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PRODUCER Victor Calderon
REGION Palencia, Guatemala
VARIETY 100% Bourbon
ALTITUDE 1676–1860 meters
TASTES LIKE Milk chocolate, nougat, and stone fruit
SIZE 12 ounces whole bean

Roasted one business day after order.

Victor Calderon represents the 5th generation of coffee farmers from a family that has been in coffee for more than 100 years; El Tambor, however, is a relatively new addition to the rich mosaic of farms dotting this region of Guatemala, just outside of Guatemala City.

When coffee leaf rust became truly apparent on El Tambor, Victor was concerned about using the chemically based fungicides widely recommended in Guatemala. Realising that fungi favor acidic environments, he had tried several alkaline solutions to apply to the plants looking for one that worked. In his research, he read that clay – particularly from volcanic regions – is very alkaline, and his thoughts returned to El Tambor’s brief mining history.

After much experimentation, Victor came to a unique recipe that has enabled him to fight off coffee leaf rust with minimal environmental impact. A solution of water and clay from the old mines is mixed together with a tiny bit of copper-based fungicide and then applied to the underside of leaves using a normal sprayer. He observed that within 3 days the fungus had died on every plant to which the solution had been applied. He attributes this not just to the alkaline solution but also to the endothermic properties of the clay, which helps regulate temperatures and helps the plants fight off future infections. Even better, this method is ecologically friendly and poses no threat to workers’ health.

El Tambor means ‘The Drum’ in Spanish—it is assumed that the name comes from the sound of an underground river pounding under the earth, making a drum-like sound. Even though the sound can no longer be heard today, Victor carries on marching to the beat of his own drum, innovating and refusing to follow the well-trodden path of accepted agricultural practices. In the future, Victor and his family want to continue planting single varietal areas, focusing on new and less planted varieties, such as Amarello, Pacamara, and Amarello geisha. They also plan to build new drying patios, a fruit garden and new tanks for the workers to farm fish.