Farm & Production Data
Farm Name: Buena Vista
Owner: Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre
Farm manager(s): Carlos Patal (daily operations); Franklin Quiche (overall)
Closest town: Jocotenango
Altitude: 1772-1900 masl
Farm Size: 80 ha
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 3200
Soil composition: Clay mixed with volcanic and sandy loam
Harvest season: December to April
Harvest peak: February to March
Approx. annual production: 1330 bags (per 46kg bags)
Variety: 25 ha planted with bourbon; 6 ha planted with caturra; 3.5 ha planted with catuaí; 3.5 ha planted with villa sarchí; 15 ha planted with catimor.
- Cherries go into reception tank and floaters are separated out, then pumped into the depulper
- After being depulped by a mechanical depulper, cherries are sorted in two ways: clean and those that still have fruit
- The ones with fruit go to a separate channel to undergo a second depulping
- Clean cherries are moved with recycled water over to fermentation tanks
- If there happen to still be cherries with fruit, they are sent to another tank where they will most likely be processed as commercial grade
- Dry fermentation for 14-15 hours
- Clean water then used to rinse the parchment which is then moved to a mechanical washer and finally transported to the drying patios or beds.
Three types of drying methods. Dependent on quality:
Green house with raised beds
- Used for small lots (e.g. Hunapu). Do some honeys and naturals
- Temperature, moisture, humidity levels are monitored
- There are windows that can be opened to allow for more air flow when needed
Mechanical dryers used for biggest/commercial lots
- Stay in the dryer for 24 hours @ below 50C
- Then dried for five days on the patio
- Most volume dried here
- 12-16 days
- Tube test in the middle of coffee lots to figure out whether coffee is dry enough to be measured for 11% moisture content. If it sticks to the tube, it still needs drying. If it doesn’t, moisture content reading is taken.
- Parchment is packed in grain pro and rests for 30 days
- At the dry mill, there are three different mechanical sorters that grade by A (biggest), B and C (smallest)
- This process is repeated at least seven times to ensure even grading
- Finally, the coffee is deparched and packaged.
Number of people employed at farm: 18 permanent; 100-150 temporary/seasonal pickers. A law was recently passed in Guatemala that requires employers to register workers as employees and this provides them with government social and healthcare benefits that they didn’t previously have access to.
Pickers’ wage: 50-70 GTQ/45kg.
About the farmer & plans for the farm
Luis Pedro Zelaya Aguirre is the patriarch of the Zelcafé group of companies, which includes Bella Vista Mill (see below) and several farms either owned or managed by the group. Buena Vista has been under LPZA’s management since 1998 and the farm has been planted with coffee since 1991.
The biggest challenges for Buena Vista are disease (especially roya) and drought.
Projects include replanting all the catimor with gesha (seeds coming from Finca Carmona, a farm owned by a relative of LPZA’s, Maria Zelaya) and replanting a plot of 3 ha currently planted with bourbon & caturra with a newer bourbon strain that grows shorter (easier to pick) and has a better cup profile. 1 ha of Buena Vista has been planted with the java variety and will first harvest next season.
The farm’s coffee trees are fully replanted every 30 years, with the first pruning cycle occurring after seven years. Pruning occurs every year, while stumping occurs every third year.
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.