March 2013, Santa Barbara, Honduras
Adam McClellan, Green Coffee Buyer
I left San Pedro Sula invigorated by the great visit with Moises and Marysabel and excited for the next stop on this trip: a swing into Peña Blanca in Santa Barbara to check in with our friends at Beneficio San Vicente. While the harvest is just finishing up in Marcala, it was interesting to see it just beginning in Santa Barbara, due to the more tropical microclimate in the high altitude communities of Las Flores, El Cielito and El Cedral. This region is pretty unique in that it houses a lot of very small farms (1-2 hectares each, on average) in close proximity, yet the farmers have never formally organized into a co-op, but rather have individually chosen to focus on purely producing high quality coffee. The notoriety of countless Cup of Excellence top finishers from this area in recent years has helped to spur added interest in buying more land (now also more expensive) and continued the culture of quality that keeps prices and demand high for these scarce lots.
The efforts and work of Beneficio San Vicente remain fundamental to the ability of these smallholder farmers to participate in the global market and have direct relationships with roasters like Stumptown. While the mill, started by Don Fidel Paz Sabillon, has been around for some time exporting more volume oriented, conventional coffees, it has been the youthful, energized and entrepreneurial spirits of Benjamin, Arturo, and the rest of the new generation of the Paz family who have motivated the producers. They provided technical assistance for clean, sound processing techniques and encouraged planting of good quality varieties, such as Bourbon, Caturra, and Pacas. They also built the market bridge and fostered relationships with importers and roasters to create a needed commercial and logistical link.
Out of everything produced, we chose to purchase coffee from three top quality focused smallholder growers from two specific regions: Pompilio Ramos and David Muñoz from El Cielito, and Pedro Moreno from El Cedral. These producers sold all of their top notch lots exclusively to Stumptown. We spent a couple of days hiking around farms and seeing what is being planted and built up there. It was really positive. The views at the top overlooking Lake Yojoa are stunning. The cherry selection I observed after both days’ picking was nothing short of superb. One of our producers, Pompilio, in El Cielito community built solar dryer raised beds for this year’s harvest and added lovely ceramic tiles to his wet mill where he uses a motor operated depulper (powered by a motor the size of a small lawn mower or weed wacker). And David, from a neighboring farm, added to his raised bed infrastructure and purchased more land in order to plant additional coffee. After visits and tours of the sun drenched farms for a full day, we were thirsty and stopped in the local brew pub (D&D) for some really tasty homemade cerveza.
Next day at the cupping lab, the mill began to see lots of delivery from all kinds of farmers in the area, which is a cool energy to watch while cupping through some extremely delicious coffee. High prices in these parts go a long way, and it’s great to see that being reinvested in quality and good production. Positive results definitely showed in the early cupping we did at San Vicente. We are stoked to bring you these coffees this coming summer to showcase the best of what this special little region has to offer.