Santa Isabel is a fifth-generation family farm owned by Luis Valdés Sr and run by his son Luis Valdés Jr, nicknamed ‘Wicho’. Wicho grew up watching and helping his father on the farm, and he fell in love with coffee from a very young age. After high school, he went away to study agriculture. He returned to work at Santa Isabel in 1998.
Wicho’s passion for coffee was obvious as soon as we met him on our first visit to the farm in 2013. We were immediately impressed by the immaculate condition of the family’s wet mill, and the care and precision that goes into processing the coffee. We soon learned that Wicho is fastidious in his approach to every aspect of production, and that he continually evaluates and invests in farm improvements, in order to further improve coffee quality.
The farm is located in Guatemala’s Cobán region, where it rains for 9–10 months of the year. This means that the coffee-tree flowering is staggered, which results in a long harvest period (usually November–May), as the cherries ripen at different rates. To make sure each cherry is picked at its ripest, Wicho’s team does at least 12 passes over the farm. Sometimes there are breaks of up to two weeks between passes as the cherries need time to ripen to perfection.