Honduras

Coffee Analysis: Organic Honduras Jose Cecilio Rodriguez "Finca El Plan" Honey by Dan Loughrey

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Honduras is Central America's largest coffee-producing country, but wasn't considered among its best specialty producers until relatively recently. Despite its reputation for producing mild, blending coffees, Honduran producers have very clearly raised the stakes and have been producing some excellent coffees of late. Royal Coffee New York is proud to work with several local cooperatives, and was able to source this lot from our friends at COMSA, a well known organic-only coop, this season.

Finca El Plan is owned by José Cecilio Rodríguez, a third-generation coffee producer. He joined COMSA in 2002, but has been producing coffee without chemical assistance for years before that and has been particularly interested in the use of organic compounds in preventing coffee leaf rust. When the area around his farm was struck by rust, he quickly applied a natural mineral compound to his plants and was able to stave off the worst of the issue, quickly returning to business. Don José Cecilio is extremely involved in every aspect of his farm and is always keeping the final cupping profile of his coffee in mind. "It is always a joy to know that my coffee, that I produce it with responsibility and with a lot of love thinking about the final consumer" he says.

This lot is a blend of varietals, and includes Icatu, Catuai, Lempira and Bourbon. Each of these varietals is known for producing a high cup quality and/or high harvest yields, and most of them are well-adapted to the climates of this region and farm. Finca El Plan itself sits at approximately 1,500 meters above sea level, which places it squarely in the ideal growing altitude for this lot's varietals. Ample rainfall and a favorable microclimate round out the environmental factors that allow Finca El Plan to turn out high quality lots.

The metrics of this coffee aren't particularly extreme, though this certainly doesn't translate into a lacking cup. Instead, an average density and a good moisture content allow for a fairly straightforward roast profile design. Screen size is balanced well between 17 and 18, with a few outliers. Overall bean appearance is consistent, with no visible defects.

Honey-processed coffees benefit from a long, slow sugar browning phase to unlock the sweeter notes that are usually present. We kept that in mind with a longer roast profile here on the IKAWA, and kept the starting temperature low to balance out the density of the bean. Though the bean size is reasonably large, it wasn't big enough to warrant having an overly long roast; the consistency in size helped us keep it short here.

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Given the weather in New Jersey lately, cold brew was a no-brainer for this lot. We aimed for a 1:10 ratio with about 20 hours of steep time, and were rewarded with a bright but smooth cup after a few hours in a nitrogen-infused keg. The coffee does well as a cold brew, with notes of orange, caramel, and milk chocolate.

On the warmer front, the V60 gave us a very sweet cup using the IKAWA roast above, with notes of red apple, butterscotch, and apricot. We went for a fairly fine grind on the EK43, and a slightly more concentrated brew ratio at 1:14. This is definitely a coffee we recommend for manual brewing, as its sweeter cupping notes really stand out here.

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The coffee used in this analysis is reference number 38012 available in our New Jersey warehouse. Please keep in mind that this is a limited-availability micro lot and will not be available for an extended period.

This coffee is a part of our larger Honduran micro lot program, and other lots are available. Contact your trader for more information!

Coffee Analysis: Honduras Hubert Nicolas "Finca El Tatascan" Pacamara Micro Lot by Dan Loughrey

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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.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

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.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

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.