I am drinking one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had as I write this. It’s from Azotea coffee farm in Antigua, Guatemala, one of the farms I visited on my recent trip with Rainforest Alliance. Azotea is a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm. I’m planning to write about what certification means and all the good it does later on this week, but I have about 25 pages of hand-written notes to go through before I can organize all the information and my thoughts. So, I thought I’d give you a bit of a pictorial of Azotea along with some information that will help you begin to see what good Rainforest Alliance Certification can do.


The colorful bags that Azotea uses for coffee are made by locals. Part of Rainforest Alliance certification is a requirement that certified farms find ways to benefit and support the community at large. Paying locals to make these bags helps to meet this requirement.


Another way Azotea supports the community is with a music museum housed on their farm. We were taken on a tour of the museum by this local woman who works there, and she took us through the history of Guatemalan musical instruments. At the end of the museum, there is a gift shop with instruments made by local artisans.


Implementing recycling programs is important. Here, recycling buckets are marked for organic and inorganic waste. Organic waste becomes part of the compost program. Inorganic waste gets disposed of properly.


Azotea has been composting for three years. Workers take coffee pulp and horse manure and let it cook for 38-40 days. All of the compost is used on the farm as either solids or liquids that get sprayed on the plants.

Once the compost is finished cooking, it gets moved into a dark shed for vermicomposting. After eight days, worms help to turn the compost into an even richer, moister, fertilized soil.

Most of the compost ends up on the plants, but some of it is put into this contraption. The compost gets mixed with water, and as the sun works its magic, methane gas is produced from the compost. Right now, it’s a pilot program the farm is working with, but eventually, they hope to use the gas to give energy for the permanent workers’ homes.


The farm plants 42 species of shade trees per 0.7 hecters of coffee plants. It’s common in this region for farms to only plant one type of shade tree, but Azotea hopes to create an environment where birds and butterflies can flourish, increasing biodiversity and also tourism.


These are just a few of the impressive, sustainable measures that Azotea is using to create its outstanding coffee. This is a farm that was doing a lot of things right even before it got involved with Rainforest Alliance, but through certification, they will continue to make improvements that benefit the environment, the community and company profitability.


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

A tour of Guatemala's Azotea coffee farm
This Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farm has implemented practices that help the environment, the community, and the company's bottom line. Get an up-clos