Honduran coffee has been a regular feature in the Veneziano coffee menu over the years, forming part of our Bella and Pure blends. In May this year, our partners at Sustainable Harvest were kind enough to facilitate an origin visit for Jack Allisey, our Green Coffee buyer and myself.
We were met in Honduras by Isabel Cerqueda, Stephany Davila and Doris Quijivix from the Sustainable Harvest team. Isabel is the Supply director for Mexico/Central America and a Master cupper with over 17 years’ experience with Sustainable Harvest. Stephany is the Relationship Coffee Manager, a translator and also lectures at Universities in Guatemala on Import/Export. Doris is the Event Manager and proved to be a master negotiator and diplomate, retrieving Jack’s lost luggage from Avianca airlines in record time!
Veneziano works with Sustainable Harvest not only because they hire industry professionals but because they share the same values when it comes to sourcing coffee – traceability and transparency. These values guide us to another purchase point in the long and complex coffee supply chain; the Dry mill.
Sustainable Harvest has partnered up with Beneficio Santa Rossa Dry Mill (BSR). BSR started in 2004, despite perceptions that Honduras was an unreliable region for sourcing specialty coffee, and in the shadow of its seemingly sexier neighbours, El Salvador and Guatemala.
In recent years however, BSR have worked hard to change this perception, focusing on improving the overall processing and infrastructure whilst echoing our own ethos of traceability and transparency. Their efforts have resulted in a facility that is truly impressive. With a dust extraction system and a one broom per employee policy, it was the cleanest Dry mill both Jack and I had ever seen. What was equally impressive was their dedicated production line for microlots. With one team responsible for traceability and another to quality assurance that comprised of two Q graders, BSR is understandably a valued partner in the coffee supply chain. They have six CO-OP’s that rely on its processing and vast experience in all aspects of coffee production, three of which we had the opportunity to visit.
The first CO-OP we visited was called Cosagual, in the department of Lempira. Comprising of 132 members, this co-op focuses on experimental processing and best farming practices. There was genuine excitement as they showed us their newly installed drying beds for natural and honey processed coffee as well as a vast nursery that included varieties such as Catuaí, Caturra, Typica, Pacas, Bourbon as well as IHCAFE 90 and Lempira.
Cocasmill in the Intibuca department was the second CO-OP we visited. It started in 1999 with 20 members and has grown exponentially to 200. The most striking thing about this CO-OP is not its growth but rather its equality. Many of the members of this CO-OP say the reason for their tremendous success is due to their female manager, Luisa Martinez. Her management and ability to secure funding has seen the CO-OP purchase a mechanical dryer and a dedicated FTO storage area (with plans for a cupping lab in the near future). They have established two committees – one dedicated to women and another to young people, both of which are set up to support the unique challenges faced by these groups.
The last co-op we visited was Cocamol in the Ocotepeque district which focuses on sustainability. Founded in 1997, Cocamol has 55 members, 25 of which are women. Coffee production is not an environmentally friendly endeavour with every 1,000 kilograms of fresh berry resulting in around 400 kilograms of wet waste pulp. If this waste pulp isn’t properly disposed of, it can easily end up in the surrounding water sources, resulting in pollution. Through great financial expense of their own, Cocamol are tackling this problem head on, capturing waste pulp and water in tanks. As this pulp is high in sugars it begins to ferment. By utilising a biogas digester (which turns organic waste into usable fuel by separating the pulp from the water then the gasses from the pulp) the gases are vented to a storage container. The resulting biogas can be burned as fuel that Cocamol plan to run their dryers. The sludge which remains in the biogas digester after the fermentation process is complete, can then be used for fertilizer which will naturally make its way back to the coffee plants. This system will not only pay for itself but addresses complex problems that have plagued commercialised coffee production since its inception.
Jack and I were humbled by the hard work and initiatives displayed by everyone we encountered in the Honduras coffee production. From producer to exporter, everyone is committed to producing better coffee. We are grateful to Sustainable Harvest for introducing us to this coffee community and are excited to now share the result of their hard work with all of you. We have just released two of the microlots chosen from this trip – La Cascada and El Palmar and our Bond St seasonal blend features a boozy natural that tastes like red lollies.
Coffee sacks at Beneficio Santa Rossa Dry Mill (BSR)Cosasmill Wet Mill Nursery at Cosagual Wet MillProducer’s Farm in the Department of Lempira