárez, and Victor has been steadily improving the management of the farm every year by, for example, “stumping” the older trees (80 years old!) in order to renew the trees’ tissue and increase productivity. Stumping is a pruning practice wherein the tree’s stem is cut down to just 10-15 cm above the soil. As one can imagine, this practice is a huge investment, given the length of time it takes for the plant to regenerate and produce cherries again.
Although this practice has given the family a hard time, they understand the long-term benefits of it and results are starting to show: increased quality and productivity. As well, keeping the old trees which have historical significance to the family. Additionally, the family is starting to plant new varieties.
La Florida experiences a late harvest due to the altitude, so the harvest season goes from the beginning of February to the end of April. There are two to three rounds of hand-picking (with consistent people year to year) and the coffee is sorted at the wet mill located at the farm. Drying takes place on the farm’s own patios too.
Bella Vista is able to get La Florida’s coffees with the help of Byron Benavente (Rodolfo’s son), who helps outsource coffee from that area. Byron has also facilitated help/consulting for the family to improve in agricultural management and processing at the wet mill.
About Bella Vista & Zelcafé
Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.
For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.
Partnerships & Services
The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don’t want to sell but don’t know how manage themselves.
The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.
Sustainability & the Future
Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.
Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.