Cold Grinds, Cool Beans...Mas Mocha

Updates and info on our partners in Honduras, Catracha Coffees

by badbeard2 1. March 2016 10:00

Harvest is underway in lovely Santa Elena, Honduras, from whence some of the best Central American coffees we've tasted and offered in recent years. Can't wait to get our grubby little roaster hands on the new offerings in May when they make their way to the West Coast thru Royal Coffee. Posting here the recent update/report from Royal's boots on the ground...

Visiting Santa Elena & Many of the CatrachaFarms By Kevin Stark

 

 

 

The municipality of Santa Elena in Western Honduras is located in the department of La Paz, at an elevation of 1,800 meters above sea level and is very near the border with El Salvador. Most of the Catracha farms are located in this region, and many with long views down the valley below. If you start at the family home of Mayra Orellana-Powell, marketing manager for Royal Coffee and co-founder of Catracha, and depending on which road you take around the mountains, the terrain, landscape, plants, and farms will change dramatically.

You may remember the details of this project: The municipality has approximately 88 square miles and a population of 14,800.  Coffee is grown between 1,500 and 1,800 meters above sea level, and we think the quality is very high.

Catracha Coffee is a coffee-buying social enterprise that accesses the specialty coffee market for smallholder farmers. The quality project is an initiative focused on supporting the production of specialty coffee among Catracha Coffee farmers in Honduras.

As I’m writing this, data loggers are running on four farms, in the solar dryers, and near drying patios—installed by farmers (Rosibel Vasquez, Santiago Lopez, Luis Nolasco, and Porfirio Lopez) with the help of Arvin Juan and Lowell Powell with Catracha.

Arvin and Lowell have also encouraged farmers to add more ventilation to their solar dryers and use breathable black mesh under the coffee parchment while it dries to promote slow and even drying in an easy to clean environment free of unwanted contamination. 
 
“People believe drying coffee in 5 days is good because it opens up space to dry more coffee, so the challenge is to convince a producer that 15 days is better because the quality will be better,” Lowell said to me.

The intention of the data loggers is this: they will map the post-harvest process and collect data at each step, from receiving, pulping, fermenting, drying, and storage.  “Many farmers have their particular way of doing things, and our goal is to capture the uniqueness from farm to farm so we can learn from each other and get even better,” said Orellana-Powell.  

In its first year, Catracha worked with 13 farmers. The following year it was near 30 producers and Mayra is estimating closer to 60 people this year. This is evidence of a great buy-in from people on the ground in Honduras.  

On the other side of the business, Catracha is seeing similar excitement from roasters and the industry. You will remember Mayra’s talk at last year’s symposium:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9alAQBTMLw

I had a chance to get the perspective of some of the coffee buyers on this trip (who, I should add, have been offering extremely valuable guidance and support for this project). Many of the buyers agreed that the social aspect of this project—the community building, the focus on transparency, bringing more money back to the producer—is as appealing as the quality aspect of the project (which again, we think is pretty great). The organizing, the market connection, the producer investment is all happening in an exciting way.

What is special about Santa Elena? So many things, but not the least of which is the coffee. The work is beginning, and it is important that Catracha can show continued improvement in quality over the coming years. I’d like to sketch out how we are going to track that progress.

Let’s start with what is happening on the coffee farms. I mentioned some of the ways that data is going to be captured. This is important, baseline information. Going forward, when Catracha experiences quality outliers—coffee that exceeds or does not meet expectation—Catracha should be able to drill into the processing and farm information to identify why and adjust its methods. This will be valuable feedback for farmers and can help explain quality variance, something that can be a mystery.
 
Giving advice to farmers in Santa Elena based on successes seen in other growing regions of the world could be risky because every growing region can have its own unique micro-climate and favorable factors that are not necessarily transferable to Santa Elena.  Having data to analyze before suggesting possible strategies for quality improvements will reduce costly mistakes.     
 
This project is bringing together individuals from wide ranging backgrounds.  There are, of course, the coffee professionals. The Catracha team is being guided by advice from experienced coffee buyers. There is a pretty healthy debate happening within the Catracha community about processing techniques, pricing and transparency.

Catracha is also working with John Casazza, a consultant in sustainable agriculture development and food systems, John is working with farms to identify best practices for shade, tree management, application of compost, and ways to protect against la roya or leaf rust. More from John in a future post, but he clearly identified the coffee value chain for Catracha. See below:

And most importantly, Catracha will work with close to sixty producers this year, almost double from 2015. According to Lowell and Mayra, the new additions to the Catracha group have been wonderful to work with and their coffee looks spectacular.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Coffee News | The Grind

Ethiopia Harar Mesela out-of-stock for 2 weeks

by badbeard2 29. January 2016 15:07

We have been plowing through the Harar and will be getting more of this intriguing coffee from Keffa Coffee Importers on Feb. 10 to slake your thirst for the exotic!

