INTRODUCTION BY CHRIS KORNMAN
As the name suggests, 36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP GrainPro hails from the Huehuetenango growing region. Affectionately referred to as Huehue (pronounced “whey-whey”) and sometimes simply abbreviated HHT, the region is among the more sought-after coffee growing regions in Guatemala. Generally higher elevations and later harvest periods with slightly cooler temperatures tend to yield higher than average qualities from established estates. The region itself is just across the border from Chiapas, Mexico, and is quite remote compared to the more accessible Guatemalan regions like Acatenango and Antigua.
36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP GrainPro is sourced from Finca La Providencia located in the municipality of San Pedro Necta at an elevation of around 1550 meters above sea level. La Providencia is owned and operated by Maximiliano Palacios, a third generation coffee farmer. The heart of La Providencia is a beautifully maintained mill that begins at a highpoint on the sloped property, designed to take full advantage of gravity, where the ripe cherries are placed in water and carried through the depulping process on a series of intricate canals to the drying patios below. The name of the coffee, Palhu, is formed from a combination of the family name Palacios and the department of Huehuetenango.
Max is passionate, not just about his coffee, but about all coffee from the region, calling it the “lifeblood of Huehuetenango.” We feel pretty passionate about it too. Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP has great sweetness and balanced citric and malic acidity. On various cupping tables we picked up flavors of cherry, maple, praline, and marzipan, with echoes of cocoa and tropical fruits in the backdrop.
36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP GrainPro is a great example of a high-density washed Central American coffee. Graded to European Preparation, less than 5% of the coffee passes through screen 15. The lot has been well dried to a little below 12% with a pretty stable looking water activity reading. Everything about the green coffee numbers looks very polished; it’s clear that Sr. Palacios has the experience and knowledge of how to produce exceptionally prepared specialty coffee.
AT THE CUPPING TABLE WITH ROYAL STAFF
ROAST ANALYSIS BY JEN APODACA
Every year I forget that fresh Guatemalan coffee can appear very dark colored during first crack. While the coffee is expanding and the outside appears bumpy like an orange peel, the contrast between the light colored peaks and the dark colored troughs can be quite disparate. Both roasts of our 36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP GPare roasted quite light, but PR-0157 (blue), my first roast fooled me and I dropped the batch too soon. While several crisp and clean fruit acids like grape, apple, and orange were present in the cup, the underlying sweet cereal flavor was unappealing.
On my second roast of the 36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP GP , PR-0158 (red), I increased my initial charge temperature and apply more heat soon after the turning point. Giving this very dense coffee a lot of energy through the roast to an end temperature that was more appropriate for the roast I wanted to achieve. Many of the volatile fruit acids remained the same between the two roasts with PR-0158 (red) having a more amplified sweetness and even some lovely tart and floral notes in the aromatics. There is a lot of potential sweetness in this coffee and the fruit acids are sufficient to survive a darker roast with more time in the drum. This is a very flexible and clean coffee, which will perform well at any roast level. Aside from my annual reminder that Guatemalan coffee can appear to be darker than they really are, I am looking forward to this season. Especially as I see great coffees come across our table like this one.
BREW ANALYSIS BY EVAN GILMAN
One of my first experiences with a single origin espresso was at Victrola Coffee in Seattle, Washington. It was the sort of rainy and cloudy day you can expect 9 months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest, and an espresso was just what I needed to perk up before going into work to serve espresso all day. This was earlier in my coffee career and I was acclimatized to dark roasted, sugar driven, and low-acid espresso. I was also attuned to the ristretto style espresso that results from a dose:yield ratio well below 1:2.
On that day, I had a formative experience, and it was with a Guatemala from the Huehuetenango region, just like the 36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP. All the sweetness I expected was there, but so were bright and quickly dissipating fruity notes. I would have been happier with an entire mug of that espresso, rather than just a demitasse. Though that extraction was certainly around a 1:2 ratio, I still couldn’t get enough.
This Huehuetenango Palhu is just as satisfying in the espresso machine. I used the PR-158 roast, and was very happy with the results. As I worked my way through dialing this espresso in, I found at least two delicious iterations of this espresso. Looking at the table below, you can see that I moved from higher doses and lower yields, to more standard SCAA parameters (closer to 1:2)
BREWING EXTRACTION DATA
Though more herbal notes (such as the green pepper on extraction 3) came through as my extractions approached the 30-second mark, the results were never truly offensive. They actually added dimension. Consistency is the mantra of every barista. The 36279 – Guatemala Huehuetenango Palhu SHB EP is a very forgiving coffee and will stand up to variations in extraction for those having a rough time dialing in. Dialing in espresso before having an espresso is always a difficult proposition, after all!