| Lynsey Harley
Honduras is a country of contradictions. Dense, low-lying jungles skirt its interior, cloud-scraping mountains. Mayan ruins evoke a past civilization’s achievements in what is now the third-poorest country in the western hemisphere. The country’s flag itself embodies the two faces of Honduras, with its two blue horizontal stripes symbolizing the two coasts (Caribbean to the north and pacific to the south).
Similarly, Honduras enjoys all the physical features necessary for growing quality coffee, but because it lacks the infrastructure benefiting growers in nearby costa Rica and Guatemala, most of its exports end up as filler for inexpensive blends. As central America’s second-largest coffee producer, with a 2008–2009 harvest of nearly 4 million 60-kg. Bags, Honduras has great potential to develop into a more widely recognized origin for quality coffees. History and production coffee is grown in 15 of the country’s 18 provinces. Yet about 55 percent of production comes from just three Provinces: Santa Barbara (in the northwest, bordering Guatemala), el Paraiso (in the southwest, bordering Nicaragua) and Comayagua (a centrally located province east of Santa Barbara). At a glance, Honduras seems geographically disadvantaged for growing coffee because it lacks something common to renowned Central American origins: A Pacific coastline. Indeed, Honduras’ best coffee growing region borders Guatemala’s less renowned origins in the Izabal, Zacapa and Chiciquimula departments, and the country’s lengthy Caribbean coastline to the northeast makes it especially vulnerable to tropical storms like Hurricane Mitch, which struck in 1998.
However, the country’s latitude and elevation provide the necessary climate (with a temperature range of 66–82 degrees F) to produce excellent quality coffees, evinced by the fact that some national coffee competition lots auction for more than $18 per pound and that every year an estimated 85,000 bags are smuggled to Guatemala or El Salvador and sold under the names that have been established for those regions. Honduras’ main obstacle is a disorganized trade infrastructure that often causes producers to grow for quantity rather than quality, but a national will and commitment over the next 10 to 20 years can make good things happen for Honduran coffee and coffee families.
Historically, Europeans have been involved with quality Honduran coffee-growing: the Spanish brought coffee plants to the Americas in the 18th century, and the expertise of 20th century German immigrants helped Marcala (in the La Paz department) to become the first denomination of origin registered in Central America. In recent years, growers’ cooperatives and NGOs have helped acquaint roasters worldwide with specialty Honduran coffees coming out of departments other than La Paz, and have helped double the country’s quality coffee production from 2005–2008. Many cooperatives, such as the Fair Trade Cooperativa Agropecuaria Regional Nuevo Eden (COARENE), with 192 member farmers in the western Intibucá department, have helped connect Honduran quality coffee farmers with their markets since the 1990s.
Main growing regions
Forested, mountainous interior of the country’s western half
Caturra, Catuai, Pacas, Typica.
Varies by altitude; for many it begins close to November and can last until May
Annual Coffee Production
4,200,000 bags (Crop 2013)
Wet mill, sun drying