Last Thursday, I was one of a handful of competitors vying for the top prize in the New Gotham Coffee Community Aeropress Brewdown at the Passion House Coffee Roasters warehouse space—a Chemex (graciously donated by Chemex, themselves) and the cash pot of $60.
Coming in second place, I won neither.
I did, however, (along with the first and third place winner) win a bag of the coffee we’re drinking right now.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re a sipping a cup of Honduras Nahaman, from Passion House Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Honduran coffee had been absent from the top ranks of the specialty coffee market but that is changing. It has all the environmental factors on its side: soil, altitude, climate, and farmers increasingly better-trained in agricultural practices. All of its neighbors have sophisticated coffee production: Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
But what has been lacking is good coffee processing and transporting, capital, and a distinct identity in the consumer market. It has been known mostly as a source for commercial coffee, not specialty.
This means that even a good quality Honduran does not fetch a good price (and, in fact, many from Copan and Santa Barbara districts are smuggled into Guatemala and sold as such). Without a premium price for quality, the farmer, the mill and the exporter have no incentive to incur the added expense that would realize the coffee’s potential. So Honduran coffee ends up as a good mild blender, and not as a single-origin or farm-specific coffee.
It is a vicious cycle.
We were extremely lucky to get this coffee. A mere five bags were produced in this microlot—Passion House bought them all and shared with Bowtruss Coffee, here in Chicago.
origin: Tirabrisas, Cerro El Pijol, Honduras
farm: Finca La Laguna
elevation: 1550 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of this coffee is truly delightful. It’s sweet and comforting with notes of graham crackers, honey, cherry blossom, pipe tobacco, hazelnut, and very faint tropical fruits.
Unfortunately, these notes don’t carry over into the first few sips. Well—not all of them anyway.
Immediately post-brew, the cup starts off with a tobacco flavor—not the sweet cherry tobacco that was in the aroma, but more like a dried tobacco leaf that wasn’t stored in a humidor properly; still has all the pleasant aromatics about it, but it just tastes a little staler than it should. There’s also a gritty earthiness present, notes of allspice that sting the tip of the tongue, and a roasted walnut astringency that finishes off each sip.
These flavors don’t last long, though—just in those first few sips while the cup is still piping hot. As it cools off, it mellows out quite a bit. The earthiness turns to dry cocoa powder, the roasted walnuts become more like the graham crackers that were present in the aroma, a honey taste and mouthfeel coat the palate, and a bit of wheat and citrus emerge. Much like a wheat ale, actually.
When it gets to room temperature, it’s anything goes, becoming super juicy and fruity. The aftertaste of the first stage of the cup is still lingering, and now I’m getting notes of pomegranate, raisin, golden currant, and apricot. Then, all of a sudden, the citrus flavor explodes and bitters, becoming a sharp tangerine acidity that streams down the middle of the tongue and crashes up against the back of the throat.
Full body; honey mouthfeel; tangerine acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
Honduran coffees… I just don’t think they’re my cup of tea. Er. Coffee. While I can appreciate the excitement of being on the ground level of an up and coming region and tasting the improvements in the beans from bag to bag, that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy any of the cups. (Of course, that’s not to say that the coffees are inherently bad—they’re just not to my liking.)
The Honduras Nahaman, from Passion House Coffee Roasters, was no different for me. Sure, this Honduras was better than ones I’ve had in years past, but it’s not going to be as good as Honduras I’ll have in the coming years (more than likely).
It had some good things going for it, particularly when it cooled off—it got a lot tastier, the body seemed to become more rounded, the flavors became much clearer. But my overall impression of the cup is that it was a little too complex, a little too challenging with all sorts of flavors that never really mix so much as they bombard the palate, it was a little too astringent, and the aftertaste lingered way too long—even though the flavors at the bottom of the cup were incredible, they had a tough time competing with the grittier notes up front.
Now, I don’t “fault” Passion House at all because, let me reiterate, I don’t think the coffee has any flaws. I think this is just how it is. It’s a Honduras, after all. It’s a fun coffee for folks who want to taste for themselves the vast improvements that are being made in Honduran beans, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for the casual consumer.
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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.