Melvin Joel Alonzo Morales takes after his father, Oscar Omar Alonzo, a second-generation coffee farmer whose coffee has successfully stood out in their region for excellent quality and which bears the local brand of “Californeo”. In honor of his father Melvin named his own farm “Californeo Junior”.
Melvin has practiced organic farm management for a long time, taking a naturally gifted location and fortifying it further with organic fertilizers, soil conservation, and protection of local plants and animals.
Washed coffee at Finca Californeo Junior begins with careful cherry selection and same-day depulping. Fermentation is typically 24 hours, after which the parchment is washed with fresh water and moved to Melvin’s solar driers to dry. This particular lot we selected has a tightly-wound flavor structure that includes layers of chamomile, stone fruit, sweet pea and citrus, and a complex citric-malic acid profile that crystalizes the complexity. It’s a snappy, fresh, lovely washed coffee.
The municipality of Marcala, in Honduras’ La Paz department, is a mountainous region with pacific ocean climate influence 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.
Melvin 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.