Luis Pedro Zelaya, Jr.

Farming, processing and exporting classic Antiguan coffee

Year founded

The family coffee business is over 100 years old

Partnered with Stumptown

2005

Varieties

Bourbon, Tekisic, Caturra, Villa Sarchi

Processing technique

Washed

Fun Fact

He is the cousin of Ricardo Zelaya

The Producer

Among those who love Antiguan coffees, the Zelaya family is legendary. Luis represents the fourth generation of this tremendous legacy, and while he honors tradition, he also pushes Antiguan coffee toward the future. He constantly innovates and elevates quality levels, and is instrumental in making Antiguan Coffee a Protected Designation of Origin product, which places them alongside Champagne from the 45th parallel or prosciutto from southern Italy. Whenever he visits us in Portland, he always wants to stop by the Horse Brass Pub for a local microbrew.

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The Place

Founded in 1527, Antigua is a regal place, having once been the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It sits in the shadow of three volcanoes — including the very active Fuego Volcano. The last time we visited, Fuego was spewing plumes of ash and the lava was flowing — it’s that same volcanic ash that contributes to the incredible minerality of the soil, and in turn, the beautiful fruitiness of the coffee.

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The Process

Luis is unique among our larger producers — he has taken coffee separation and made it a wonderfully meticulous art. He divides his coffee by farm, microclimate, location, date harvested and more — and keeps all of it separate through depulping, processing and drying. The result is an incredible variety of nuanced, distinct coffees with bright, sweet flavor.

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More Details

Antigua, Guatemala is one of the most renowned coffee producing regions in the world due to its climate, altitude, fertile volcanic soils and farming practices. Antigua sits in a valley scattered with coffee farms surrounded by three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango.

Bella Vista

Bella Vista is a farm, wet mill, and dry mill owned by the Zelaya family. With over 100 years of experience, the Zelaya family is committed to maintaining excellent quality coffee through ecologically stable and environmentally friendly methods.

Our Bella Vista consists of coffee from a combination of 100% Bourbon lots processed at Bella Vista, some grown by Zelaya himself and some grown by the Hunapu group.

Zelaya also instigated variety separation at Bella Vista farm, which fostered the ability for a lot consisting only of Villa Sarchi, a variety renown for sweetness and brightness. They improved their raised bed infrastructure by converting to three-tiered parabolic drying beds.

Hunapu

Hunapu, the local indigenous Cackchiquel word for the Volcano de Agua, is the name of a group of smallholder producers in the San Miguel Dueñas and Ciudad Vieja microregions around Antigua who process their coffee at Bella Vista. Since 2006, Luis Pedro has worked with these farmers to develop meticulous lot separation with the ability to track lots from the farms, to the mill, to the warehouse and to their final destination. He brings his family’s commitment to each family he works with for all the coffees milled at Bella Vista.

The Hunapu farmers deliver their red ripe coffee cherry to the Zelaya family’s Bella Vista Mill to be processed and handled through export. Originally built in 1910, the mill had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed during the 1976 earthquake. This coffee is traditionally fermented in tanks, washed, and then carefully dried on patios or raised beds. At Bella Vista, careful attention is paid to each detail of processing and dry milling which enables better transparency for each micro lot. They use Grain Pro packaging to protect the coffee from less than ideal environments encountered during travel and storage.

Semillero

Finca Semillero sits on 12.5 hectares of land where, for eleven years, they have cultivated their Tekisic variety, a close relative of classic Bourbon developed in El Salvador. The Zelaya family cultivates Caturra and Tekisic on about three hectares of the farm. Prior to the Zelaya’s purchase of this land, it was used to farm corn and beans.

The Zelaya family’s commitment to maintaining coffee quality starts with the selection of the varieties planted and a focus on ecological stability. After being picked, the coffee from Finca Semillero is washed mechanically at the Zelaya family’s Bella Vista Mill on the outskirts of Antigua. Special supervision during the wet and dry milling stages guarantees that only the best is selected for export. Finally, they ship the green coffee in Grain Pro technology, which protects it from the less than ideal elements encountered during travel and storage.

In 2011, La Roya, also known as coffee leaf rust disease, severely affected Semillero. The Zelaya’s began a strict pruning and cultivation program to counteract the effects. They are renovating the coffee plants with extensive pruning in order to improve cherry productivity. Leguminose (beans) are being planted among the coffee plants as a natural fertilizer and other organic compost is being added to improve soil conditions on the farm.

Byron Ismael Marroquin now manages Semillero. He and the Zelaya’s are renovating their coffee plants with aggressive pruning and a stumping project while continuing to replace Catimor with Caturra and Tekisic varieties. They employed advanced soil analysis technologies to achieve the correct balance in the soil for their coffee to thrive. They’re now able to detect the balance in the soil in real time, rather than waiting for the results of the harvest to know whether inputs worked.

The Zelaya family has recently planted more Tekisic on newly acquired land from their recent purchase of a neighbor’s farm. The cherries ripened evenly this year, which enabled them to pick the bulk of the harvest at once rather than making multiple sweeps through the farm. They dried the coffee at the Bella Vista mill on new raised beds.