Five years ago, Finca El Valle, a small, family-run coffee farm south of Antigua, Guatemala, was producing 140,000 pounds of superior-quality Arabica for a select handful of America’s premier specialty-coffee roasters.
An outbreak of coffee leaf rust, caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, hit the celebrated coffee-producing region in 2012, and by 2014 it had infected the entire farm. That year El Valle harvested a meager 28,000 pounds of coffee, an 80 percent drop. The next harvests were even smaller. With the lowest coffee prices in a dozen years, reviving the farm has been deeply challenging.