Sometimes, in the subculture that is coffee, certain varieties or processes are sensationalized and exalted as being the epitome of what coffee can be. As of late, you might hear the word Gesha (or Geisha), carbonic maceration, single yeast strain inoculation or a slew of other things that are invariably fascinating. For this coffee, however, we get to turn our attention to a natural mutation of bourbon called Pacas, and a person who wants to maximize its potential.
Angel works for the Las Vegas Municipality in the Santa Barbara department of Honduras. He also has a 1/2 hectare coffee farm on the slopes of El Cedral. He’s got some gorgeous Pacas and a bit of Bourbon and this is the first year he’s decided to cultivate his coffee with the goal of producing for the high-end specialty market.
“I’ve been working with coffee for 15 years, and a year with special coffee. 15 years ago I bought a land in a low area, there I planted 1.4 hectares of coffee, a few years ago I had to stop attending the farms because it was not profitable to continue maintaining the crop due to the prices; But a year ago I had the opportunity to buy another land in El Cedral, it was already cultivated and the previous harvest I could prepare it as special coffee and it went very well.” The coffee in your cup is the result of Angel’s work on this new plot.
Santa Barbara itself has an incredible origin story:
In the early 2000s, in the Santa Barbara region of Honduras. Here, with winding dirt roads and steep mountain-slopes are tight-knit communities, who (at that time) had a terrible reputation for producing the lowest quality coffee in the country.
The closest dry mill (Beneficio San Vicente) regularly received wet parchment coffee from these families, and due to the state it was received in, not picked ripe or processed well, its fate was to be sold in the local market all blended together.
Then one day everything completely changed. In 2005, when a young Benjamin Paz began working more closely with his family at the dry mill, they decided together to try working with one of the producers up the mountain range, entering a specially prepared lot into the Cup of Excellence competition.
The day when that lot took an astonishing first place (!!), it was a paradigm shift for the people of Santa Barbara -That moment was the start of a new reputation as high-quality coffee producers. People were feeling supported in their work and the shift in the community, financially, was palpable.
Fast forward years later — Routinely, Santa Barbara coffees place in the top 10 and often win.
Call me a nerd (go ahead I’ll wait) but I’ll take coffee from Angel (and producers like him) over a coffee produced by someone decidedly more affluent any day. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the processing method du jour (it’s an exciting aspect of the industry!), but I’ll go on record and say if we want to enjoy coffee as we know it 10-20 (maybe even 5?) years from now, we have to collectively turn our attention to the structure of the specialty coffee movement itself. We have to acknowledge the struggles facing the everyday smallholder grower and support their efforts to grow coffee that makes us smile. This coffee is undeniably delicious. It’s because Angel wanted to take a risk and put more money into his crop so he stood a fighting chance of being sold as a special coffee. With flavours in this lot like lychee, rosehip and delicate silky texture, we think he nailed it.