No one knows for sure exactly when coffee first reached Honduras, but it is believed that some seeds arrived from Costa Rica between 1799 and 1804 among the goods brought by traveling merchants. Today, even though coffee growing is very important to the national economy, the country’s small-scale growers are unable to make a decent living from the crop.
The Copán area, in the west of the country near the border with Guatemala and El Salvador, is recognized for the quality of its mountain coffee. This is the location of the 1,900-meter-high Camapara mountain, covered in forests of pine, holm oak and other tall trees. Fruit plants and medicinal herbs flourish on the mountain’s slopes. The entire mountain is a natural park run by 22 Water Committees, one for each of the communities living on the slopes of the mountain, the source of their water.
The mountain’s first inhabitants were groups of Lenca laborers who arrived from the surrounding countryside to work on the large fincas run by landowning families. They established isolated communities on the gentle slopes, and over the decades they emancipated themselves from the landowners and established their own subsistence economy, based on coffee, vegetables and small livestock.
Today the mountain is home to around 500 coffee growers, mostly small-scale producers organized into cooperatives who traditionally grow Arabica plants of the Typica, Burbón and Caturra varieties in the shade of native trees, at heights of between 1,200 and 1,600 meters above sea level. They produce a washed coffee, which in the cup has a strong fragrance of peach and amaretto, with notes of fruit and chocolate.
A collaboration with IHCAFE’ (the Honduran Coffee Institute) and with the regional agency Honduran Western Coffee guarantees the producers access to training programs and technical assistance. The Presidium is working to promote the traditional coffee varieties, some of which have been replaced in past decades with hybrids, which are more productive but make a more anonymous coffee. The Presidium’s activities are therefore focused on raising the profi le of these varieties among the producers themselves, improving the work in the fi eld and the post-harvest stages and shortening the distribution chain by creating new commercial channels..
La Campa municipality, Lempira department, and Corquín municipality, Copán department
If you would like to know where to find roasters that sell the coffee of this Presidium as single-origin or mixed blend, consult the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity website