San Rafael Urias
San Rafael Urias is located in one of the most traditional coffee regions of Guatemala: Antigua. It is one of the oldest and most reputable farms in the region. The farm was founded at the end of the nineteenth century by Don Rafael Valdés Quiroa. Today it is administrated by the third generation of the Valdés family.
The coffee produced by the Valdés brother is strictly hard bean (SHB), genuine Antigua type and it’s grown between 1,300 to 1,500 metres above sea level.
The farm is situated in a special micro-valley, between Antigua’s Agua and Fuego volcanoes. Although there are hazards to being located squarely in the ‘ash’ zone (both volcanoes are active), the upside is the farm’s fertile, volcanic soils.
Harvest season begins in late December and continues through the end of March. The farm is surrounded by hills and crossed by the Guacalate River, which provides hydraulic energy to the coffee-processing mill. On a small mountain in the valley native trees grow, providing housing and sanctuary for several types of migrating birds. A water spring provides drinking water for household use, for the milling process and for irrigating coffee plants at the nursery.
After the ripe coffee cherries have been picked, they are sorted to remove any debris or damaged beans. Only the ripest cherries make it to the wet mill, where they are pulped and then fermented (12 – 18 hours) before being fully washed in 100% pure water. After this, the coffee is delivered to patios to dry under sun. Here, they are raked regularly to ensure even drying. The daily routine of taking samples and cupping is part of the strict quality control in order to keep the quality of the coffee homogeneous.
Only around 113 hectares (just over half) of the farm are dedicated to the production of coffee. The rest of the 200+ hectares are used for growing traditional foods – corn, beans, yams, and other field crops – for the use of the household and the workers on the farm. This is just one of the many legacies established by its founder, Don Rafael Valdés Quiroa.