Honduras El Cristal
Honduras El Cristal
Farm: El Cristal
Producer: Jose Esteban Madrid
Region: El Sauce, Santa Barbara
Tasting notes: Red Grape | Grapefruit | Marzipan
We paid $3.37USD/lb farm-gate for Jose’s coffee, and $4.60USD/lb landed in the United States. Market price at this time was $1.20USD/lb (a producer would likely make less than this if selling to a broker at commodity) and Fair Trade Organic minimum was $1.90USD/lb.
* additional information and context for pricing explained near to the end of this post.
What We Hope You Remember
We know it can be hard to read all of the information about every coffee — we don’t think you need to. However, we provide it all here for those who are interested. For those who don’t have the time, here’s what we hope you learn about this coffee.
This is our second year buying from Beneficio San Vicente in Santa Barbara, Honduras. This beneficio has been run by the Paz family for the last 15 or so years, and has been instrumental in assisting thousands of small farmers to produce incredible quality and to connect them to buyers who appreciate it.
It was our hope to purchase again from Don Santos Martinez, however, he lost his entire crop output due to extreme weather conditions.
Jose is the neighbour of Don Santos and suffered a similar downturn in production, producing only 4 69 kilo bags of green coffee as opposed to his usual 80. We purchased all of these at a high price, feeling at least we could contribute to the economy of El Sauce this way.
Jose’s coffee also gives us the opportunity to speak on an unfortunate trend we saw in Colombia and Honduras this year — increased early rainfall leading to a stunted flowering cycle and a subsequently stunted harvest. Though not all farmers are willing to say it’s climate change, the reality is the effects of climate change have hit Central and South America dis disproportionally hard. On top of low prices and struggling against coffee diseases, producers are now facing down uncontrollable weather conditions that can destroy their outputs and lower quality.
This lot we scored at 86.5 at origin, and the potential for this coffee is even higher, but the struggles with weather likely dropped the ceiling on this coffee’s quality as well. Nonetheless, this is a true Limited Edition coffee in that under 300kg were produced this year.
We paid an FOB price of $4.60USD/lb to Collaborative Coffee Source for this coffee and Jose’s farm-gate price was $3.37USD/lb. This purchase represents the upper tier in our tiered purchasing plan from Honduras, while San Jacinto represents the lower.
About Beneficio San Vicente
Beneficio San Vicente is a family-run dry mill and exporter in Peña Blanca, Santa Barbara, Honduras. Since the 1980’s head of the family and founder of the company, Fidel Paz, worked diligently to grow his quality and volume of SHG Arabica. By the 2000’s, he was joined by his son, Fidel Jr., and his nephew, Arturo Angel Paz, who contributed by developing an agronomical approach while also working on sales and marketing. Shortly thereafter, Cup of Excellence began in Honduras and raised the profile of Honduras for excellent specialty grade coffees.
By 2009, another of Fidel’s sons, Benjamin — now an international known coffee producer and friend of buyers everywhere — joined. Like many Hondurans, he spent time in the United States, where he worked for companies like Saint Frank, honing his skills as a barista and learning the consumer end of the supply chain. He brought back that knowledge and now uses it to connect with roasters and importers the world over, while also working closely in the field with producers to boost their quality throughout the harvest.
Still, coffee production in Honduras has been an uphill battle. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch destroyed 80% of the country’s agricultural infrastructure, decimating the livelihoods of rural people across the country. On top of that, there has been ongoing political turmoil and instability across the country, most recently noticed in the coup of 2009 that deposed their democratically elected president for a figure more desired by the United States.
Funny enough, that year was a record output year for Honduras and pushed Honduras into being Central America’s largest producer of coffee, and second largest producer of Arabica, behind only Colombia. Within Canada, imports of Honduran coffee have grown exponentially over the last few years — from $27.5 million USD in 2015 to $47 million USD in 2017 — reflecting the popularity of this coffee. Indeed, after cupping our way around the country, it’s plain to see that Honduras boast of an incredible potential for the highest quality coffee production.
While Beneficio San Vicente has the benefit of decades of hard work behind them, there are many co-ops and small private companies that are working closely with farmers to improve their quality and connect them with buyers. Pacayal from whom we purchased the San Jacinto coffee on our menu, is a good example. And despite having very limited resources, such as having to borrow a cupping lab from a local co-op, they are nonetheless working with some incredible coffees.
