Hold on to your hats, this post is about to cover today's of some really great stories and happening in Honduras!
Yesterday was wonderful just like every other day of this journey. We started out our day in Comayagua, another one of Volcafe's mills. This mill was extra special as it processes most of the best microlots in Honduras. The technology for sorting and separating was incredible as were the flavor profiles of the coffees we tasted. It's always incredible to see the culmination of some many logistics working together and you can't help but be amazed standing in a warehouse brimming with activity, but yet totally organized!
From there we began our journey up to the mountains to visit some small producer farms!
Our first stop was at Camillo Barahona's house where we caught him in the middle of processing some cherries that were picked just hours before our arrival. In this region of Honduras it is typical for farmers to own about 3-4 hectors of land and process the coffee all the way to parchment before delivering to a mill. So the explain that a little further.... the farmer and his pickers work to pick ripe coffee cherries in the morning and take them to their own or a neighbors "wet mill." Here they simply strip the fleshy fruit of the coffee cherry off to leave the 2 seeds behind. On those seeds is left something called mucilage or what I like to call "snotty coffee stuff." To remove that the farmer fills a big vat with water and agitates it enough to break off the mucilage, traditionally a fermentation processed is used in other parts of the world to accomplish this. From there the parchment layer is uncovered. Parchment is one of the last layers that surrounds the coffee seed (coffee bean) and can be best described as a husk, a thin flaky shell of sorts. From this point - known as wet parchment, the coffee is delivered to a mill where it is dried, graded, husked, sorted, and placed into the burlap bags you may have seen at roasteries. *Disclaimer: this is not how all coffees are processed - this is an explanation unique to this individual region of Honduras.
So back to Camillo... he is doing some incredibly consistent work with processing and from there he brought us further up the mountain to his new farm. He's in the middle of a beautiful harvest and seems to be on a great track agriculturally speaking! Seeing this small of a size of operation was inspirational, there's so much labor involved and it only echoes some of the thoughts I laid out in the previous post in regards to these small producers having a realistic way to bring there small quantities to the specialty market. When then finished the day with a cupping, noting the exciting offerings on the table as well as the differences we are starting to pick up between the regions of Honduras.
Today we traveled to another small village called La Laguna. Here we started by visiting another wet mill and taking a tour of their operations. This mill just received some large investments and now is sporting the latest and greatest in coffee wet milling technology, so they are ready to process coffee in the best way possible! However, two main challenges face this region of great potential, low altitude, and old farms stuck in old school farming approaches. Volcafe and their affiliates are trying to help farmers understand a new way of farming, instead focusing on volume, they try to help farmers to refocus on efficient and sustainable farming - which will in turn produce a bigger crop yield then ever before in about 3 years. So, getting farmers to take that step is difficult, but small victories have been won as more farmers give this new model a try, more farmers become believers in it and tell their neighbors. It's clear to see that if more of these new farming techniques can be implemented, then we can see a huge jump in quality and there is potential to have such high quality beans that the low altitude will have a much lesser affect on flavor.
From here we visited a Volcafe model farm where these new methods are compared to the old approaches on one single plot of land. Our host Carlos explained how they use this farm as a tool in trying to convince farmers that their way is better.
All in all, it's been an incredible 2 days and I will provide a full recap in the coming days!