Tags: ,

Coffee News | The Grind

Fresh troops arriving week of 1/11/16...Ethiopia natural Aricha and Kenya Peaberry

by badbeard2 11. January 2016 20:00

Fans of 90+ cup scores and Ethiopia and Kenya get to play in the garden of earthly delights once again. The new crop natural process Yirgacheffe from our favorite Kebel Aricha mill is back and fruit bomb-y as ever with notes of strawberry, blackberry and raspberry. Coffee compote! The washed peaberry from Othaya Farmers Cooperative Society rings of grapefruit, lemon and raspberry. Superb joes, yos!

December arrivals for holiday madness you can drink

by badbeard 30. November 2015 08:00

Primo coffees abounding this week at the roastery as we welcome two new exceptional offerings from one of Colombia's premier estates, Finca Manantiales del Frontino, in Caicedonia, Valle de Cauca. The Geisha is super-special, and to my palate will make you think that Panamanian Geishas are overhyped by comparison. Their Red Bourbon is a washed coffee of a quality never imagined in the "Juan Valdez" universe.

Tomorrow (Dec. 1) we're excited to greet a fantastic Ethiopia natural process Yirgacheffe from the Chelbesa mill which is a big-bodied fruit bomb and a perfect accompaniment to pumpkin pie.

Also back with new fresh lot of Organic Java Taman Dadar, a favorite here for many years running.

More greatness from Ethiopia

by badbeard 21. October 2015 09:27

Native son Samuel Demisse of Keffa Coffee Importers continues to bring us the best coffees from Ethiopia year after year. The new YirgZ, a washed Yirgacheffe (the "z" stands for zero-defect-sorting, which takes 3 times longer than conventional hand sorting and pays a premium to the women who labor tirelessly!) and Harrar Mesela are in and smokin' hot. For those coffee adventurers who want an exotic cup exploration of East Africa's most unusual. the Harar is for you.

Fantastic new Ethiopia Yirgacheffe natural process and a bombshell from Nicaragua

by badbeard 19. September 2015 19:10

Another Ethiopian natural fruit bomb new in house from the Torea Station outside of Yirgacheffe town, from the highest plantation elevations we've ever had...2250-2500 meters. In close proximity to the vaunted Idido Mill (once known as "Misty Valley"). NOT-TO-BE-MISSED especially by  fans of our Yirgacheffe Aricha, stocks of which are dwindling. This is a brilliant, exotic cup filled with strawberries and cream and hibiscus notes.

We also got ahold of a wonderful and uniquely flavorful Nicaraguan offering from farmer Oscar Ortez's Finca Ena in Dipilto-Nueva Segovia, home to many of that country's Cup of Excellence winners. The blueberry and citrus notes got us at the cupping table among many lackluster Central American offerings...a no-brainer choice. Delish, lively acidity and excellent body for a pourover.

End of Summer mini-hiatus 8/27 to 8/30

by badbeard 25. August 2015 21:45

Off in search of coffees etc Badbeard's will roasting and shipping thru tomorrow, Wednesday 8/26. We will resume the roasting schedule on 8/31 and ship the following day. The roastery is chock-a-block with great coffee!

Tags:

Coffee News | The Grind

End of August equals...Lots of new arrivals....

by badbeard 21. August 2015 13:53

Never a dull moment around here cupping and bringing in exciting new coffees! Just arrived yesterday beautiful Colombia Organic Planadas Reserva and Natural Decaf. The latter is a Colombia-based take on Water Process decaffeination utilizing sugar cane-based ethyl acetate "solvent" for removing the caffeine...this decaf is (not surprisingly correspondingly) sweet and lively. Brought by our friends at Traviesa Coffee.

Monday 8/24 will see some brilliant new crop coffees from Kenya (AA Gura), Ethiopia (Yirgacheffe Dumerso as well as a first-here Yirgacheffe Grade 2 Decaf, yes, you heard it right) and another offering from the Honduran smallholder farm Catracha Coffee Project, a brilliant new direct trade foray initiated by our bud Mayra Orellana-Powell of importer Royal Coffee. A beautiful short video from the producers' cell phone can be seen here 

Off in search of Coffees...July 24-25 hiatus and order advisory

by badbeard 21. July 2015 19:40

We're off to California to hunt down some more great coffees for you. Orders placed until 4 PM Wednesday, July 22 will be roasted and shipped. After we'll be back at it on Saturday afternoon, July 25.

Tags:

Coffee News | The Grind

More new July arrivals...Kenya AA and Organic Sumatra Takengon 7-22-15

by badbeard 21. July 2015 19:21

Hellos to new rich Kenya AA Tambaya (Rumukia Farmers Cooperative Society) from the Tambaya Factory (wet mill) in Nyeri County, heartland of some of the world's greatest coffees. Nice notes of bergamot, fig and honey in this lightly acidic (for Kenya...no "face-melting!) fresh crop.

Sumatra Organic Takengon from the Gayo highlands of Aceh is rich, earthy and spicy...one of our better cups of Sumatra, a preferred locus for Badbeard for both single origin and drip offerings. Also Fair Trade certified.