A Brief History of Coffee in Honduras
Honduras is a fascinating example of the power of coffee to change people’s livelihoods. The Moreno family, who we had the honour of meeting this year, make the case exactly. Their father, Daniel Moreno, was a coffee farmer for years but struggled to make a decent living, leading his many sons to illegally emigrate to the United Staes where they worked without papers for many years.
With the advent of the Cup of Excellence, the knowledge of producers earning more money trickled back to them and they began returning. In 2005, Miguel Moreno specifically returned, and saw his neighbour win Cup of Excellence. This motivated him to dedicate himself to producing quality on the parcel of El Filo that his father, Daniel had given him, and by 2007 he won himself.
We spent the afternoon touring the Moreno family farms alongside Robert Thoresen of Collaborative Coffee Source and then shared a dinner, where Miguel spoke of how his life has changed. Whereas 15 years ago, he sent money home to his family from the United States, now he sat in the town where he grew up, surrounded by friends and family telling us about how Honduran people come to their small town on weekends just to meet the famous Moreno family.
We’re proud to work with Beneficio San Vicente and hope that we can see this kind of transformative work throughout the country as we continue to visit and work closely with producers.
Tiered Purchasing and Developing Markets in Honduras
Beneficio San Vicente coffees are very well-represented in specialty coffee. Many Canadian, American, and European roasters are working with these coffees and from a glance, it can appear that producers working with San Vicente “have it made,” as it were.
While it’s true that we believe very much in developing new markets with less represented coffee producers — especially in Honduras where there is such a glut of incredible producers who simply lack buyers — the reality is that in a country like Honduras, the second most dangerous country on earth, there is no such thing as “having it made” for coffee producers.
Visiting San Vicente, we see producers who have worked very hard on quality and have had the connection with a team who are able to properly connect them with the global specialty market to earn the prices they deserve, it doesn’t mean that we can simply overlook them. Nor do we want to, we cupped some tough coffees in Honduras on this trip before being in San Vicente — and the work they are doing is truly spectacular.
The coffee produced on the mountain is almost exclusively Pacas, a dwarf variety that’s a natural mutation of Bourbon, and was originally discovered on a farm in Santa Ana, El Salvador in 1949. After going through pedigree selection during the 60s in El Salvador, it was first introduced by the Honduras Institute for Coffee in 1974. This varietal is defined by World Coffee Research as having the potential to produce, good not great or excellent cups, at high altitude, but the work of Beneficio San Vicente has turned this on its head. Cupping through tables of coffee, we ran across profiles that ranged from Colombian to Ethiopian to Kenyan in flavour, with incredible fruit complexities, rich chocolate and nut backbones and wonderful acidity and structure.
This work doesn’t come from nowhere, these coffees aren’t produced by accident. There is hours, weeks, years, decades of work spent consulting with producers, cupping samples throughout the harvest, assessing diseases, consulting on pruning and growing and cherry selection. Not only do these producers deserve a high price for their coffee, an operation like San Vicente deserves to be worked with for the sheer work they’ve done for almost single-handedly revolutionizing the perception of Honduran coffee for the world.
As such, Beneficio San Vicente represents our upper tier of purchasing. We bought less bags at a higher price from Jose, while purchasing more bags at a cheaper price from Doña Isaura. We do this so that we can support an incredibly high functioning company in BSV, while also looking towards developing a strong relationship with a producer without much specialty market access. Regardless, our lower price tier outpaced even Fair Trade Organic minimum pricing by 150% while Jose’s lot outpaced it by 250%.
The price differences were largely decided by cup quality, but also depend on reputation. Due to the sheer influx of specialty buyers, the price for any coffee out of San Vicente is much higher than the average. Our goal is to continue to raise our prices paid for both the upper tier and the higher tier, and to work to build sustainable relationships together for the future.
We paid $3.37USD/lb farm-gate for Jose’s coffee, and $4.60USD/lb landed in the United States.
Market price at this time was $1.20USD/lb (a producer would likely make less than this if selling to a broker at commodity) and Fair Trade Organic minimum was $1.90USD/lb.
There is about a 25% drop off between the landed price a roaster would pay and the farmgate price paid to producers. This has something to do with margins, but also taxes, and a variety of other tariffs producers are forced to pay. As such, selling even at FTO in Honduras is far from a strong price, and we strive to pay higher than this at all times, while purchasing at solid volumes whenever possible.