New Coffee Releases from Honduras
Maria Reyes Alex Ponce
Honduras – The etymology of the word Honduras translates to “depths.” The country has an endless depth of history, culture, diversity, and potential. Home to direct Mayan descendants some of the most well-preserved Mayan ruins in the world, Honduras is a proud and persistent country. Honduras is also one of the most diverse places in the Western Hemisphere, boasting over 700 species of birds, over 100 species of mammals, over 6,000 species of plants, and more species being discovered regularly. The diversity, tenacity, climate, and rich volcanic soil all build the stage for coffee farmers to prosper. However, sometimes there are obstacles that aren’t so easily overcome.
Honduras has quietly become the largest coffee-producing country in Central America. While it may not have the prestige as some of its neighbors like Guatemala, Costa Rica, or El Salvador, Honduras has been exporting more coffee than any other nation in the region, coming in as the seventh largest in the world for coffee export.
Due to a heavier focus on volume, Honduras has not been known for high quality. Transport and processing infrastructure in Honduras pose some problems. Poor processing leads to inferior quality coffee, even if the coffee was grown in perfect conditions. Honduran farmers would often smuggle their crop into neighboring Guatemala, El Salvador, or Nicaragua to fetch higher prices. This led to some of the best coffee in Honduras getting sold as coffee from those other places.
Honduran producers also battle against coffee leaf rust, a fungal infection that leads to loss of leaves and prevents cherry development. It spreads quickly, and for smallholder farmers, which comprise 95% of coffee farmers in Honduras, it could mean total crop devastation. Little support to the farmers was given for a long time, leading them to take matters into their own hands.
Many farmers have banded together into small, supportive networks. Some groups have formed cooperatives that have been certified by organizations like Fair Trade. Others have simply pooled their resources together to purchase centralized mills that they own collectively and have improved their processing methods. Through the hard work and diligence of specialty-focused producers, the perception and quality of Honduran coffee have changed. In recent years, coffee production in Honduras has seen a shift towards specialty production. Much of this is credited to a generational shift of producers. The average age of a coffee producer in Honduras is much younger than any other Central American country.
Many coops and exporters are run by these young and innovative people. Their focus is on quality and collaboration, working to lift Honduras into a recognized specialty coffee-producing country. Their work has been fruitful in recent years. In 2017, a lot in the Cup of Excellence garnered the highest price ever paid for a Cup of Excellence coffee: $124.50 per pound!
We are honored to highlight two different farmers furthering the quality growth across two different regions in Honduras.
Maria Isabel Reyes
The first is Maria Isabel Reyes from the northern region of Santa Barbara who brings us a beautiful, washed blend of two well-known Central American varieties of Arabica - Pacas and Catuai.
Region - Santa Barbara
Altitude – 1740 meters
Varietal – Pacas, Catuai
Process – Washed
This coffee is vivid and complex. green apple and key lime acidity jump out of the cup, followed by pleasant hibiscus florals. Notes of dried cranberries and cocoa linger after every sip.
Maria is married to a well-known specialty coffee grower around the Cup of Excellence world, Sr. Mario Moreno, who took 5th place at the 2019 Honduras Cup of Excellence. She owns a small 2.47-acre farm where she and her husband work together in full. Maria’s husband takes care of her farm’s agronomic duties: determining where trees are planted, proper tree maintenance so that they stay fruitful year-to-year, and soil maintenance so that the trees receive proper nutrients and maintain their health.
Maria manages the qualitative steps of harvesting, processing, and drying the coffee. She ensures that they are picking only fully ripe cherries for the best possible cup quality. She then oversees fermenting, which takes place in ceramic tanks for up to 24 hours. Finally, she oversees the coffee’s drying, another long process that can take up to 25 days. Maria and her husband have full control over these processes, as it is all done at their farm. While these methods might be strenuous, they result in higher quality and more complex coffees.
The second farmer’s coffee we are proud to offer is Alex Ponce, who sent us a Natural Catuai from his farm in the La Paz department in Southern Honduras. Alex is originally from Santa Barbara, but he found the opportunity to buy a farm in the department of La Paz. Despite being just 90 miles south of Santa Barbara, La Paz coffees highlight how diverse the coffees of Honduras can be.
Region - La Paz
Altitude – 1750 meters
Varietal – Catuai
Process – Natural
A rounded and sweet natural Catuai: nutty and buttery notes of toasted almonds and milk chocolate give way to decadent strawberry shortcake. Fruit-like notes of mango tea round out this intricate cup.
Due to higher elevations and cooler evenings in La Paz, coffee cherries are given more time to ripen and mature resulting in sweeter characteristics and often notes of stone fruits. Alex also processes his coffee on the farm, hand-picking cherries when they are bright red and drying the processed coffee on raised, sun-exposed beds.
The result is often 20-25 bags of exportable green coffee, which is just shy of 2,000 kilograms. Compared to the nearly 440 million kilograms of coffee that is produced in Honduras per year, this is amount is just a small drop in the bucket. Yet, his focus remains on quality over quantity and is highlighted in every cup his coffee produces.
Alex and Maria are both incredible examples of the growth and passion of specialty coffee producers in Honduras. We invite you to experience both coffees that showcase the vast diversity found in Honduras, as well as the dedication to craft shown by two excellent farmers