Catracha Coffee single farm micro-lots have arrived from Honduras. These coffees are produced by small individual farmers and arrived here in Oakland ranging in size from 5 bags up to 20 bags, marked with the farmer’s name to ensure traceability for each lot. These are not cooperative coffees, but Catracha Coffee has a profit sharing model, and the farm gate returns over the last four years have averaged $2.50 a pound. This money is going directly to farmers who are using the extra capital to improve farm infrastructure and care for the needs of their families.
Catracha Coffee has had the support of Royal Coffee for the last five years. And not just in the obvious ways like logistics (and there are a lot of extra logistics moving micro-lots). Royal has also supported Catracha Coffee with quality initiatives that started in 2012, when Max Nicholas-Fulmer and green buyers from RoastCo and Blue Bottle traveled to Santa Elena and hosted a cupping event to introduce Catracha farmers to the way their coffee was evaluated. This year pre-shipments were cupped at Bay Area CoRoasters (CoRo) and the Royal cupping table with the help of cuppers from RoastCo, Blue Bottle, Old Soul, Flying Goat, Counter Culture, Case Study, Equator, Highwire, Andytown, Mr. Espresso, Tico Roasters, and Wrecking Ball. Royal also funded the Catracha Quality Project (CQP) to purchase data loggers and PH meters used to collect data on several farms during the harvest. This means Catracha now has thousands of data points to analyze and share with producers in Santa Elena that can help them plan for next year’s harvest.
Beyond the production of quality coffee, Catracha Coffee wants producers to have opportunities to diversify their sources of income. Growing coffee is risky business and a misstep at the farm level could endanger a producer’s ability to feed his or her family. Building a more diversified set of opportunities in Santa Elena is a good long-term goal, but often the cost to invest in projects designed to achieve this goal are too burdensome for a small coffee community that depends on razor thin margins from the sale of its coffee.
Catracha Coffee is grateful for the additional profits that are returning to producers in Santa Elena, but there is also opportunity to invest in long term projects, like inspiring young people and addressing food security, without taking resources from a farmer’s bottom line. My husband and I, along with the help of some dedicated friends, have established a 501(1)(c)(3) nonprofit called Catracha Community to start investing in some of the long term opportunities.
Twenty-five cents has been included in the FOB price of Catracha Coffee micro-lots to fund projects for 2017. In particular, Catracha Community will continue to fund the CQP (2017 harvest) and host the third annual youth conference in January 2017. Catracha Community will also move forward on plans to fund a community kitchen initiative.
In the past two years, the youth conference has brought young people from the community of Santa Elena together with volunteers from Honduras and the United States who are successful in their work. The idea is to inspire the next generation to follow their parents into the coffee business with new and innovative ideas, and also create new dreams that can be supported and shaped into entrepreneurial opportunities. The 2017 conference will be the launching point for ideas, and Catracha Community can ensure that these kids get the mentorship, training, and funding to turn their dreams into businesses that help the community thrive.
The community kitchen will be a place (or places, since we want it to be mobile) that have quality cooking equipment. Cooking can be more joyful when you have the right tools. The long term goal is food security but the short term idea is to bring people together to eat what each has grown in their own family garden. Like the youth conference, the idea is to inspire innovation by bringing people together in the kitchen, and then ensure that families have the mentorship, training and funding to grow what they want to eat. Eating together is also a community building opportunity that can be turned into action that will help the community thrive.
Catracha Coffee has put a lot of expectation on this year’s harvest and we are grateful for all the roasting companies who support and inspire our efforts.
Below are some details on five specific lots; these are some of our favorite people, and favorite coffees from the Catracha Project.
One of the Catracha Project’s longest standing relationships is with Adan Hernández Amaya. Lowell met him through a Peace Corps project, and now Hernandez still manages the potable water system that project put in place years ago. This coffee is stunning; plenty of citric acidity, deep cherry, and fresh pear come through, matched with brown sugar sweetness.
This is Alexis Vásquez’s first year on the Catracha Project. As the former Mayor of Santa Elena, and Mayra’s cousin, he has a lot of expectations weighing down on his shoulders. His attention to detail was evident in his cherry selection, and in the cup. Deep caramelized sugars and chocolate pair precisely with tart hibiscus and cranberry notes. This is the coffee of a community leader.
Mario Dionel Vásquez also joined the Catracha Project this year. Though the trek to his property is easy, the terrain of the property itself is extreme. On his farm, the coffee is grown on a very steep slope, which makes harvest and post-harvest work more difficult. Look for honeyed sweetness, abundant caramelized sugar, and crisp apple acidity. A gentle coffee from extreme environs.
The poster child of the Catracha Quality Project is Atanacio Nolasco. Meticulous data collection during both harvesting and processing makes this a coffee for those who are interested in the more technical side of things. The last few steps in this process are roasting and sipping; look for abundant caramel, chocolate, and marzipan. Citric and tartaric acid grace this coffee with tartness. Interested in interaction? This is the coffee for you.
With the most remote farm on the Catracha Project, Mario Concepción Mártinez Romero can boast the best view of the bunch. His farm has a unique microclimate and a unique set of flora and fauna to match; his property has more coniferous trees than any other. Milky sweet body makes this coffee unique, and plenty of creamy chocolate boosts the body of this coffee over the top.