The last month has been filled with a lot of travel throughout coffee-producing regions of Central America. With each new year, we pack our bags and embark on a multi-country trip to visit the producers that fill our mugs each year come late spring into the summer. It’s a lovely time of year spent visiting old friends and making new ones along the way.
After returning from Costa Rica in January, our second stop of 2015 began in the gorgeous country of Guatemala. From the airport we headed to Antigua to observe the progressing harvest and taste through early pickings. Antigua is a like a little bubble of the past, preserved perfectly for visitors to bask in. The teeming nightlife and incredible architecture make it an easy place to wind down after a long day of tasting coffee.
In addition to serving as a popular tourist destination, Antigua consistently provides some of the most fulfilling and reliable coffee-buying experiences. Surrounded by three volcanoes—De Agua, De Fuego, and Acatenango—you can quite literally find yourself in prime coffee-producing land any direction you take out of the city. Coffees from this region are cornerstones of our late spring and early summer offering lists. The perfectly balanced Cubito is one of the first to make its way into our roastery each year. Fresh crop Bourbon and Caturra variety separations of the Cubito have just arrived stateside and are now available.
While harvest season was in full swing in Antigua, it was just beginning in Nicaragua. Early signs are indicating that Nicaragua will experience a large and fruitful year for coffee production. At Finca la Esperanza, the first few pickings had just arrived at the mill. In addition to owning the farm, Luis Alberto owns the mill where the coffee is processed and an ever-improving QC lab. We spent time here tasting coffees, experimenting, and exchanging roasting stories and insights.
Our travels through Nicaragua also found us exploring new places and coffee sources. The mountains around Ocotal are home to many small-holder coffee farmers, many of whom possess exceptional varieties and processing practices. Nicaragua has long been a go-to place to procure the Maragogype variety and its subsequent mutations. These coffees are unique, with a much larger bean size than the more common Bourbons and Caturras, and a dense jam-like sweetness you won’t find in any other variety. Look out for some interesting varieties from Nicaragua this year.
After Nicaragua, we headed north to Honduras. The Santa Barbara mountain near Peña Blanca is home to hundreds of small-holder farmers cultivating great varieties. This small part of the world yields a wealth of exceptional coffees, not to mention the best breakfast baleada you’ll ever have. In Honduras, we work directly with a handful of producers who bring us amazing coffees year after year. A few of our favorite visits of this trip was our time spent with Norma “Zulema” Erazo at Finca Zulema, and Virgilio and Salomé Reyes at Finca Salomé. Norma has a small farm in the El Cedral neighborhood, and a processing facility up the street on her family’s property. With the money we paid her last year Norma has done the most incredible thing—she has invested this money right back into her farm. She has constructed a new processing setup, including a shaded drying bed, a pre-drying and sorting table, and a concrete fermentation tank complete with a shiny new depulper. These are the types of improvements that warm our hearts and work to benefit both roaster and producer by ensuring better coffee each year.
The same is true at Finca Salomé, which is conveniently located right across the street from Norma’s processing facilities. Virgilio and Salomé have been cultivating coffee for decades, and are still harvesting from some of the same Bourbon and Typica trees they planted back in the 1960’s. Their coffee came to the specialty market for the first time last year, and we could not have been more enamored with it. This year they have constructed a new pre-drying and sorting table and were hard at work separating out coffee that was anything less than perfect. Rest assured their coffee will be even better this year than last. Finca Salomé will be an exclusive offering at our 20th Street location this summer. We are so proud to work with such wonderful producers in Honduras, and cannot wait to enjoy their coffees in a few short months.
As always, these visits make us feel alive and inspire us for travel to come. We are home for a few weeks, but back on the road again soon with our sights set on east Africa. Check back for more updates!