Honduras is a country in Central America, nestled pretty cozily between Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Until not long ago, Honduran coffee wasn’t remarkable and the country relied on sending its coffee over to Guatemala to sell due to a lack of infrastructure in place to sell it themselves.
But, in just a few short years Honduran coffee has gone from being unremarkable to undeniably fantastic and is now known the world over. Honduras is now proving to be genuine competition for the other top-producing countries.
Want to know how? Maybe discover the secrets? We don’t blame you – keep reading to get the lowdown.
Honduras isn’t a stranger to coffee production – coffee has historically been one of the country’s leading exports (alongside bananas, shrimp, apparel, and cigars). But, until the turn of the millennium, coffee production was aimed at the commercial market and as a result, Honduras was seen as an exporter of low-quality coffee, rather than specialty coffee.
Unlike its Central-American neighbors, Honduras wasn’t producing specialty coffee. A lack of experience in this area alongside a lack of quality control and Honduras’ infrastructure meant that potential buyers were put off buying a lot of coffee from Honduran growing regions.
Not only that, but around 80% of the country’s agriculture was destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Many of the Honduran farmers felt that they were wasting their time marketing their coffee since they were seeing no financial benefit. So they continued to smuggle it into Guatemala for a higher profit instead.
Hope For Honduras
Even with the odds stacked pretty heavily against it, Honduran coffee was able to fight back. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the government implemented a tax on coffee exports which helped direct essential funding back into coffee growing infrastructure. Specifically, this tax helped fund roads within remote coffee-growing regions.
As you can imagine, this provided many farmers with a financial incentive to continue growing Honduran coffee in the hopes that they would be able to live a more comfortable and stable life. Slowly but surely, Honduras began turning its coffee production around.
Who Puts In the Hard Work?
Today, after the much-needed revitalization from the government, more than 100,000 families in Honduras are involved in the production of coffee beans. 95% of these families are small-scale farmers, which means that they rely on family labor for all aspects of the coffee-farming process, but this is changing.
While 70% of these farmers farm on only 2 hectares of land, they yield approximately 30% of the country’s total production of coffee beans. Altogether, roughly six million bags of Honduran coffee is exported every year.
Just like in Zimbabwe, the age of the average Honduran coffee farmers is going down. They are, in general, ten years younger than they were ten years ago. Honduras’ younger generations are now becoming interested in producing coffee beans because of the potential for them to earn a good living from it thanks to the fact that more and more Honduras coffee nowadays is fair trade.
And it doesn’t stop there: IHCAFE (The Government of the Republic and the Honduran Coffee Institute) – while being a bit of a mouthful to say – has been very successful in promoting the economic profitability of the Honduran coffee farmer. It has helped by:
- Offering technical assistance and training to coffee farmers.
- Establishing novel pest-management systems in farms to protect the crop.
- Setting up a project to provide coffee producers with low-interest loans to purchase farming and producing equipment.
- Setting up a national cupping school, where comprehensive training for cuppers is provided to the younger generations who are interested in starting a career in coffee quality-control. (Coffee cupping is, simply, a coffee-tasting technique)
Where Is It Grown?
Honduran coffee is primarily grown in the west of Honduras where the country borders Guatemala and El Salvador. Similar to Ghana, Honduras has six well-defined coffee growing regions. Each region has varying elevations, harvest seasons and flavor profiles:
- Agalta: 1,100m – 1,400m / December to March- Sweet, with chocolate aroma
- Comayagua: 1,000m – 1,500m / December to March- Lightly acidic with a hint of citrus
- Marcala-Montecillos: 1,200m -1,600m / December to April- Fruity and sweet
- Opalaca: 1,100m – 1,500m / November to February- Fruity and berry-like
- Copan: 1,000m – 1,500m / November to March- Sweet, hints of chocolate and caramel
- El Paraiso: 950m – 1950m / December to March- Sweet, with hints of jasmine, green apple, peaches, and blueberries
That’s a big flavor range for such an underappreciated coffee. Does anyone else suddenly want to take a trip to Honduras just for a cup of coffee? We sure do.
