Honduras coffee brewing in the open
If I close my eyes, breathe in deeply, and think
back of our vacation, the first image that comes back is the market at La
Esperanza, Honduras and the wonderful smell of the Honduras coffee brewing.
The quality of coffee,
not just Honduran coffee, is determined by:
It might come as
a surprise to some but coffee’s roots are not Honduras nor Central American. The Spaniards
brought the plant with them,
but not until the 1700's. Coffee
originated in the Ethiopia area of Africa where the
goatherds long ago
chewed the bean at night to stay alert.
you ride through the Honduran highlands, you are traveling through
some of the finest coffee country in the world. Keep your eyes out for
Honduran coffee; it
bush that is often planted
in the shade of larger trees. There are over 90 million Honduran coffee bushes in
cultivation. Pictured here is an early, clear-cut coffee
plantation7 from the turn of the century.
Honduran coffee, most of which is a rich arabica coffee, is used mainly by
coffee retailers as a blending coffee but Honduran coffee certainly is good
enough to stand on its own (see
Sweet Maria's excellent review of a Honduras coffee from the Santa
Honduran coffee growers have not been able to “brand” Honduran coffee like growers in other countries
have. Walk into any grocery store and you can find a can of coffee with
the tag line "100% Colombian coffee." Guatemalan and Costa Rican growers have
pulled off the same type of branding in the coffee boutiques. Honduran
Coffee? Not yet. But stay tuned. As (if?) the infrastructure
improves in Honduras, I believe you will see Honduras moving from the back
seat to the front seat. (Sweet Maria's excellent site on coffee has a good
The higher the elevation, the better
the coffee. The Honduran government, in an effort to “brand” Honduran
coffee, has become more particular about labeling (and monitoring) “strictly
high grown” (sometimes called “strictly hard bean”) coffee. The higher the
altitude at which it is grown, the denser the bean. Strictly high grown
coffee grows more slowly than coffee beans grown at lower altitudes, adding to the price. To
meet the SHG (or SHB) criteria, the coffee must be grown at 4900 to 6400 feet.
The rich volcanic
Honduran soils are ideal for quality
handling and transport. The finest bean in
the world (Panama's Hacienda la Esmeralda just set a record with an auction
prices of $50 + for 6 bags of coffee) isn't worth a plug nickel if it is handled
improperly during processing, it stored incorrectly, or sits in a New Orleans
warehouse for months without proper humidity/temperature control.
coffee grown in shade is superior to the coffee grown in the sun (one taste of a
Vietnamese coffee reveals this). Adequate rainfall (Honduras has little
irrigation to speak of) is critical for a successful crop.
a bean is picked. Expensive
coffees are pricey for a reason. To reach its fullest maturity, flavor and
taste, a bean is best picked at its “red- berry”
stage. Since coffee beans don’t ripen uniformly, multiple pickings
offer the best coffee bean
(rather than a one-time, 'strip the bush' approach).
last, but certainly not least, the very nature or quality of the coffee bush - -
the cultivar itself. You reap what you sow.
Coffee bushes will bear their first harvestable fruit 3-5 years after being
planted. Bushes may last as long as 15-20 years. One bush will average 1 pound
of beans a year (bumper crops are known as with any other crop if all conditions
are ideal that year). Coffee does better in the shade although large
fincas (plantations) now plant sun-tolerant variants, row upon row in the sun.
Sun-planted coffee is a less sustainable farming practice and introduces the
intensive use of chemicals (see below).
Prices for Honduran coffee in Honduras vary, depending on quality. You can expect to pay
$.48 - $3.00 per pound. I picked up a couple of pounds of coffee in the
open-air market in La Esperanza for $.48/pound. It had a very “earthy”
taste. The quality was about at the level of the inexpensive Asian or West
African coffees that have flooded our markets in the last year, driving the
Honduran coffee grower to his knees.
