Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras with Caleb Nichols, head roaster at Kickapoo Coffee. He was invited (along with a few other importers) by FLO (a group that helps coops, etc. get a fair trade certification) to go to an event trying to help promote Honduran Coffee. Basically, Honduras has a pretty bad reputation in the specialty coffee world, but there are some coops who are trying really hard to change this. 16 different coops were at this event. Mostly it involved two days of sorting, roasting and cupping 24 different samples from these coops to help provide feedback for them. Also, there were a few different informational sessions for the coops to help teach them about what is going on in the global market with coffee, how they can get financing (there is a really cool group called root capital that was there), and a few other things like this. I think it was a really helpful event for these coops to be able to meet each other and share ideas, but for me it was incredibly interesting to try the coffees.I have never had the opportunity to taste 24 different coffees from one country at the same time... I learned a ton about how much variety can come from one country. Some of the coffees were really floral and had strong citrus notes, some of the coffees had a fruity and almost savory quality, and there were various other things that we were tasting. Some of the coffees were acceptable, some were good, and some were really great coffees. We took the results from this cupping and ended up visiting 5 different cooperatives in the upcoming days.
We zigzagged across Honduras many times to do this (I am so tired of driving!), but were able to meet some amazing people, and see a really beautiful country. Some of the coops were really small (the smallest one offered to make us coffee, which ended up being an hour long process of starting a fire, roasting coffee, etc.) and some were larger and more organized. We learned a lot about what it takes to go from a ripe cherry to the final product, and the complexities that are involved in this. We also learned a lot about the inner-workings of these cooperatives, and some of the complexities that there are in the market right now. There is a lot more info than I would have the energy to share right now!
I think the biggest thing that I learned from this trip was that there are so many different steps between the ripe cherry at 1600 meters outside of some tiny village and the final product we all drink on a daily basis. There are so many ways that this coffee can get screwed up, that I don't think I will every take a good cup of coffee for granted again. In those rare moments where I feel like I have had a truly amazing shot/pourover/etc., I will be even more thankful for the many different people that cared enough to help this anomaly happen.
On a final note... I want to thank Kickapoo Coffee for taking me on this trip. I'm really impressed with the amount of effort they put into sourcing and roasting not only socially responsible coffee, but really high quality coffee as well.