Around 6 years ago, I was cupping upstairs at Beneficio San Vicente’s (BSV) lab in Peña Blanca, Honduras, looking to the windows below as coffee was continuously being delivered to the mill via well loved, sturdy Toyotas and other trucks. We were 3 tables deep, and as dusk rolled in, so did our dear friend Juan Contreras. Juan is a 40 something dude who lives near the mill and, for a time, he essentially came to most, if not all, the cuppings that BSV holds each day as the harvest period comes and goes. It took maybe 3 years of knowing him before he piped up after a cupping and told me he had been working on a drying project and wanted me to see it.
As it turned out, the next day I went to see what he was on about, what he’d installed beside his house. There it was – A textbook perfect, big, beautiful drying house, designed to release the extra humidity and with plenty of airflow for the coffee.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier! This is flippin’ awesome!”, I said emphatically. “Well I was waiting – This is something I was building with Mie’s recommendation,” Juan explained.
Mie is a dear friend of mine, she was the green buyer previous to me for the company I used to work for, and now she’s the director of KenyaCof (who facilitates our lots at Gifted Estate from Moses in Kiambu)… so I feel like she is someone who it doesn’t hurt to listen to. I’m so glad Juan did.
This pilot project was more for Juan’s coffee for his farm in Santa Bárbara, but this story continues west to Marcala, where a sister project, Proyecto Cabañas, uses the same drying methodology and assists in bringing up-and-coming producers to the world stage.
Olga Benitez received just under a hectare of land from her father and has been producing coffee with her sons since 2009.
At first, we thought she grew Pacas, but after talking to BSV’s agronomist, it’s really more IHcafe 90 on her plot – an early seed selection of a cultivar called Catimor. This variety can be tasty, but the need for ample fertilization is key. I’ve seen as much as 50% of a person’s production lost because after the coffee is picked and depulped, there are empty parchment shells with no coffee inside. So it really needs loads of fertilizer and good soil health to properly grow this variety.
This washed lot from Olga’s farm, called, “Eye of the water,” is depulped and fermented overnight, before being dried on raised beds in a controlled manner as part of Proyecto Cabañas. This lot was harvested by Olga in March, and because of her attention to detail with this coffee, it will hold up well into the winter (if it lasts that long!), with flavours that remind Nate and I of some of the top lots from this region – Sweet, vibrant raspberry compote, and round with waffle, pastry-like flavour holding it all together.