HONDURAS: ROBERTO FIGUEROA
To produce coffee that tastes fruity is not very complicated. But to produce coffee that is clean, clear, fresh and fruity – that’s an art.
One of the biggest assumptions within specialty coffee is that coffee from high-altitude areas naturally exhibits these characteristics. But high elevation can lead to potential problems, even in tropical climates.
In the highest areas of Santa Barbara, up to and over 1800 meters, producers can experience “freezing”: the combination of temperatures between 4-5C and rainfall that combine to cause cherries to not ripen and leaves to die on the bush. These conditions create a cold and humid climate, which is hazardous for processing and requires steady and reliable dying conditions for coffee so quality will not deteriorate. These natural conditions, of course, cannot be evaded. But clever and prescient coffee farmers, like Mr. Figueroa, invest in drying systems that minimize the risks associated with weather.
As we’ve come to learn, one of the key factors in making good quality coffee is processing. It is also clear that the process itself, and the drying stage in particular, is making for a more or less long-lived cup quality. This is becoming increasingly important in Santa Barbara as the international recognition for the area rises and the prices go up.
Roasters need for green coffee to keep up their quality months after arrival. A fading coffee feels demoralizing to all of us and is oftentimes not an understood or experienced phenomenon by the farmer. Some are educating themselves about this and taking the need for solutions seriously.
As a general rule our partners have been implementing slower dying of the parchment under shade in order to protect it from direct sunlight during the first steps of the drying process. This has proven favorable.
Although this is currently one of the investments we are seeing in the field, in just four years it was rare to see farmers drying their own coffee in the first place. These days, some are very proud of their being masters of the processing craft.