Farm Profile: El Pilar


Region: San Juan Sacatepéquez
Average altitude: 1520-1920 msnm
Coffee area size: 90 hectares
Coffee Varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Catuaí
Shade: mixed
Owner: Juan Carlos Chen
Managed by: Juan Carlos Chen
Harvest season: January- March (Peak: last days of February and the beginning of March)
Flower Season: May
Annual rainfall: 950 mm

About El Pilar

El Pilar is located just outside of Antigua and is owned and managed by Juan Carlos Chen. The farm area is over 1900 hectares of which 90 hectares are dedicated to coffee. The varieties grown here are Bourbon, Caturra and Catuaí. The agricultural management is starting to be stricter, especially when it comes to plant nutrition and Juan is looking to produce with a sustainable focus in mind. This focus is evident in the fact that the land not being used for coffee cultivation is managed as a natural reserve. Most of the farm’s activities are focused on conservation.

When it comes to coffee, a mix of organic activities take place in order to keep conventional agriculture techniques as a last resource. All the tissue taken from the plants turns into organic manure for the plants, chemicals to control diseases and pests are the last option and implementation of soil sampling with satellite technology is the newest innovation at the farm, in order to have a strict fertilization protocol. This technology helps the use of as little chemical fertilizer as possible, which in turn helps to avoid the contamination of groundwater.

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.