How Is Honduran Coffee Processed?
The wet-processing method is the most common way the delicious Honduran coffee beans are processed. This method requires very specific equipment and a very large amount of water!
The coffee cherries that are picked by the farmers are sorted by immersing them in water. The good coffee cherries will sink to the bottom of the vat, while the bad or unripe ones will rise to the top. The skin of the coffee cherry is then removed, usually by pressing the fruit against a screen with a machine.
This method is very useful for cleaning and sorting large batches of coffee cherries and is the most common sorting method used in Honduras.
Unfortunately, wet-processing has many negative side-effects. Often, the sugars from these coffee cherries end up in the water and start to ferment, then becoming acetic acid. This acid then sometimes finds its way back into the local waterways where it is then consumed.
According to the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA), the amount of pollution in the wastewater as a result of wet-processing coffee cherries like they do in Honduras can be 30-40 times greater than that found in urban sewage. Fortunately, measures are being taken to not only reuse this wastewater, but also the coffee cherries that would otherwise be thrown away.
A greener coffee world is a better coffee world!
Our Honduran Best Picks
We always try to have a look around and see which coffee beans do a good job of showing off their country of origin. Honduran coffee beans have a rich and strong aroma, low acidity, and chocolate tasting notes.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many Honduran coffee beans to choose from online. But, as we now know, specialty production in Honduras is growing fast and it won’t be long before there will be seemingly unlimited choices. Trust us, the best Honduran coffee is worth searching (and waiting) for. Hopefully, the couple we can recommend to you will tide over your tastebuds until then.
Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Coffee
This coffee comes as a medium-dark or a dark roast which helps to bring out the chocolate and vanilla characteristics. It is roasted to order in small batches in the US and the whole beans allow you to grind it yourself to ensure its freshness.
It is a 100% Arabica, Non-GMO, and Certified Organic by CCOF. No chemical additives are used and the high altitude means that there are far fewer problems with pests and insects manifested by the fact that no insecticides are required.
This Honduras coffee comes from the Marcala region that is characterized by fruity and sweet flavors. This high altitude coffee is very dense, thus comes with a depth of flavor.
The full body is accompanied by a clean finish, low acidity, and hints of honey, cocoa, and caramel. The slight caramelization of the natural sugars also gives the coffee a deliciously sweet aftertaste.
Coffee El Indio Extra Fuerte
El Indio coffee is produced from the best quality coffee grains. It is characteristically intense and dark. But at the same time, the mouthfeel is very smooth and not bitter at all. The aroma is chocolatey with low acidity.
This dark and rich coffee packs a punch and is not for the faint-hearted while being one of the smoothest coffees you’ll ever have. Which is a mission hard to achieve with strong and dark roasts.
This coffee comes in 16 individual bags with 1 ounce each which ensures maximum freshness. Due to minimalizing its contact with oxygen, the oils and CO2 that have been accumulated in coffee beans during the roasting process are preserved and add flavor and aroma. Every time you open a new bag, you experience a sensory experience of freshly roasted coffee.
Summing Up (And Drinking Up)
Honduras has a long history with coffee, which isn’t surprising for a country in Central America. Its soil is incredibly fertile and rich in nutrients, so the coffee that is farmed there is of supreme quality.
As we’ve already mentioned, the taste and aroma of Honduras coffee are just so darned good – who doesn’t want a hint of chocolate in their cup? This single origin is characterized by dark and rich aroma with low acidity. Ideal for those who like their morning boost as strong as possible.
The best Honduran coffee is so good because of the respect and appreciation that goes into its production. Various companies in Honduras work alongside Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade to ensure funding for sustainable farming practices that will help the farmers of Honduras make a living.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re just going to start planning a road-trip to El Paraiso so we can taste that incredible coffee… we’ll be right back.