Honduran coffee, look for one that says, “Strictly High Grown, European
Quality (or Style).” There are excellent coffees to be had. I enjoyed the coffee at
Welchez in Copan and also bought some Bella Vista (Beautiful View).
If you can’t find
Bella Vista elsewhere, know that it is available at a shop in the San Pedro
Jump to Top
Sustainable Agriculture Practices
Historically, coffee was grown under the shade canopy of larger trees15.
Sun-tolerant bushes have been developed and can be seen on plantations (fincas)
that often stretch for miles. Forests are clear-cut for their timber
and coffee is planted in the sun. This type of coffee production employs
vast amounts of herbicides and pesticides and devastates the earth, spills
the water systems, and adversely affects the fauna.
Efforts are underway to address this devastating farming practice. The
has an excellent overview which discusses the impact of coffee growing practices
on the farmer, the earth, and the animals of coffee producing countries.
encourage you to take a moment or two to become aware and informed of the
importance of your decision on what type of coffee you buy. You can make a
difference. Buy a coffee produced with sustainable practices by small
farmers who receive a fair price for their work (know as Fare Trade coffee).
More on Fair-Trade coffee can be found at
independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade practices in the U.S.
Excellent material is also available from the
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
website where they discuss the case for
sustainable coffee production.
How to Buy Shade
Grown, Organic and Fair Trade
is available for purchase on line.
Organic coffee from
Foundation is now available online as well.
Proceeds from the sale help provide secondary school scholarships for
academically motivated rural girls who live in the La Libertad area.
is a shade tree coffee, grown at the Finca Santa Isabel, and shipped
from Miami. Try some.
Here are some additional excellent choices:
Stone Creek Coffee
- Wisconsin's finest, served up right here on the net.
Try the organic Mexican or Peruvian Fair-Trade coffee in a strong latte.
Dean Bean's offers only
Fair-trade organic coffee (yes!) and is an old-fashioned "you are the customer"
type of place. I love the
feature where I can select and mix my own roast. Prices are the best
on the net.
Churchill Coffee –
Fair-trade practice; portion of proceeds goes to
Little Roses Episcopal home for girls, San Pedro Sula.
● And for our Canadian friends, here is a
fair-trade online firm out of Nova Scotia:
This recommendation comes from friend Bob Chasen who vacations up nort' near
Now, tons of coffee links:
Just good coffee information
(has a nice “Breaking News” section that keeps you up-to-date on news)
(a specialty coffee and tea trade magazine)
Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
(Published since 1901, a monthly paid subscription periodical)
Coffee Universe has an interesting list of specialty publications such as
Patricia Wood is a librarian with a passion for coffee. Contact her
Coffee & Cocoa
bimonthly paid subscription based in the UK)
(a monthly paid subscription newsletter from
the National Coffee Association)
Information / Reports
Coffee Science Information Centre
Coffee Quality Institute
Home Roasters - Sites of Interest
Green Coffee Buying Club
Associations and Organizations
Anacafe - Guatemalan Coffee Association
Brazil Specialty Coffee Association
Café de Colombia
Coffee Association of Canada
Green Coffee Association of New York
International Coffee Organization
Sindicato da Industria de Café do Estado
de Sao Paulo
National Coffee Association
Specialty Coffee Assosciation of America
European Coffee Federation
Specialty Coffee Assosciation of Europe
Interafrican Coffee Organisation
Eastern African Fine Coffees Assosiation
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Common Fund for Commodities
PROCAFE is an association for the promotion of coffee
World Trade Organization
Trading and Pricing
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange
New York Board of Trade
Bloomberg - Financial
Markets, Commodities, News
Green Coffee Trading, News and Communication
Brazilian Mercantile and Futures
Tokyo Grain Exchange
International Chamber of
Commodity Futures Trading
Coffee Trading and
Buy Honduras Coffee Online,
Plantation ('Finca')Map (off-site)
Great Coffee Links:
coffeeproject.com (green coffee for home roasting)
Sweet Maria's (my favorite)
1600 - Roast Coffee at Home