Monday, July 23, 2012

Sumatra, Nicaragua, Peru and… Honduras? It’s time.

Saltspring Coffee
British Columba, Canada

For the last three years we’ve worked hard to develop our Fair to Farmer (F2F) direct trade program in countries, like Indonesia, Nicaragua and Peru. And, while we’re still 100% committed to our partner co-ops in these countries and thrilled with the quality of coffee they’re producing, we like to keep an eye on promising coffee markets.
Travelling to up-and-coming coffee markets gives us the chance to discover beautiful, untapped seasonal coffee first hand. It also lets us develop personal relationships with coffee farmers and co-ops - one of the key pieces of our direct trade model.
Generally speaking, in recent years Honduran farms have had a reputation within the coffee industry for producing average beans. Though, lately things have shifted and the coffee industry is taking note.
Honduran co-op managers and coffee farmers have come to see - maybe because of the quality of coffee coming out of nearby Nicaragua - that if they want to secure a premium price for their green coffee beans they've got to produce a high quality product. So, with that said, we packed our bags and readied ourselves for our first sourcing trip to Honduras.
Hitting the ground in Honduras.
For this trip, we focused our attention on the Copan region in Western Honduras. Once we landed our first move was to track down Peter Rodriguez of Honduran Quality Coffee. Peter is the person to talk to in the Copan region when it comes to sourcing beautiful, seasonal coffee. With only three days to tour the region, Peter said that we had to visit co-op Capucas and co-op COCAFELOL, both near Beneficio Santa Rosa. And, as with most trips, Peter proved that it’s incredibly helpful to know a local.
Co-op visit 1: Capucas
Capucas is about a one hour’s drive from Beneficio Santa Rosa in the Las Capucas, Copan region. Jose Omar, the co-op’s General Manager, kindly met me at the door and after a quick tour of the co-op's operations, he invited me to see Finca Popitos. Finca Popitos is, based on other farms I've seen, a shinning example of a quality coffee farm.
We also visited coffee farmer Jose Isidro Lara. Jose, Peter told me, is thought of as the "master of processing" in the region. Jose Isidro Lara takes the processing of his coffee so seriously that he himself is the only individual allowed on his drying patio (a rarity in the industry given the amount of work associated with drying coffee). It’s clear to me, from Jose’s attention to detail that he's committed to producing premium coffee.
Co-op visit 2: COCAFELOL
At COCAFELOL we had the great pleasure of meeting General Manager and coffee farmer Roberto Salazar, who gave us a personal tour of the co-op. Once again, I was blown away by its cleanliness and the attention to detail at the co-op’s washing station and in its drying areas. What impressed me most though is Roberto’s commitment to coffee education – and not just for direct trade buyers like us and visitors to the cooperative – but for his farmers.
Every season Roberto roasts, brews and tastes the co-op's coffee with the farmers. For me, this is incredibly telling. The vast majority of coffee farmers don’t taste or cup the coffee they produce. They don’t get the chance to reflect upon the quality of coffee they've grown in a given season.
Giving the farming community the opportunity to taste their coffee means that they are much more likely to become invested in the quality of coffee they produce.
It’s true; the buzz about Honduran coffee in the Copan region is well deserved. Not only did I cup coffee that scored in the mid-80s and above at Capucas and COCAFELOL, the management and day-to-day operations at each co-op impressed me. Given everything we’ve seen on this trip, and if weather conditions remain consistent in the region, we hope to share a Honduran coffee or two as part of our seasonal lineup this spring.

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