Home in Honduras
Nearly a year ago, my Royal office space moved to origin. I spent the month of August in Colombia visiting producers in Nariño, Cauca, Huila, and Tolima. In September, I moved home to Honduras. With the power of technology, I am able to continue my primary role at Royal, keeping our information current and relevant for all of the coffee that arrives in Oakland from around the world.
In Honduras, I am much closer to what inspires me most about coffee: the people who produce the coffee. In December, it was possible to make the relatively short trip to El Salvador to participate in the El Salvador Micro Festival, hosted by Perfect Daily Grind, where I learned from producers working in El Salvador, Hawaii, Cameroon, and Brazil, as well as roasters from the US and Australia. Over the last few months, I have also made trips to Guatemala and Mexico to meet with producers and exporters who add value to the coffee supply chain.
While I miss my family in the Royal office on a daily basis, I could not be more grateful to Max Nicholas-Fulmer for supporting desire to work from Honduras. Here, I am close to some of the best Fair Trade and Organic Certified cooperatives in Honduras such as RAOS, COMSA, and CAPUCAS. But most of all, I am home in Santa Elena where I can support the community of Catracha producers.
Catracha micro-lots left Honduras in mid-June and arrived in Oakland this week. We are already close to selling all of the lots, before the coffee has even landed.
We are planning to have our profit sharing celebration at the end of July when Catracha producers will receive the quality premium from the sale of the coffee. This money could not come at a better time because the costs of feeding the family and maintaining the farm between now and the January harvest can be a real hardship for producers without an alternate source of income. I am so glad that I can be in Honduras to celebrate with the Catracha Community.
Being here during the entire harvest to motivate and support farmers, January through March, was a new experience for me and my husband Lowell. Usually we have only had a few weeks each year to visit.
This year we were able to help improve on post harvest cherry sorting, drying, and storage thanks to the information from the 2016 Catracha Quality Project (CQP). We added more than 200 square meters of drying space in Santa Elena and now store all the dried parchment in GrainPro bags. We also improved the CQP fermentation data collection during the 2017 harvest. Our friend and research partner, Kate Fischer, presented this data during the scientific poster session at the SCA Coffee Expo in Seattle. Much like last year, we plan to cup CQP samples in August and look for correlations between the data and cup quality that can be used to improve upon the next harvest.
It was very gratifying to see some of the improvements translate into improving cup scores. For example, Edmundo Sanchez was one of the producers who added a solar dryer to his farm, which helped him improve upon his drying protocol.
It was also great to see producers like Santiago López Vásquez and Clement Vásquez Mártinez working with pickers to improve on the cherry harvesting and then take the extra step to sort cherry again before depulping. One producer told Lowell that he had discovered, much to his surprise, that there was much less defective coffee to sort from the drying parchment after improved cherry sorting.
Ready for 2018
We wasted no time while the dried parchment rested in the warehouse waiting to be milled and exported in early June. Instead, we started thinking about the 2018 harvest with our first post harvest Catracha meeting in April, which included expert support from COMSA, agronomist Roberto Nolasco, who taught the Catracha group about the benefits of adding organic compost (Bokashi) to the coffee farm.
During the same month our own Catracha technician, Keny Amaya, took a week long course with COMSA and made 600 bags of Bokashi in Santa Elena to give Catracha producers easy access to purchase Bokashi for their own farms and a place to learn how to make their own Bokashi.
In June, Catracha producer visited the IHCAFE research farm near Marcala to learn about pruning methods and plant nutrition. Keny also taught producers how to make an organic spray (sufro calcio) to control leaf rust, which he also learn from COMSA.
Beyond the business of coffee, I have enjoyed being able to support my community with other activities on a regular basis. In January we hosted our third annual youth conference in Santa Elena with a new emphasis on art thanks to our friends at 3-19 Coffee and Demart Denaro.
Last weekend we hosted another mini-art conference and painted the other half of the mural that was completed in January. We also hosted art classes and a jewelry making workshop during the same weekend.
In addition to these bigger events, I have been able to hold meetings with kids and women of Santa Elena on a regular basis. Sometimes we get together just to watch a documentary and sometimes we get together to work on serious issues like low self esteem and domestic violence.
Making it Home
We are in the process of renovating my grandmother’s house, which will have a big kitchen where we plan to host cooking classes and support small businesses getting started. The house will also have a coffee roaster and a cupping lab.
Thanks to inspiration from our friend Demart Denaro, we are also building an artist residency to bring artists to Santa Elena for extended periods of time. We hope to be completed with construction and started on planting vegetables and medicinal plants by the end of August.
Lowell and I want our house to be an incubator for ideas for inspiring innovation in Santa Elena. We also want the house to be a place for coffee professional to stay while they visit and learn from coffee producers. And we hope that more coffee professionals with other passions beyond coffee (like art and cooking) come to Santa Elena to share their knowledge and inspiration with the Catracha community.
We hope to see some of you this fall and beyond!
Saludos desde Honduras y gracias por tu apoyo a nuestro trabajo.