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How Alvaro Lemus Finds Happiness With the Apolo Cooperative

Guatemala is a relatively small country, similar in size to the state of Tennessee, with diverse climates thanks to its rugged geography. The country is part of what is known as the Pacific fire belt - a strip of 37 volcanoes that have as much an impression on the overall terrain as they do on the quality of coffees from this region. Deep, lush, emerald-green rain-forests cover the steep hills leading to the volcano craters while fertile valleys are home to a myriad of crops that act as the economic backbone and provide most of the income for the average Guatemalan.

Apolo is a group of inspiring local producers led by Alvaro Lemus (its chairman and lead coffee grower) committed to quality and the self-promotion of its local coffee culture. The eight smallholders who we bought directly from are direct descendants of the Mayans and their ancient traditions are deeply ingrained in the way they work their crops.

The Apolo farmers are proud of both their lifestyle and their culture, wearing traditional attires while preparing their meals in made-from-scratch brick ovens. Corn in all its forms (tortillas, tamales, soups, stews, etc) is the foundation of their diet. Coffee is brewed throughout the day for residents, guests, and visitors alike.

The humble Apoloan lifestyle is a soothing contrast to the shop-and-go culture we escape momentarily while immersed in this community.One of the elders, Jacinto, shares his perspective on the simplicity of their lifestyle - “Happiness ...” - he mumbles while sipping coffee and staring blankly at the fire - “...If you don’t experience it with the little you have and don’t have it inside you, you will never get it.

Lava Quetzal is a special tribute to both Apoloans and their coffee fields. It honors the grandeur of Guatemala’s volcanoes along with a nod to the Quetzal, the national bird. When presented with the name, Jacinto approved with a hint of a smile - and then continued sipping coffee while staring at the fire.

Smallholder farmers like the Apoloans (each one plowing five acres or less on average) have cultivated the mountains of Nuevo Oriente since the early 1950’s. With constant rains, cloudy days, and metamorphic rock with clay soils this region provides the unique microclimate conditions for great coffee to grow. The Apolo community - mostly members of the Chorti Maya indigenous group - focuses on  regional development through sustainable agricultural practices and the preservation of its members’ cultural heritage. We truly hope this coffee gives you a sense of the land and people from which it comes.

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