It seems like everybody’s talking about Honduran coffee lately – even Starbucks has launched some of their own Honduran-sourced coffee, which is in part to blame for the recent surge in popularity of this region famous for coffee farming.
The coffee culture in Honduras, like in every other Central American country, runs deep. Good coffee is a vital part of every person’s day, and coffee is at the center of many social occasions, not unlike the US.
Let’s talk about Honduran coffee. What makes this country, the birthplace of the Maya civilization, so important for the world of coffee? And why is their coffee so good?
Honduras and Coffee: A Short History
The history of coffee in Honduras is untainted by the woes of colonization; Unlike other countries, Honduras was not subjected to coffee slave labor because other countries were deemed more important and thus, exportation activity was scarce. Most of the coffee grown in Honduras up until the late-20th century was mostly destined for local consumption.
Then, with the advance of transportation methods and cheap labor, Honduras was now seen as a smart investment– the coffee industry boomed at a mind-boggling pace so that in less than a few decades Honduras became the number one exporter of coffee in Central America. This is no ordinary feat if you take into account that in Central America are other famous countries for coffee; Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
To give you an idea, in the early 2000s Honduras was nowhere to be seen in the World Coffee Map – Brazil and Colombia were the only acknowledged names of the continent. But then, at the start of the next decade, Honduras was dominating the market – being the most notable exporter of coffee, only second to Brazil (and Brazil is a much, much bigger country). Today, Honduras is the seventh-largest exporter of coffee worldwide.
Honduran Coffee Farms
Central America is not a particularly welcoming place; The climate is mostly very hot and humid – and there is virtually no change between seasons.
But Honduras is, in a way, special; Thanks to its mountainous terrains for providing the optimal context for a lot of plant life to bloom and prosper, the country is considered the most biodiverse of all Central America.
These humid, tropical micro-climates that are found all across the country’s mountains are the best, most sought out conditions for growing coffee beans.
Thanks to Honduran Coffee Institute, the coffee growing standards in the country are strict – only the best farmers are given free rein to establish their own coffee farms. That’s one of the beauties, too – a lot of the coffee farms in Honduras are small and independent – meaning that they operate freely without having to live under some big company’s all-seeing eye.
What Makes Honduran Coffee Different
One of your coffee-drinking buddies recommends you some Honduran Marcala organic coffee. He talks wonders of it – and practically orders you to buy some. Okay – you think – I’ll give it a shot. But why would it be any different from any other Central/South American coffee?
- The lushest, purest land for growing coffee in the region: Unfortunately, most of America’s land was ravaged by the Spanish colonialists. The local labor was cheap, and the product was, mostly, sent back to Europe to be sold as exotic New World crops. The use of the land was very irresponsible, and coffee growing, in particular, is known to leave land close to sterile. But Honduras, for some stroke of luck, was mostly spared of this. This is why Honduras is able to produce a massive amount of top-grade coffee: Most of the country’s land is incredibly fertile and rich in nutrients – which is why Honduran coffee tastes so damn good.
- Unique Coffee: The Hondurans do not mess around. A new, naturally engineered type of coffee plant is found in Honduras – the Lempira. Named after a famous Native American, the Lempira is a plant that takes advantage of the country’s already advantageous conditions for coffee growing. The plant gives a unique, flavorful coffee.
- A welcoming industry: Honduras coffee is, by large, a collective effort. Everybody is constantly tasting their coffee – which contributes to all of the changes that have been made to better their practices (like the Lempira). There are famous, open-door tasting events that attract coffee tourists – like the ones in Santa Rosa de Copán. And the many Coffee Estates that are open for tourists to come and stay overnight – offering the freshest of their coffee beans for them to savor on their stay.
- One of the most popular sources of specialty coffee: Although a relatively new player, Honduras has made a name for themselves in the coffee world, but more particularly in the specialty coffee market. Thanks to the Honduran Coffee Institute – which helps farmers sell their products online – some of the most unique specialty coffee comes from Honduras. Among the countries that seek Honduras, the two that buy the most Honduran-sourced specialty coffee are Japan and Australia– Two countries that are more than well-known in this scene for having some of the most coffee-loving people in the world. And for having some of the highest standards when it comes to what kind of coffee they drink – which should tell you a lot about the quality of Honduran specialty coffee!
Best Honduran Coffee Beans
Don Pablo: The guys at Don Pablo carry coffee from many parts of South and Central America, all of them good – but their Honduran coffee is something else. For example, their Subtle Earth beans have a depth of flavor that is hard to match.
Grumpy Mule: Their Honduran coffee is guaranteed to be of the highest quality. Because they are so grumpy, they want everything to be just perfect – that’s why a lot of their coffee is FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance certified.
Giganto: Though they sell a lot of very good Central American coffee, their Pacavita is something exceptional. It gets its name for the region in which it is grown, which is famous for their particularly sweet coffee beans – which give your coffee a unique taste.
Café El Indio: The most authentic, best tasting Honduran coffee you could ever wish to have. One sip of this and all you’ll ever want is Central American coffee for the rest of your life.
6 Shades of Honduras
But not all Honduran coffee is created equally. Since farming practices are not wide-scale, thanks to the proliferation of small farmers, Honduras has a lot of different ways to grow their coffee. Each region is famous in their own right – and each one produces a different type of coffee. We’re gonna fill you in on some of each region’s characteristics so that, when you buy some Honduran coffee, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
The sweetness of this region’s coffee is popularly attributed to the cold nights that arrive several times a year; this cold wind, which comes in from El Salvador, is thought to give the coffee berries an extra sweetness. This region is also the home of Marcala Coffee, the most popular of all Honduran denominations.
Flavor profile: sweet caramel notes mixed in with hints of peach. It has a pleasantly light body and a strong aroma.
The first on our list is also the first in everyone’s mind when talking about this country’s coffee. And it’s because Copán coffee is considered by Hondurans top-of-the-line, crème de la crème kind of coffee.
Flavor profile: Strong sweet, chocolate and citric notes. Heavy, creamy body.
This region is, along with Copán, the most famous for coffee drinkers that want a sweeter black coffee.
Flavor profile: Chocolate and caramel. Sweet, creamy body.
Literally meaning “Paradise”, this region’s is currently Honduras’ rising star. From being the slacker region of the country, it has been growing rapidly the last decade.
Flavor profile: Tropical fruit notes, slightly bitter – very rich body.
This region is located closest to the center of the country. It is the most prolific region for coffee, producing and selling more coffee than any other region in the country.
Flavor profile: Intense aroma; expect flowery and fruity hints along with a creamy, rich body.
This region’s coffee is characterized for having fruity taste – with each farm having their own different, fruity beans.
Flavor profile: Very subtle aroma; low acidity. Depending on the bean, you can find different fruit tastes such as tropical fruit (mango), and berries.
Should you try Honduran coffee?
The short answer is yes. Honduran coffee is almost unrivaled in taste and aroma, and the presence of a lot of companies that work along with FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance make Honduran coffee farms some of the best ones in the world.
If you’re already a drinker of South American coffee – Central American coffee is very similar. And, for people who make a point of buying from small farms and funding sustainable coffee practices, all of these are very important to the Honduran community.
There’s nothing more you have to think about. Go drink some Honduran coffee ASAP!