We don’t usually think of coffee coming from Honduras but, in fact, coffee production was first recorded there as early as 1804, not long after coffee was introduced to Central and South America before the turn of the century. Because Honduras lacked the significant infrastructure that other countries built up over the centuries, specialty coffee production didn’t really pick up until 2001. As the means of production and infrastructure improved, the quality of coffee coming out of Honduras also improved significantly. Now, Honduras is one of the top five coffee producing countries in the world, exporting about 6.7 million bags of coffee annually, or 405 million kg of green coffee! That’s a lot of joe!
The development of the Instituto Hondureno del Cafe (IHCAFE) or the Honduran Coffee Institute in the 1970 was a big push to improve coffee quality and provide support in the 6 defined growing regions of Copan, Montecillos, Agalta, Opalaca, Comayagua, and El Paraiso. We find our favourite Honduran coffee producer, Fredy Ochoa, nestled in the Comayagua region in Central West of Honduras, in the state of Francisco Morazan, where he inherited part of his family farm. For generations, Fredy’s family farmed vegetables, beans, and maize (corn). In 2012, Fredy inherited a portion of land from his mother and decided to dedicate his efforts to growing coffee. He planted 200 trees to start with on his 1.4 hectare finca and kept planting more year after year. This was no small undertaking.
Growing coffee is a very hard business and can be an uphill battle in the best of times. Fredy was the first in his family to start a coffee finca and of course, he was very nervous. Thanks to the support of his cooperative, Cooperativa Portal El Edén, he began to learn more about coffee planting, growing, and processing by attending workshops provided by the co-op. There he learned about organic farming practices and to this day, refuses to use herbicides and pesticides. Instead, he uses his machete to prune and cut away the weeds and makes his own organic compost to fertilize twice a year. Coffee is truly a labour of love!
After a few arduous years, Fredy finally had his first crop in 2016 (it takes about 4 years from planting coffee trees to producing a good yield)! He was extremely lucky that his finca was not affected by La Roya (coffee leaf rust, a fungal infection of the coffee tree leaves that eventually destroys the entire shrub) that has all but decimated many coffee growing regions in Central and South America. He takes great pride in his coffee finca and boasts that it is the prettiest in the region, especially when the coffee trees are in full flowering!
2019 and 2020 were hard years across the board. For Fredy and many producers in Honduras, an estimated 30% of the crop was lost due to severe weather conditions of drought and massively heavy rains due to climate change. Although rains are good at specific times for coffee, severe rains can make it difficult to harvest or can damage the coffee plants or flowers.
For us, we missed having Fredy’s coffee last year and are more than excited to provide you with his coffee this year! We brought in two delicious varieties that Fredy is very proud of: Ruiru 11 (pronounced roo-E-roo) and Lempira. You may have enjoyed the Lempira over the holidays as our “Margo” limited release. Now, we are introducing Fredy Ochoa Ruiru which carries many delicious characteristics from its roots including pink grapefruit soft acidity and concord grape sweetness.