The symbiotic relationship between Royal Coffee and the Catracha Coffee Company has flourished over the seasons, and this year is no exception. Individual farmer lots are still available in small quantities, though most of coffees from the Santa Elena community were sold before they made landfall in Oakland this year.

At the Crown, we selected this blended community lot for analysis; its dark chocolate backbone, brown sugary sweetness, and citric acidity are hallmarks of the coffees coming from the Catracha project, and they are magnified and presented with clarity here.

Mayra and her husband Lowell are pioneering an incredible community and quality focused farmer development program in the region. Fueled by a passion for the people with an innovative spirit and multifaceted approach, the ambitious project aims to improve the prosperity of farmers through access to the global specialty network via trainings, social engagement, and profit sharing.

This lot is comprised of a number of individual contributions selected for their flavors and location. Farmers from the community who produce quantities too small to sell as individual microlots are still able to participate in the Catracha project. This blend of 100% Bourbon variety comes from seven farmers: Rosalio Lazo, Carlos Humberto Benítez, Santiago Pérez, Santiago López, Celso Adán Fermán Sorto, Max Aníval Vázquez Rodríguez, and Mario Dionel Vázquez. We’re pleased and very proud to add this clean Honduran coffee from our friends and partners at Catracha to the Crown Jewel lineup again this year.


Now in our third season of Crown Analyses on Catracha coffees, there are a couple of remarkably consistent characteristics of note. Every year, the coffees arrive with very higher than average density with a slightly elevated water activity. This particular lot has pretty large screen size as well.

Bourbon is usually considered “heirloom” Arabica – a mutation of Typica first observed on the tiny island of Reunion, once called Bourbon, in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Madagascar. It proliferated the Americas beginning in the middle of the 19th century, largely replacing Typica in most countries. It is distinguished by its roundness compared to Typica: round leaves, spherical berries, and even a round tree shape.



Every year the Catracha Bourbon blend is on the arrival table I am always surprised that it holds its own with the Catracha Micro lots. This blend is always sweet with a nice citrus acidity and this year it was one of my favorites. On the Ikawa roaster, I first roasted using one of my longer profiles to sufficiently develop the coffee. This coffee cracked slightly later than I had expected, but with still plenty of time for a nice post crack development. On the cupping table were some beautiful tart fruit notes that were lovely, but the bell pepper (vegetal) finish was something I could live without.

The second time around, I decided to modify the same profile and make it 15 seconds longer in the post crack development stage and give it a higher end temperature of 417°F. On the cupping table this coffee was sweet with a lovely orange, caramel base and no sign of vegetal flavors.


Using the Ikawa roasts as a guideline, I knew that this coffee needed more time in the drum to get maximum sweetness with no vegetal flavors. I also knew that there was a crisp and tart acidity in there somewhere and finding the balance between the two would be the key to this coffee. With a 40% batch size, I decided to use an average charge temperature. I wanted to hit this coffee with heat early on and start creating aromatics as soon as possible, but I also did not want to have a roast that was too short. Using the average charge temp and adding heat shortly after the turning point worked great.

After yellowing, my rate of change was still quite high and I decided to reduce heat to extend the total time of the roast. This gave me quite a long Maillard stage amounting to 47.6% of the roast. First crack happened quite late at +3°F compared to the average coffee roasted on this machine, which is par for the course in coffees with higher water activities. After first crack, I did have to reduce heat once more to extend the time of the roast without overshooting my desired end temperature of 412°F.

On the cupping table we were rewarded with a sweet plum and orange juice acidity. The body was creamy and there was a sweetness akin to an almond pastry dusted in powdered sugar.

After charting both of these profiles I noticed that my heat profile is much lower in Ikawa Roast (2) than in Ikawa Roast (1). I checked the ipad and sure enough the firmware was set to the new profile. Most all of the profiles that I have used, were programmed with the 2016 version. When you compare the two, the new firmware fan speed is much lower than previously set. This greatly changes the flavor of the coffee. The reduced fan speed will use less heat in order to achieve the programmed residing temperature on the exhaust probe.

Since first crack happened much sooner in Ikawa Roast (2) and at a lower temperature, this dramatically increased the small change that I thought I had programmed. Instead of increasing my post crack development time by 15 seconds, I had increased it by 34 seconds which is a huge difference on a small air roaster like the Ikawa.


Due to my experience last week, I approached my roasts with a more standardized procedure from the outset. One of the main differences that I tried with this week’s roasts is a higher charge temperature of 450F on the Quest’s provided analog thermometer.

