I wake up before the chickens, step out onto the farmhouse balcony, and look out over a sheet of clouds, unfurling like a blanket across the sky, from my perch roughly 1,600 above sea level. Bracing myself against the chilling cold of the morning, I wait for the moment to come. Then, as the sun begins to peek above the horizon, it begins. The day awakes. With the sky slowly taking on a sheen of gentle color, the warm air seeps in—and the cloud cover vanishes, dissolving with an evanescent grace. Glowing hues spread across the chasm of cold, dim air. Sunrise. As soon as the mountains in the distance start to shimmer in the light of the new day, layers of color drape the sky with a richly, delicately shaded tapestry. This is what I woke up early for: to relish the beauty of the surroundings—and try to understand why the coffee farm here is so special.

ニワトリよりも早く起き出して、ファームハウスのバルコニーに出る。標高はおよそ1600m。眼下には白い絨毯のように雲海が広がっている。寒さに耐えながら、“その瞬間”をじっと待つ。少しずつ空が明るくなり、あたためられた空気が雲海を散らす。体が芯まで冷え切ったころ、薄闇の世界が色を帯び始めた。朝焼けだ。遠くに見える山脈の輪郭が輝いたかと思うと、空が何色もの層に塗り分けられ、刻々と変化するグラデーションのインスタレーションが始まった。早起きをしてこの美しい光景を待っていたのは、ここにコーヒー農園が拓かれた理由を確かめたかったからだ。

The farm, now run by Teo Engelhardt the 4th, started about 50 years ago when Teo’s grandfather set foot in the area and marveled at the extraordinary beauty around him. He knew he had to create something here, a place that he felt was a “gift from God.” Back then, there wasn’t any coffee-growing community to speak of. Teo’s grandfather’s establishment was the first coffee farm the area had ever seen. He named it “La Bella”—Spanish for “beautiful.” When you visit the farm, it’s hard to believe Teo’s grandfather managed to build a successful operation where he did. Not only is the site right in the middle of a mountain range, but the slopes are strikingly steep and the rains markedly frequent. It takes a good two hours to drive to the farm from the city center, too—and that’s only if you make it through the veritable obstacle course of rocks and logs dotting the roads there. Most people would’ve shied away from even considering the location for a farm. In his eyes, however, the place just seemed like a jewel for the taking. His hunch turned out to be right. Two generations later, his grandson Teo and the rest of the La Bella family placed in the 2013 Guatemala Cup of Excellence (COE; a competition that selects the year’s highest-quality coffee beans from specific countries).

農園の始まりは半世紀ほど前のこと。現農園主であるテオさんのおじいさんが、この場所のあまりの美しさに魅せられたのがきっかけだ。当時この地域ではコーヒー栽培がまだ行われていなかったが、おじいさんは「神の恩恵を受けた場所」だと感じ、初めてのコーヒー農園を誕生させた。付けた名前は「ラ・ベイヤ」。スペイン語で「美しい」という意味だ。実際に農園を訪れると、よくぞこんな場所に農園を拓いたものだと感心する。山脈地帯の真ん中にあり、山の傾斜は急で、雨が多い独特の気候。街の中心部から車で2時間。岩や倒木を乗り越えなければたどり着けない。他人から見れば腰が引けるようなこの場所も、テオさんのおじいさんには特別な場所に映ったのだ。そして、その目に間違いがなかったことは、3代目のテオさんによってはっきりと証明された。2013年のCOE(カップ・オブ・エクセレンス:その年その国で収穫されたものの中から最高品質のコーヒー豆を決める品評会)で見事入賞を果たしたのだ。

La Bella’s success isn’t all just a “gift from God.” One of the biggest reasons behind the farm’s renown is its strong, consistent lineage, a tradition of hard work and technical prowess that the owners have passed down over three generations. As Teo’s family shows, that process is about more than simply looking back and drawing from the past—it’s also about charging into the future. The farm has a bit of a wild, primeval look to it, but there’s a method to the apparent madness. The family has divided the land up into several small patches, aiming to determine which cultivars grow best in which sector and, as a result, produce the best coffee beans. That ability to test out a variety of cultivars comes from the farm’s widely varying terrain, with the steep mountain slopes underneath creating significant differences in altitude, air temperature, and soil quality. In addition to making the most of the unique topographical conditions, the growers are devoted to research, too: From developing new cultivars to optimizing production methods to the attributes of the land, the ideas and experiments just keep on coming. When you put everything together, it seems like the sun is always smiling on La Bella—a fixture on the COE podium now.

ラ・ベイヤ農園が成功した理由は、もちろん“神の恩恵”だけではない。3代にわたる努力と工夫の積み重ねがあってのことだ。テオさんは農園を受け継ぐだけでなく、進化させるべく様々な取り組みを行ってきた。農園を見るとまるで原生林のようだが、実は細かく区画を分けられていて、どの場所でどの品種を育てるといい豆ができるかのマッチングを試している。急勾配にあり農園内の標高の高低差が大きいため、気温や土質にバラエティが生まれることを活かしているのだ。他にも、新しい品種の開発、この土地に合った生産処理方法の改良など研究に余念がない。その甲斐あって、いまではすっかりCOE入賞の常連だ。

“What’s your favorite place on the farm?” I ask Teo. He tells me to follow him. We get to the farmhouse, and he takes me up to his bedroom on the second floor. “Right here,” he says, pointing to the window. I look out the opening and see a vast expanse, the same backdrop that the sun had risen so majestically over that morning. Young Teo takes after his grandfather, it seems. “It’s gorgeous,” he says, throwing back his shoulders with a gentle grin. “La Bella”—the name couldn’t be more fitting.

「この農園で一番好きな場所はどこ?」と尋ねると、テオさんはファームハウスの2階にある自身の寝室に案内してくれた。「ここだよ」と示されたのは、ひとつの窓。外を眺めると、早朝に太陽が昇ったあの壮大な風景が広がっていた。おじいさんが魅了された風景を、テオさんも大切にしている。「素晴らしい風景だ」と感嘆すると、“美しい”という名の農園の主人は「どうだい」と誇らしげに胸を張った。