Honduras - Marcela Valle
ORANGE, APRICOT, CANE SUGAR
REGION | Mercedes, Octopeque, Honduras
PROCESS | Fully Washed
SPECIES | Arabica
VARIETY | Obata, Parainema
ALTITUDE | 1200-1550 MASL
ABOUT MARCELA VALLE
The 250+ members who together form the Cafesmo Cooperative formalised their cooperation in 2016. Each individual farm is relatively small, with most ranging from 2 to 12 hectares. Ocotepeque is known for its rich soil and perfect altitude range to grow unique, richly flavoured coffees. Members span a range of ages including both women and men, a microbiologist, and an elementary school teacher. Together, they stand for ‘diversity and quality’.
Marcela says, “I started to work as a coffee producer only five years ago, but I grew up on our farm with my family. My grandfather built a nursery for new coffee plants in the patio of our home when I was little, and I was fascinated by it right away, so I always wanted to help him. And my father often took me to our farm when I was a child.
I still remember how much I loved being there. Now, I’m a civil engineer, but first and foremost I am a coffee producer. A bit like my dad, who has been a teacher at our local elementary school during his entire career, but who was always at our farm when he didn’t stand in front of the classroom.
In 2020, I participated in a series of workshops organised by Cafesmo, to learn how to prepare specialty coffees and it was an extraordinary experience. Maybe, because I am an engineer, I have a brain that loves science and technique, and preparing a great specialty coffee is about exactly that.
My brother – who is also an engineer – and I immediately started to work on a solar dryer and a few months later we had built one with 324 removable African beds. This makes it a lot easier to move coffee from one layer or one corner of our solar dryer to another, so we can accelerate or slow down the drying process depending on the conditions and particularities of each lot.
So, while I still work as an engineer, I am now back in our farm a lot more than before. The mood is just too attractive to stay away. The climate is cool and my coworkers are kind. They smile more often than office people too. On our farm, I’m now in charge of micro-lots and processes.
The process that I personally prefer is honey. It’s authentic, somewhere in between the other processes, although I like preparing anaerobic coffees a lot because it is a little more challenging and you need to get your time frames right.
And when the sun goes down behind the hills that surround our land, I love to sit down quietly with my last coffee of that day, one that I made, literally from crop to cup!”
HISTORY OF COFFEE IN HONDURAS
Honduras is the biggest coffee-producing country in Central America with a landscape dominated by smallholders and cooperatives. The country reached its prominent position thanks to a robust national strategy to improve infrastructure and increase productivity that gained traction in the 1970s. The productivity boom wasn’t, however, immediately followed by good post-harvesting practices and Honduras was left with a reputation for big volume, low-quality coffee. Record-breaking scores in recent years of Cup of Excellence show this is changing and the country is gaining more attention from high-end roasters.
There are 6 coffee-growing regions in the country: Copán, Opalaca, Montecillos, Comayagua, El Paraiso and Agalta. Copán, in the West, and Comayagua, in the heart of the country, lead Honduras’ production. The national grading system separates coffees according to altitude: the exportable grades are Strictly High Grown (SHG) for coffees grown above 1200 m above sea level and High Grown (HG) for coffees grown between 700 and 1200 m. Harvest runs from November to April.
Traditionally, most coffees from Honduras are fully washed. In the cup, this origin shows a big body and intense sweetness, often followed by berry-like juiciness and mild acidity. Quality has seen a jump in the last decade as well as the introduction of natural, honey and experimental processing methods, resulting in a wide variety of flavour profiles. Honduran coffees have become cleaner and more transparent but retain their characteristic texture and sweetness. The country is also one of the larger producers of Fairtrade and organic certified coffees, which are produced by cooperatives in large volumes.