Starting my roast at 9A with the back of the roaster open to stymie airflow, I wanted this coffee to move quickly and easily through the drying phase. As soon as 2:30 rolled around, I closed the back of the roaster and increased the fan speed.

As would be expected, my turning point was at a much higher temperature (405F), though it was at a nearly identical time (2:35). I lowered my amperage to 7.5A at 430F/5:45 and tried coasting through to first crack with a little less vigor, though this coffee retained quite a bit of heat.

First crack occurred at 455F on the thermometer… but to be honest, I don’t particularly trust this thermometer. For next week, I will be taking one step towards more effective temperature manipulation by using a thermocouple and various probes.

I increased my fan speed to 6 and allowed the coffee to develop until 10:45. The result was a resolutely sugar-forward profile, emphasizing the tootsie roll notes of this coffee. Alongside the sugar browning notes there was definite citrus, and a curious butteriness.

My whole bean and ground roast color was more consistent than I’m used to seeing with the Behmor roasts, leading me to believe that this roaster is able to develop the coffee internally a bit better. If I were to change anything about this roast, it would be to drop the coffee just a bit earlier to maintain some acidity. I have been allowing my Quest roasts thus far to develop more thoroughly than usual, and now I’m interested to find more bright and delicate notes in my roasts.


I’ll admit it: I messed up the first brew of this coffee. Coming back from a weekend away, I made the rookie mistake of not checking grind setting before brewing happily away. The good news is that, despite extreme over extraction, Catracha’s Bourbon Blend still tasted scrumptious. There was a hint of paper and a slightly astringent mouthfeel that I chalked up to the nearly 26% extraction. The most prevalent notes were still of brown sugar, pomegranate, and milk chocolate.

Feeling sheepish, I tried again with the correct grind size and a slightly longer brew ratio. This resulted in a TDS reading within normal parameters and created flavors like plum, cocoa, caraway seeds, and almond. With more time, I’m sure I could have pulled out more raisin sweetness and maximized the clean syrupy mouthfeel.

I hadn’t broken into Jen’s Probatino roasts yet, which meant I still had enough coffee to dial in some shots of espresso on the La Marzocco GS3. This was a brilliant idea; the coffee was so easy to dial, I barely made any changes before finding a recipe that offered caramel, brown sugar, sweet banana, and tangerine. The shot was delicious enough that I drank most of it and had to pull another in order to get a TDS reading.

Long story short: this coffee is easy to dial, easy to drink, and all around delicious. Plus, it’s part of a sustainable, long term project meant to support producers at origin. Catracha’s Bourbon Blend offers a unique opportunity to taste delicious coffee while participating in meaningful change for our industry.

Origin Information

Celso Sorto, Mario Vásquez, and Max Anibal Vásquez
Santa Elena, La Paz, Honduras
January - March
1500 - 1750 masl
Clay minerals
Fully washed after pulping and fermenting, then dried on raised beds under solar canopy

Background Details

Catracha Bourbon is a community blend of bourbon selected from Celso Sorto, Mario Vásquez, and Max Anibal Vásquez. Each producer attends monthly workshops to learn farm management practices such as applying lime to control the pH of the soil, fertilizing with organic compost, and spraying organic fungicides to control levels of leaf rust. They have also learned to process coffee using the same procedures at each individual micro-mill to depulp, ferment and dry coffee before delivering it to Catracha Coffee. These actions have improved the health of the farm and the quality of coffee production. Each producer is paid a premium based on the quality of their coffee. This extra income increases each producer’s capacity to reinvest in their farm, and overtime, increase their standard of living. Mayra Orellana-Powell founded Catracha Coffee Company to connect her coffee growing community with roasters. Nearly ten years later, Catracha Coffee has gained momentum with more than 80 producers and 20 roasters working together on sustainable relationships and a profit-sharing model, which has consistently paid at least $2.00 per pound directly to producers. The sale of Catracha Coffee also creates income for a non-profit called Catracha Community (a 501(1)(c)(3) nonprofit), which invests in income diversification opportunities without taking resources from a farmer’s bottom line. Catracha Community host weekly workshops for women and youth to learn craft making skills. Like the coffee, the focus is on quality. With the help of talented volunteers, the group has been able to make many beautiful things and sell them through our network of coffee friends. We even have a name for the group, Catracha Colectivo. Catracha Community has also established an art residence and studio in Santa Elena to host artists from Honduras and around the world. These artists have been running art classes two days a week for over a year. Every week more than 30 children come and learn art. Art is starting to pop up everywhere around Santa Elena. There are more than 30 murals along the streets of Santa Elena, in people’s homes, and at many schools.