There is a place, a valley near Agaete that recently (in the historical context) has acquired a unique connotation: it’s the only European area where coffee is produced!
The first plantations were introduced in Gran Canaria and in the rest of the islands at the end of the 19th century, nevertheless, around the 30s and 40s of the 20th century production stopped, except in this valley: for the workers of that time, the coffee plantation constituted an excessive work, as the final fruit must be long worked and aged before it can be consumed.
For example, in the Finca Platinium we visited, some coffees have aged for over 20 years!
In this area of the island of Gran Canaria, production has continued to flourish thanks to favorable climatic conditions, and to the use of machinery and tools that allowed farmers to save much of the time required for production.
Historically, the merit of having brought the world to the knowledge of Agaete’s coffee is a specific person: the landowner José de Armas in 1889 presented it at the Universal Exposition in Paris and won the third place, the bronze medal. But the games were made: from that moment the coffee of Agaete began to be known in the world and, above all, in European tables (without hiding the pride of a “local” production instead of imported from South America, a historic coffee producer). The plants, in the Canary Islands, arrived for the first time at the Botanical Garden of La Orotava in Tenerife, then moved to Agaete where they adapted perfectly to the temperate but breezy climate of the region.
The variety grown for the most part is the typical Arabian quality, native to Ethiopia, with a light color and bronzed reflections in the younger leaves. The difficulty in the production process, however, remains constant given that the plants are very sensitive to insects and it is necessary to take measures, which in any case are never of a chemical nature. It is very important to note that in the valley of Agaete practically all the fincas have adopted a natural combat system against the elements and any diseases: for example, with the same coffee product that once toasted is thrown on the plant, since the smells are unwelcome to small insects.
All of this, of course, affects production costs. This is why in the same valley the farmers first started a process of local revaluation of the area with the production, for example, of other local products more appealing to even the narrowest pockets: goat cheese flavored with pimenton or gofio, tropical fruit (absolutely try the guyabas in the Finca Platinium!), artisan made biscuits etc.
Even the yield in the coffee plantations is very low: on average, seven kilos of fruit (which are bigger than the grain normally seen in bars) are used to give a result only one kilo of coffee! To give the idea, with a kilo of coffee you can fill between 120 and 150 cups… but the production of the entire valley does not exceed 5000 kilograms, so it is clear that we are in the presence of an elite product!
Agaete coffees are natural, not washed: a practice that allows you to maintain a unique flavor but also obliged by the fact that in the entire island of Gran Canaria the amount of water available for plantations is very little.
So basically, these coffees are sweeter and fuller than those from South America or other parts of the world.
The climatic conditions that allowed the coffee to proliferate in the valley are strictly linked to the volcanic soil of which it is composed: despite the scarce rainfall and the ridiculous altitude (the valley is located about 150 meters above sea level), the heat of the sun concentrates and causes the plants to maintain temperatures of 16-18 degrees centigrade. The fact that they have been growing steadily in the same place for over 150 years has meant that even the plants themselves adapt to the environment, thus joining the thick array of tropical fruits such as avocados, mangoes and Mediterranean as oranges and grapefruits.
Then there are the various “schools of thought”… for example some fincas prefer to grow coffee in the shade of other trees (often aguacates) while others, like the Finca Platinium we visited, dedicate the entire main space to coffee plants, with the result of creating an entire green and practically wild area where nature is the true owner.
Then the tasting is inevitable: in a pleasant open-air lounge, but sheltered from the strong sun, it is a pleasure to sit and sip a sweet coffee and listen to its history, which is also strictly linked to the history of the single families who composed and created this production process.
The main interest, at the moment, is not therefore to create a massive production of European coffee, also because the competition with the intercontinental coffee is enormous (the wages for the peasants are lower, the American productions are huge open expanses, the roasting takes place in factories and not in shops, etc.), but to create a real high-class product, with a registered trademark of provenance, which benefits both individual local producers and the entire municipality of Agaete.
And this is also the purpose of this article! 😉
So do not waste your time, and if you are a lover of good coffee … no doubt take a trip to Agaete, follow the directions on the map below so you do not get lost and you will be satisfied!