La Candelaria is a large farm located on the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala, sitting in the shadows of three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. The Antigua Valley is one of the most famous coffee growing regions in the world thanks to its high altitude, perfect climate and volcanic soil which is rich in minerals.
This large farm is efficiently managed by the Zelaya family. It’s separated into different ‘tablones’, representing different varieties, altitudes and even micro-climates – with each ‘tablon’ being harvested separately. After the cherries are harvested at La Candelaria, they are transported to the Zelaya family mill, Bella Vista, near Antigua. This fully washed coffee gets depulped, fermented for 12-18 hours and then dried on raised beds. The final step includes drying in mechanical dryers.
During the harvest there are up to 350 coffee pickers at the farm who often travel from other areas of Guatemala to work. Harvest workers will often stay for a number of weeks during the coffee harvest in accommodation at the farm. Since 2014, Union has been working with La Candelaria in improving living conditions on the farm. La Candelaria have invested part of the price premium in improving sanitary facilities, washing facilities (showers & sinks) and kitchen/cooking facilities.
Migrant workers will often have to bring their families to the farm with them, with harvest times typically falling over school holidays (December - February). Since 2018, the farm has been working with a local NGO, FUNCAFE who provide education, arts and crafts on the farms for children who are living at the farm accommodation. On top of this, La Candelaria has also been constructing playgrounds. These changes have been a ground-breaking coffee initiative to ensure children have a better stay at the farms.