This week, we're shining the spotlight on one of the best coffees most folks have never heard of, Honduras San Vicente.
Coffee has been grown in Central America since the late 1700's. In the 1804 Honduran census, don Ramon de Anguiano, the governor of Honduras, bragged about the quality of Honduran coffee, likening it to the famous coffee from the port of Moka. Nowadays, Honduras is the 2nd largest exporter of washed Arabica coffee in the world. With a combination of farms growing coffee at high altitude and weather conditions favorable for growing high quality coffee, you might wonder why Honduran coffee isn't better known.
We did some research and found two reasons. First, due to lack of good roads and other infrastructure, Honduras had trouble exporting its coffee and most of the coffee grown in Honduras was consumed locally until well into the 20th Century. By then, neighboring countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua were already known for their excellent coffee. Honduran coffee growers even smuggled their coffee across the border, so it could be sold as higher priced, more marketable Guatemalan coffee.
The second reason is to due with the weather. The weather in Honduras is good for growing coffee, but it gets more rain than its neighbors, making it harder to process the coffee cherries into green coffee beans. As a result, for years, Honduras coffee sold mostly on the lower priced commodities market, where quality of the individual lots doesn't matter.
Nowadays, Honduras produces and exports lots of coffee. Coffee production is responsible for 10% of the country's GDP and 28% of the population works in the coffee industry. The weather is a continuing problem, though. Coffee farms are especially vulnerable to the affects of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. Since most Honduran coffee is grown on very small farms, these changes can have a devastating affect on the families working them. The New York Times wrote an article* recently about how the weather's increasing variability in Honduras is driving farmers to leave their country and journey north to the US, adding to the wave of migration that has dominated the headlines lately.
Unlike its smaller neighbors, San Vicente is a large, well established estate and has been producing coffee since 2001. Quality control experts from the estate not only keep the quality of the estate's coffee high, they also help smaller producers in the area with planting and processing. Neighbors helping neighbors is another reasons we like this coffee so much.
We've bought a lot of Honduras San Vicente over the years. Reliably rich and sweet, Honduras San Vicente is an easy-drinking coffee that smooths out more assertive coffees in blends and provides a solid coffee base for flavored coffee. The quality has been so consistent, we knew we were going to want to buy this year's crop even before we cupped it.
The coffee surprised us in the best possible way. This year's Honduras San Vicente is richer, sweeter and livelier than we expected. The aroma held the first hint that this season's coffee is special. Rich milk chocolate combined with sweet vanilla for a scent that reminded us of vanilla bonbons. Then we took our first sip. The smooth, creamy coffee burst with flavor, lots of rich chocolate, even more vanilla sweetness and a zing of zesty citrus. The chocolate lingers in the lovely, rich finish. We like this year's Honduras San Vicente so much that for the first time, we're making it available as a single origin coffee.
Have you ever tried coffee from Honduras, or visited a coffee farm there? Please share your thoughts on the Facebook thread or in a comment on this blog. Or, if you'd like to share your opinion with the wider world, leave us a coffee review on Google or on your favorite review site. Not only do we value your opinions, but reviews help more people find us. Help us connect coffee lovers to fresh, quality coffee!
~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast
To read the NY Times article about Honduras, climate change and how it affects migration to this country, click here.