Up until about 2014, Sergio Lennon Diaz worked as a bank teller, far from the coffee world. His father was a lifelong coffee producer, but Lennon himself was never attracted to the business. One day, however, he took stock of his life and decided that many aspects of the coffee farming life—independence, nature, entrepreneurship—appealed to him after all. So, he decided to change course.
Lennon started working in the field alongside his father, but without much inspiration at first. After receiving glowing feedback (and an 87 point score) from local cuppers on his first coffees as a new producer, however, he threw himself into the work. Little by little he got deeper into farming, further iterating on common techniques, always hungry for feedback. His ambition to improve led him to enroll in a cupping curriculum at COMSA, his regional growers’ association, and he found himself able to track his own progress.
Lennon came to understand that maintaining quality was first and foremost a matter of maintaining his coffee trees, and the land around them, in an organic and supportive way for the entire environment. That, and extreme precision when it comes to processing: Lennon supervises cherry selection very strictly, and after depulping only ferments for 4 hours before washing the coffee and setting it to dry, where he piles the parchment no higher than half an inch on the raised screens in his solar dryer. The result, in the case of this lot, is a very sweet balance with stone fruit and dark chocolate, and a satisfyingly crisp and light mouthfeel.
Finca Liquidambar is in the community of Las Flores, outside the municipality of Marcala, in Honduras’ La Paz department, very close to the border with El Salvador. This part of the country is extremely well respected for coffee, 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 it 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 town itself, considered the region’s capital of coffee heritage.
Lennon is an associate of Café Orgánico Marcala Sociedad Anónima, or COMSA, a large and well-respected growers association based in the town of Marcala. COMSA was founded in 2001 with the equivalent of $365 USD and 61 small coffee producers, 12 women and 49 men. Today the organization has more than 1,500 associate coffee farmers covering an area of 5,800 hectares, maintains multiple certifications, and is considered one of Honduras’ model business organizations.
From the beginning COMSA has promoted organic agricultural methods and quality of coffee as fundamental values for all participating producers. This was a reaction to what the founders saw as an over-reliance on agro-toxins which threatened the longevity of family farms (often a family’s sole asset) and the physical health of the people farming one of their country’s most gifted coffee terroirs. In 2012 the group acquired their own parcel of farmland and built “Finca Biodinámica La Fortaleza” (“Biodynamic Fortress”), a demonstration farm for testing sustainable techniques, as well as designing optimal farm inputs that can be created using common by-products of coffee farming—the results of which are shared throughout COMSA’s farmer network. In recent years COMSA has begun to focus more on what they call “La Finca Humana” (the human farm): an increased consciousness within the farmer that seeks to integrate their physical and social lives with the natural environment around them using observation, investigation, analysis, reflection, and activities that connect farmers with one another and the planet.