We sent Jose to spend a hectic three days in Honduras meeting old friends and seeking out new farms all in the name of sourcing exciting additions for our warehouses.
Landing in San Pedro Sula, the first stop for him was to visit the impressive facilities at Ihcafe, the Honduran Coffee institute. Ihcafe, which was initially set up in 1970 and updated in 2000, promotes Honduran coffee through a business development in their training school, setting production standards via quality control and marketing Honduran coffee both nationally and internationally. At the training school, young producers receive training that covers all aspects of coffee production from agronomy and processing through to coffee profiles, export and the international coffee market.
The facilities are looked after by a dedicated team of experts such as Rony and Carlos, who oversee the cupping school and quality control processes. This process sees producers from all over the country sending samples to Ihcafe in order to have it professionally cupped and receive feedback on how to improve the profile of their crop. Expertly roasted by the two wonderful roasters Mariza and Oswaldo, 30 lots were cupped from all regions of Honduras on the day of our visit. There were some stand out coffees here which showcased how individual the profiles of each regions are. The lots cupped from Santa Barbara produced bold, sweet, fruity cups while the Marcala lots tended towards elegant, clean citrusy profiles.
After the cupping it was off to Santa Barbara to visit Jorge Lanza on Finca Las Flores. Here Jorge grows Catuai, Lempir, Pacas and Pacamara varietals and perfectly displays the need to adapt processes to suit ones environment. Due to the humid, foggy climate of his farm, he has implemented a set up for drying the coffee in raised beds under ‘Domos’, without which there would be no chance of drying the coffee naturally.
With little time to relax on this whistle-stop tour, the next leg took Jose South from Santa Barbara down to La Paz, taking in three farms at Tutule on the way. Here he visited two great coffee producing families, the Castillos and Mejias’ on La Valentin, El Chollo and El Matazano–Concepcion.
Sneaking in another stop before heading to join the festivities of the annual Coffee Festival in Marcala, there was just time to visit Joel Olivar on Finca El Chiflador – named after the nearby waterfall. Here Joel grows four varietals but, like much of Honduras this year, his crops have been badly affected by Coffee Rust. This causes trees to lose their leaves, resulting in fewer beans, which are also of inferior quality. Of his crops, the Icatu, Sarchimor and Lempira have escaped unharmed while the Bourbon and Cataui plants have succumbed to this devastating disease. He is not alone. 30-40% of coffee plantations in Honduras have been effected this year with next years crops being expected to suffer further.
While in the area the COMSA Co-Op’s wet and dry mill was another must see. This Co-Op of 316 members was founded in December 2001. Today the mill takes in the members’ wet & dry parchment or cherries before processing it and bagging it into to dry parchment ready for export instructions.
The culmination of the trip was getting involved in the Marcala DO (Denominación de Origen) festival. Jose had the honour of being invited to be part of the judging panel for the cupping competition where 44 coffees from the area were tasted. These included the beautiful Santiago de Puringula and a lot from Finca el Jasmin owned by our friend Nancy Hernandez. Nancy is a fantastic advocate for Honduran speciality coffee having trained at Ihcafe and now growing cataui on her farm whilst also running Café Aroma, serving the best espresso in Marcala! Additionally, she has recently started a roastery and has been a judge on national and international Cup of Excellence juries. We’re not sure where she finds the time!
Ending in a town that lives on coffee, surrounded by people at the top of their professions and having the privilege to taste their hard work was a fitting end to a great trip. Watch this space for some wonderful Honduran coffees coming your way…