Though Honduras is the largest producer of specialty coffee in Central America, some of the best finds don’t come from larger farms, but small, individual producers. This particular offering from Hubert Nicolás perfectly exemplifies this idea. Two of our traders, Andrew Blyth and Brittany Amell, went down to Honduras recently and cupped this coffee along with several others. They came back with a lot of good things to say about this particular lot, so we decided to take a closer look at it before it arrives in June.
Honduras wasn’t always the coffee powerhouse it’s known as now. Before the early 2000’s, the country was a considerable exporter of commercial-grade coffee. Honduras lagged its neighbors through the 1990’s as they developed strong specialty coffee markets; countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala produced higher-scoring coffees and were hosts to the Cup of Excellence program in 2001 and 2003 respectively. A government tax in the early 2000’s helped generate much-needed capital for infrastructure in coffee-producing regions, which helped transport coffee grown in fertile soils at higher altitudes to market. Today, more than 100,000 families are involved in coffee production, with the majority producing their coffee on farms smaller than two hectares.
Hubert Nicolás is a Q Grader and fourth-generation coffee producer from the village of El Aguacatal in San José, Honduras. His farm, Finca El Tatascan, is situated at an average altitude of 1,550 meters above sea level, and is located in the middle of a local forest reserve. Hubert takes special care in drying his coffee and uses a solar-drying setup for 15 days to get the most out of his crop. From there, he transfers it directly into GrainPro bags and stores the coffee in a warehouse for further processing for exportation.
Much has been said (and written) about the Pacamara varietal. It’s a huge bean; screen size for this coffee was very much at the higher end of the spectrum. When done right, Pacamara has excellent flavor potential. However, if care is not taken in drying and processing, there can be a pronounced and unpleasant earthy flavor to the resulting brew. This varietal originated from the Salvadoran Institute of Coffee Research (ISIC) in late 1980’s and is the result of a cross between Pacas and Maragogipe. The intent of this crossing was to capitalize on the drought- and disease-resistant nature of Pacas and the high cup quality of Maragogipe.
This coffee arrived with a moisture content of 11.2%, which is a little higher than average. Density here was also quite high at 0.73 g/mL. These two factors, coupled with a larger-than-normal bean size will make roasting slightly more complex than a run-of-the-mill washed Central American coffee. One thing that you can look forward to though is the overall preparation and grading of the bean; this is a remarkably well-sorted, uniform coffee. Keep in mind though that this is an extremely large bean; this will play a part in the roasting process.
As mentioned in the green analysis section of this post, there are a few variables that play into the roast profile construction here. First, the moisture content and density are both fairly high, indicating the need for an extended drying phase at a reasonably high temperature. If you’re doing this on a traditional drum roaster, a low flame and high start temperature is the way to go. The IKAWA roaster we used for this test helps with temperature stability a bit, so we started the roast off a little hotter than normal in both profiles. From there, we need to account for the bean size. This lot will need a little extra heat to get into first crack, so backing off as you near that point isn’t going to work.
This first profile was set to follow the instructions above. The drying phase was fairly relaxed, followed by a gradually increased browning phase into first crack. Overall development time here was shorter than average.
We tried for a longer development time for the second roast, with a slightly more aggressive drying process. Though the overall roast was slightly shorter, this coffee had more time post-crack to develop the fruity, sweet notes we expected.
Given this coffee’s high score at origin, we were excited to put the two roasts on the cupping table. Side-by-side, we noticed a few differences:
Unfortunately, the first shot at roasting this coffee didn’t work as expected. The shorter development time left some of the fruit notes behind, instead giving us a more herbal, citrus-forward cup than we were expecting. Definitely keep this in mind as you roast this coffee; it needs some time to work after first crack.
The longer development time of the second IKAWA profile paid off. We were happy to find sweet notes of brown sugar and red apple rounded out by a tart, pineapple acidity. The cup was as fruit-forward and complex, with a sweet plum note rounding out the cup.
This is a limited-availability micro lot currently on its way to Royal from origin.
The coffee used in this analysis is reference number 38066 out of our warehouse in New Jersey. We strongly suggest reaching out to your trader as soon as possible if you’re interested in adding this coffee to your offerings.