Farm: Finca Fiallos
Varietal: 100% Catuaí
Processing: Fully washed
Altitude: 1,400 metres above sea level
Owner: Pedro Joel Fiallos
Town / City: Monte de la Virgen, Lempira
Finca Fiallos Organic – 100% Catuaí - Honduras
Finca Fiallos is located in the town of Monte de la Virgen, Lempira - around 30 km Southeast of the centre of Corquín in Honduras’s Copan region. The farm, with its average altitude of 1,400 metres above sea level, is fairly large for the region. With 32 manzanas (around 22.53 hectares), Fiallos is well-situated in a region that is ideal for quality coffee production. The region’s cool temperatures, soil quality and rainfall patterns all combine to make perfect growing conditions for the farm’s Catuaí coffee trees.
The owner of Fiallos, Don Pedro Joel Fiallos, has long been a hard worker who puts his all into every endeavour. He started life as a carpenter but knew that his destiny lay with the land. He saved and saved throughout his youth, and when he finally had enough money, he purchased his first property – a tiny 1 manzana (less than a hectare) plot of land where he began growing rice with technical assistance from a local agricultural project. He didn’t want to stop there, however. He eventually chanced upon coffee production, which is where he finally found his passion.
Little by little, Don Pedro accrued more and more land with the hopes of having a high quality product to offer the world. His dream has always been to continue growing his farm, using hard graft and dedication. Above all he wants to continue to be able to contribute to his community. He’s managed, so far, to not only grow his coffee production but also to diversify his land with a wide variety of timber and fruit trees, which beautify the landscape and also provide protection for native species. Today, from a tiny piece of land he has grown to be one of the strongest producers in Honduras’ western region.
Don Pedro named his farm after himself because of the time and commitment that he has personally devoted to it. He began his foray into coffee production with no experience and is now one of the most successful farmers in the area. In fact, Finca Fiallos is known throughout the region as a pioneer in technology, productivity and innovation. Don Pedro has garnered the technical support of several organizations dedicated to the production of specialty coffee in Honduras, including the Instituto Hondureño del Café (IHCAFE) and GTZ [sic] to name a few. The farm’s mill is the only one in Honduras’s western region to boast both wet- and dry-processing facilities. His willingness to experiment with new techniques in cultivation methods has built his reputation as an open-minded and long-sighted producer.
All work performed on Finca Fiallos is overseen by Don Pedro himself, though he commands a team of 15 people year-round to help him with the necessary labour.
The first post-harvest activity performed is the pepena, which involves collecting the final coffee cherries which have failed to ripen on the tree or fallen on the ground. This activity is also performed as a pre-harvest activity to ensure even maturation, but post-harvest it is an essential practice to reduce the incidence of broca (coffee borer beetle) in the plantations over the coming year.
Shortly after the harvest ends, the coffee trees are pruned to eliminate unproductive trees and those that became damaged during the previous harvest. Shade is managed at the same time to ensure the perfect balance of sunlight, protection and temperature control. The pruning schedule rotates with hand-managed weed control, completed with a machete (pando) in order to reduce the risk of erosion.
Renovation is a key aspect of maintaining the farm’s productivity and health. Don Pedro prepares his own nursery, identifying first exactly which plants need replanting on the farm. During the period during which the nursery is established, soil samples for analysis are also taken. These, once tested, will indicate the nutritional requirements of various plants based on the availability or absence of nutrients in the soil. This analysis informs all application of organic fertiliser on the farm.
The Harvest & Processing
When November arrives, Don Pedro is ready to begin harvesting coffee. His first step is securing a labour force! During the harvest period, his team of 15 people grows to an average of 120 people who will be dedicated entirely to the picking, processing and harvesting of coffee. All of these individuals will be trained in best practices to ensure that at every stage of harvesting and processing, quality is preserved.
In most years, the harvest begins at the end of November and continues through the beginning of March, though microlots such as this one are picked at the peak of the harvest – usually in February. All coffee on the farm is selectively hand harvested and only the most mature cherries are selected at each ‘pass’. After picking, the coffee is delivered on the same day to the nearby community of Platanos, where Finca Fiallos’s mill is located. The coffee is then pre-sorted, removing all underripe and damaged beans. It is then carefully pulped to avoid breakage of beans and then delivered to tile-lined fermentation tanks, where it is fermented.
Coffee is spread to an even depth of around 50 cm in order to ensure even fermentation over the 10 to 12 hours that it remains in the tanks. After a perfect state of fermentation is achieved, the beans are washed in clean water no fewer than three times. Waste water is delivered to purification pools, where it is treated with microorganisms to accelerate the purification process.
Once completely clean of mucilage, the parchment coffee is moved by gravity and water through sorting channels, with the densest and best quality beans being separated out as microlots. The coffee is rested for between 1 and 3 hours to remove excess water and is then delivered to the drying patios.
After excess moisture has run off the parchment, the coffee is moved to ARUCO-owned facilities in very clean trucks to finish the drying process. When it arrives, it is delivered to the Cooperative’s clean, cement patios to ensure no excess humidity lingers during the important primary drying process. The patios have restricted access (rare in the area), preventing animals and unauthorised individuals from entering. Pre-drying only occurs during the coolest hours of the day (usually mornings and evenings when temperatures do not exceed 17°C) to ensure that the coffee dries slowly and evenly.
After all humidity has evaporated from the exterior of the beans, the coffee is moved to screen-lined wooden beds that are stacked within solar driers (domos) – greenhouse-like structures constructed of wood and covered with UV-protective treated plastic. The solar dryer is constructed so as to allow maximum ventilation, which regulates temperature and prevents the drying pergamino from overheating. If temperatures rise, the drying beds are removed until the ambient temperature has dropped sufficiently. Coffee will usually remain on these beds for 7 to 9 days, during which time it will be turned almost constantly to ensure even drying. All drying work takes place under supervision of a single, qualified individual who monitors every step of the process closely, and it is only when the coffee reaches between 11% and 12% humidity that it is moved to be rested.
Once the coffee is ready, it is moved to ARUCO’s facilities for storage. The coop ensures very strict monitoring, quality control and secure storage and prepares the coffee for export under the strictest safety and traceability standards.
ARUCO’s relatively new microlot program is small, but it is growing. In 2011-12, when the program first started, only 4 or 5 producers participated. For 2016, 25 producers were able to access better prices for their coffee through the program. This growth can be attributed to the transparency with which ARUCO runs the program and the successes that participating producers have experienced.
ARUCO provides a very wide range of services to their producer members and have instigated numerous programs aimed at improving quality of life in Coban and helping producers combat the many challenges they face. You can read more about them on their excellent website and on our blog post detailing the work of some of the women involved with the group.
Don Pedro Fiallo only cultivates Catuaí, Lempira and Caturra coffee, which has caused issues due to their high susceptibility to coffee leaf rust. With ARUCO’s help, Don Pedro has been able to fend off major rust infestations purely through good agricultural practice and farm management. This is made all the more difficult – but also rewarding – by his 100% organic methods.
Because of the threat that coffee leaf rust poses worldwide, Don Pedro feels it is his duty to continue increasing his farm size, continuing to manage all of it organically. He knows he has the capacity to continue producing and expanding his microlots and wants his coffee to continue reaching new places around the world.