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Vivero y Café La Escalonia Antigua Guatemala

November 13, 2017

Sometimes, we who are lucky enough to call Antigua home, wonder why so many visitors, especially from Guatemala City, choose to get behind the wheel on weekends and drive all the way here, despite endless hours spent in metropolitan traffic day after day. The answer is as simple as it is unexpected for us. They are looking for something we take for granted: A little time of peace and tranquility.

There’s certainly not a shortage of places that offer just that in Antigua, with their shady corridors, colonial patios and the relaxing ripple of water in the fountains. There’s one place in particular, however, that exudes peace and tranquility in almost biblical abundance. Vivero y Café de La Escalonia with its lush gardens on 5th. Avenida South is what you might define an oasis within the oasis that is Antigua itself.

It’s an unusual place with an equally unique history that was shared with us by general manager Juan Carlos Torres, who for more than forty years has taken care and fostered that little paradise that is La Escalonia.

DA: How far back goes the history of La Escalonia?

Juan Carlos Torres, la Escalonia Antigua Guatemala

JC: The nursery started approximately forty years ago. Before, this was a coffee farm called Belencito.

However, the history of this estate dates back to colonial times. Back then, this neighborhood was called El Tortuguero (place of turtles). This was all swampland with aquatic plants, turtles and even fish.

In the 18th century it was owned by the Belemitas, the order of the holy Hermano Pedro de Betancourt. It was known as Alfalfar de Belém, this is where the carriages and wagons of the religious people were parked. In the second half of the 19th century the Belemitas were expropriated under President Justo Rufino Barrios “The Reformer”.

The new owners began to cultivate cochineal for the production of natural dyes. Over the years the demand diminished and and they switched to coffee.

Thirty years ago the owners began to divide the property and develop the real estate projects in the neighborhood.

DA: Do you still grow coffee here?

JC: A little, but not as intensively as before. What little we produce we sell to a coffee export company.

DA: How did the nursery start?

Café La Escalonia Antigua Guatemala

JC: It started in a rather empirical way in the main building of the farm. 22 years ago it was moved to its current location, closer to the street. At first there was only one worker. We would have never imagined that one day it would become a company with forty employees.

At present we have about five hundred kinds of plants including all sorts of trees, shrubs, tangles, fruit, medicinal plants etc. Among other services, we also offer garden planning and maintenance.

DA: When was the café added to La Escalonia?

JC: The café turns 16 in February. It’s located where one of the guard’s house and the stable of the farm used to be. You can still see the  cattle feeders.

After there was no need for stables anymore the idea of the café began taking shape. It started with eight tables and now there are almost thirty, including the ones in the play area.

The vision was that of a peaceful and quiet place. I think we’ve done a good job so far and we have even extended that concept with a meditation area.

We also have a new event area which seats fifty people. Its use is free, we only charge for food and drinks, which can be a breakfast, the a la carte menu or a special menu for your event.

Events Area La Escalonia Antigua Guatemala

DA: Who can use the meditation area?

JC: It’s for anyone who wants to use it. Just ask at the front desk and you’ll be given access at no charge. That space was  created because of the tranquil setting in middle of nature. For the same reason, some people like to work from here. Not surprisingly, they find inspiration at La Escalonia.

DA: It’s a rather holistic concept.

That’s true and another element that fits in perfectly is our shop. We sell natural and organic products like gluten-free pasta and biscuits, different coffee varieties, jellies, chocolate, free range eggs etc. The policy of the shop is to favor products of cooperatives and small producers.

Part of our philosophy is to avoid the use of chemical fumigation and fertilizers. Instead, we apply infusions or plant extracts, for example of chichicaste (poison ivy). But it all starts with a good nutrition of the plants, that makes them resistant to fungi and insects and minimizes the need to fumigate. For that purpose, we make our own brushwood and compost which we also sell to the public.

DA: What’s the main focus of the café?

Garden Café La Escalonia Antigua Guatemala

JC: We focus on sustainable, organic and healthy food. Right now we are complementing our menu with entirely vegetarian alternatives. These include tamales, lasagna, veggie burgers and more. The burger, for instance, is made with soybeans but the preparation is similar to its beef counterpart. We’ve also just created a pizza with tofu and a gluten-free base made with a flour blend of rice, amaranth and chickpea.

On weekends we have special menus which usually include traditional dishes like pepián, chicken mole, chile rellenos, tamales, Mayan lasagna and many more.

And for the coming holiday celebrations, there's a Christmas menu, which includes, turkey on a plum sauce, pizza, herb bread as well as Christmas cakes, tamales and traditional beverages like fruit punch, hot chocolate and mulled wine.

We always publish our activities on our Facebook page. Check out what’s cooking!

See the menu of La Escalonia