Arnaldo López is one of the many producers working at Ayarza cherry mill and has been involved in coffee production business his entire life. His father took him into the field to plant coffee trees as a child. Now Arnaldo has five children of his own and the cultivation of coffee has provided a platform for the family to grow and improve their quality of life. Arnaldo farms 12.6ha of land and production has varied greatly over the years. Like many farmers in this current crop the volume is down compared to prior years. Two factors have driven this decrease - large crops from the year before and disease attacking some of the traditional varieties.
The new varieties (Anacafe 14 and others) that are being planted have shown more production and disease resistance. Arnaldo has pushed through these adversities with the financial support of a livestock trade and an extra income from the small supply store run by his wife Alicia Trigueros.
Arnaldo believes that the cherries for natural processing need to come from high altitudes and employ near-perfect pickings which is why their sourcing focuses on local small batch deliveries from trusted partners who provide us with consistent high quality ripe cherry. While there is an abundance of quality cherry in the region and a few areas that reach 2,000 meters altitude, the terrain is not ideal for processing naturals. Ayarza is remote and rough with almost no flat land available. For this reason they transport selected cherries to the neighbouring region of Amatitilan.
Arnaldo starts with the cherry in a depth of 4-6 inches and turn it often during the day. Over the first few days the coffee turns from red or yellow to a deep purple then black. They will then finish the drying in a mechanical drier for a few hours. This avoids a common challenge in sun dried naturals where the coffee re absorbs humidity in the morning, then dries during the day and repeats until there are a few days of strong sun. We also find that the acidity is improved when finished in a drier (and it reduces the risk of the coffee getting caught in an untimely rain shower!).