Flavor Profile Wheat toast, coriander seed, milk chocolate
65 farmers organized around the San Vicente group
Lempira, Catuaí, Ihcafe 90, Pacas
Cabañas, La Paz Department, Honduras
Fermented in cherry, depulped and fully washed
December - April
The municipality of Marcala, in Honduras’ La Paz department, is a mountainous region with Pacific Ocean climate influence very close to the country’s border with El Salvador. This part of Honduras is extremely well respected for coffee quality. So much so that in 2005 the region received Honduras’ first Denominación de Origen (DO) for coffee, which, similar to American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), certifies the region’s terroir and final products as being authentic so as to protect its exports from adulteration or imitation. The DO designation applies to Honduras’ mountainous southwestern region and includes parts of Intibucá, La Paz, and Comayagua, although it is simply named “DO Marcala” after the central municipality itself, which is considered the region’s capital of coffee heritage.
Just like in any gifted, challenging coffee terroir in Central America, farms in the Marcala area range from large and historic to small and familial. The region has a variety of exemplary coffee organizations, from organic cooperatives to private mills and independent producer groups whose organized efforts have brought a lot of recognition to the potential of Marcala’s small farms in recent years.
Proyecto Cabañas is one such group. It is a central processing project that currently services 65 small farms across the Cabañas community, a sprawling and remote area in the complex ridgelines along the Honduras-El Salvador border, due south of Marcala city. Participating farms average only 2.5 hectares apiece and are managed by immediate family.
The processing project was first established in 2012. Farms across the region were struggling to survive after a roya (coffee leaf rust) outbreak devastated the predominant coffee cultivars in production—cultivars like typica and pacas, both excellent in the cup but highly susceptible to illness. Many of the farms had only recently been established, as coffee in Cabañas was not typically cultivated until the year 2000 when landowners saw the potential of planting it. The newer, state-sponsored hybrids farmers planted to replace their loss, such as Lempira and Ihcafe-90, needed help maximizing quality. San Vicente, a miller, exporter, and marketing group based in Honduras’ Santa Bárbara department, was first introduced to farmers in Cabañas by one of their producers, Alex Ponce, who has family in the region. The project began with only 3 producers, a single pulping machine, and 3 raised beds on a rented plot of land. Now, 10 years later, the group is much larger and the project is producing a wide variety of processing styles. And Alex Ponce is still the general manager of the project.
This particular lot is what the San Vicente team calls an “anaerobic washed” process. Coffee cherries are received daily from participating farmers and put directly into plastic barrels that are sealed and impervious to oxygen, where they rest and ferment anaerobically for 72 hours. After this first fermentation the barrels are open and the fermented cherry is then depulped and de-mucilaged via water friction. Finally, the clean parchment is moved to raised beds to dry, where it is rotated every 30 minutes during the day for about 2 weeks, and sorted constantly by hand to remove all visible defects. At the station all day lots are kept separate for quality purposes. This lot is a single day’s lot of processing. Cups are subtle and chocolatey, with a dried fruit sweetness, sweet coriander, and a fudgy, creamy body.