At altitudes of 1500-1640 meters, the villages of Los Patios, Aguacinga, Aguanqueterique and Guasore dot the western slopes of Honduras in the Municipality of Santa Elena, La Paz. Here a group of twelve farmers, each managing about an acre and a half, work as a self-managed cooperative with the educational help of Royal Coffee in Oakland, California, to optimize the quality of coffee production, mostly of Catuai and Borbon varietals which is all milled in Santa Elena.
Coffee is produced in Santa Elena on small farms as part of a balanced diversity, which also includes corn, beans and livestock. Historically, coffee farmers from Santa Elena have sold their coffee (in cherry) to a middle man in Marcala, La Paz- a larger well known coffee town in Honduras. This business transaction separates the Santa Elena farmers from their coffee, ending the potential relationship between producer and consumer.
In February of 2012, Royal Coffee visited Santa Elena and met a community of coffee farmers. During this visit, Royal Coffee hosted a cupping event to introduce Santa Elena farmers to their coffee on the same cupping table with other coffee from around the world. The diversity of flavors that farmers were able to experience at this cupping event sparked their passion for the spectacular coffee grown on their farms.
The Royal Coffee visit to Santa Elena also sparked hope for a direct relationship between producers and consumers. From the 2013 coffee harvest, Santa Elena farmers have produced coffee sold directly to Royal Coffee. This harvest represents a committed community of farmers who personally manage the care and production of coffee on their farms with a worldly perspective on quality.
The results exemplify the dual benefits of education and self-empowerment for indigenous people in coffee growing regions: the farmers themselves enjoy the economic benefits of direct trade, and the end users are beneficiaries of truly spectacular coffee. Larger-scale production simply can’t be relied on to produce coffee of this delicacy and consistency.
Royal Coffee is committed to connecting this wonderful community of farmers from Santa Elena with coffee consumers around the world. To top the joy and inspiration of last year’s cupping experience, this year Royal Coffee will generate funds to recognize the folks who actually pick coffee in Santa Elena. To that end, Royal Coffee will generate funds from the sale of Santa Elena coffee and return it as a part of a second payment to the community of coffee pickers in Santa Elena. They anticipate that these funds will reach more than 400 coffee pickers in the area.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Honduras Finca Santa Elena, from Buzz Killer Espresso in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Santa Elena, La Paz, Honduras
farm: Finca Santa Julia
producer(s): smallholder farmers
elevation: 1500 – 1640 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Catuai
process: fully washed, patio dried
As soon as I rip the seal of the packaging off, the Honduras Santa Elena’s aroma is already seeping out. When I open the bag… goodness gracious. Enormous aromas of peanut butter, cane sugar, agave nectar, red berries, and wildflowers.
The cup starts off thick and heavy, with a palate coating molasses texture. The mouthfeel is only made more decadent by flavors of maple syrup, agave nectar, and the sweetness of unrefined sugar. I’m also tasting the complex mix of sweetness and spiciness of cedar, cinnamon, and coriander.
As it cools off, the coffee becomes decidedly and markedly sweet as it erupts with flavors of tropical fruits and flowers. Intensely sweet flavors of dried cranberry, raspberry, apple, coconut, and tangerine, while I’m also getting a really unique floral acidity that includes notes of rose hips, golden wheat, and wildflowers.
Medium body; silky mouthfeel; floral acidity; slightly dry finish.
the bottom line:
The Honduras Santa Elena, from Buzz Killer Espresso, is a really unique—nay, singular—cup of coffee. Honestly, I never expect much out of Honduran coffees; I expect them to be either a) decent, b) not so good, or c) above average. What I never expect to find coming out of Honduras are coffees that are exceptionally unique and/or complex. This coffee certainly embodied the latter.
While it features the traditional hallmarks of most Honduran coffees (fruits, wood, spice, flowers), the Honduras Santa Elena takes those elements and takes them to another level. The thing that makes these elements pop so much is the intensity of the flavors and, more importantly, the intensity of the flavors (which, of course, directly benefits from the aforementioned clarity).
Really dynamite cup of coffee that challenges the palate.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.