Honduras – Beneficio Los Andes
Varietal(s): Primarily Red Catuaí; also Lempira, Ecafe 90, Bourbon, Pacas, Pache & Typica
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios & African beds
Altitude: 1,500 to 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: 37 smallholder farmers from Marcala
Farm Size: 5.8 hectares on average
Honduras is on the verge of becoming a major coffee powerhouse – some might argue that the country is already there! Over the last 25 years the country has risen (as of 2016) to being the 3rd largest producer in Latin America; and they are poised to accomplish even more, with coffee being hailed as a tool for economic development that ‘really works.’ The vast majority of the country’s producers are small holders (70% farm on fewer than 2 hectares) and, as such, the potential of coffee to transform lives in Honduras’s most rural and remote areas is certainly there and has been frequently touted. The one challenge, however, has been quality. Most of the coffee grown in the country fails to command prices significantly over the ‘C’-price and small holders still struggle to meet their cost of production.
This project began in 2015/16 with only 10 producers but has quickly grown to 37 producers from across the municipality. Participation requirements are strict: producers must have the ‘right varietals’ already under cultivation, their farms must be situated at the ‘right altitude’ of 1,500+ metres above sea level, they must all be certified Utz or Rainforest Alliance (though the mill is not, they view this as representing basic administrative capacity), and they must demonstrate a ‘can do’ attitude towards improving their production. In return for adhering to stringent production and harvesting guidelines, they receive significantly better prices for their ripe cherries and, also, agronomical support - which helps them increase productivity for the future!
Participants, on the most part, are not legacy farmers but rather new, young farmers who are open to change and flexible in their approach. All farmers – young or old – demonstrate adaptability and a responsiveness that lends itself to forward planning with regards to quality. As such, producers participating in the improvement program are treated as entrepreneur partners by the Sogimex quality control team.
The Harvest & Processing
The mill boasts two separate pulping stations, and all producers participating in the quality-driven project deliver to their cherry to the Ecomill, which has a capacity of 1,000 quintals a day and is reserved for the most of the season entirely for the highest quality lots. Coffee is always transported to the wet mill on the same day as being picked.
Once it arrives, coffee is immediately sorted, removing all underripe and damaged beans. It is then fermented for between 8 to 12 hours until the mucilage is completely depleted. After this, the coffee is washed in clean water.
The coffee is rested for an hour or two to remove excess water and is then delivered to the drying patios or small African beds, where it will dry for between 15 to 20 days. African beds are a relatively new tool at the mill, but there are plans to expand these as they are they are flexible and ensure a more controlled drying environment.
The coffee is then rested and is then stored at the wet-mill’s warehouse until it is ready for export.