Paul’s the delicate type. He cares about the details so much, in fact, that he can even seem nervous and finicky at times. “Hey, Paul,” I say, watching him wash his coffee beans over and over again, “aren’t they clean enough?” He shakes his head. “Not quite yet. Gotta get the taste as pure as I can,” he says. It might seem excessive, but that fine-tuned sensitivity comes through in the tastes of Paul’s coffee. For him, washing the beans means perfecting the flavors. He’s a serious, stubborn perfectionist—which can make him seem a bit intimidating. It took us about a year to work our way over some initial barriers, in fact. Still, I knew I could trust him. For Paul, what’s good is good; what’s bad is bad. Seeing how he embodied that clear-cut, honest perspective on the world, I always got the sense that fairness and openness were big parts of who he was. Our relationship has since developed into a strong bond, one that’s now both a close business partnership and a tight, easygoing friendship.


Paul’s farm, San Gerardo, is about an hour’s drive from Guatemala City. The sprawling mountain landscape overlooks Lake Amatitlán, a caldera lake. When you visit San Gerardo, you can see elements of Paul’s personality everywhere. A sense of serious dedication pervades the place: the pickers pluck cherries at a slow, methodical pace, minding Paul’s advice to pick the ripest of the bunch. It’s amazing when to see the results: the whole haul is a homogenous swathe of wine-red beauty. The outdoor processing site, where workers wash and dry the cherries, is in such a pristine, orderly condition that you almost feel like you’re indoors. Paul wants clean tastes, so he makes sure he’s got clean beans. For him, that’s not just a catchy turn of phrase—it’s completely true, word for word.


Paul grows the bourbon cultivar, a traditional Guatemalan variety. It’s a popular favorite for its close resemblance to the original arabica species, but it’s also delicate and susceptible to disease. One of the most debilitating diseases for coffee trees is “coffee rust,” a condition that never used to crop up at high-altitude, low-temperature farms. As global warming keeps temperatures ticking up, however, farms sitting at around 1,500 m above sea level have been seeing coffee rust creep into their operations. Paul’s farm is no exception—but his response to the threats has separated him from his peers. With numerous farms aiming to circumvent the problem by switching to heartier beans, Paul has stuck to bourbon. You can sense the love Paul has for the bourbon cultivar, an enduring sense of pride in what he’s done and will continue to do.


In January 2017, I cupped some of Paul’s bourbon coffee on a business trip to Guatemala. Normally, Paul’s beans tended to score around 83 or 84 points. This year, he scored an 86.5—the highest score I’d ever given his beans. He jumped for joy; he couldn’t have been more thrilled. In the Japanese market, Paul’s got more reasons to smile: his beans, always washed, processed, and dried to perfection, deliver even richer tastes that garner even higher scores. When a grower’s really serious about growing, like Paul is, the coffee’s serious about tasting great.