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WMF’s Coffee Culture International series: Honduras

Honduras Cup of Excellence

In this edition of WMF’s Coffee Culture International series, the German automatic coffee manufacturer is focusing on Honduras, a small Central American country.

This series is a collection of articles exploring how coffee industries have developed across the globe and each region’s local coffee customs.

Despite undergoing political upheavals throughout the years, WMF says it was Honduras’ economic dependence on banana growing that made the country unstable. Sandwiched between Guatemala and El Salvador to the west and Nicaragua to the east, Honduras’ economy was based around bananas for many decades, which garnered its reputation as the “banana republic”.

The 1950s saw a radical political change, which resulted in a restructuring of the country’s economy and agriculture sector.

Even though coffee was grown in Honduras since the 1800s, it was not until the 1960s, after this political change, that it became a more important part of the economy and today, is one of the county’s key exports.

“Farmers from El Salvador were among the first to really make use of the perfect coffee-growing conditions on a large scale,” says WMF.

“The farms they set up illegally on Honduran soil gave rise to a conflict that has gone down in history as a ‘coffee war’, which was only brought to an end following US intervention.”

After numerous legislative and land reforms, WMF says by the mid-1970s the political and social foundations were finally laid to create a successful coffee industry.

Honduras’ natural conditions from the climate to the quality of the cultivated land were well suited to the bean, with the industry recovering quickly after Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998 thanks to coffee.

In recent years, Honduras has never been out of the world’s top 10 biggest coffee producers.

“For a long time now, coffee fans have simply not been able to do without its outstanding Arabica varieties, with their well-balanced acidity and delicate aromas,” says WMF.

“But it is not only in Europe and the US where Honduran beans have a great reputation: cafés across the country now serve up domestic coffee to their patrons – either as a modern, on-trend beverage or in a very traditional style.”

Honduras’ coffee industry is made up of a large proportion of specialist smallholders that are organised into cooperatives, such as the Cooperativa Cafetalera Capucas Limitada (COCAFAL).

WMF says these cooperatives have played an important role in improving the living standards of the country.

“The entire [coffee] yield is therefore produced by about 102,000 farms, 90 per cent of which are smallholdings. Nevertheless, taking all the labour involved into account – from planting, to picking and processing, and on to transport – a good million jobs depend on this industry,” says WMF.

Coffee is mainly grown in the west of Honduras, in regions including Copan, Agalta and El Paraiso. According to WMF, the conditions inland, at elevations of between 1100 and 1650 metres above sea level, are perfect for Arabica varieties such as Bourbon, Catuai, or Caturra.

In recent years, Honduras has been recognised for its coffee quality, including in 2019 where six Honduran coffee farmers scored over 90 points. This quality goes together with sustainable growing methods, which WMF says are employed by many of its farmers across the harvesting and processing season.

“This approach makes sure that the pleasant vanilla, hazelnut, and chocolate aromas, for which Honduran beans are so famed, really come through,” says WMF.

Climate change is impacting this Central American country’s ability to produce coffee, with rising temperatures meaning coffee growers must move 200 metres higher, to 1000 metres above sea level, to continue growing coffee.

WMF says Honduras’ farms are also expecting an increase of disease and pests that negatively impact the coffee plant.

“Traditionally, coffee is served very simply in Honduras – black and with lots of sugar. In recent years, however, international café culture has been breaking through more and more here too,” says WMF.

This includes in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, which is now home to a number of cafés based on US style cafes and the country’s first barista academies.

WMF is just one coffee company who has noticed the quality of Honduras’ coffee, and has been successfully operating in this market through its trading partner Grupo Capresso. Already, it has supplied well known Honduras companies with high-performance fully automatic machines.

“This success is a clear indicator of just how well the Honduran coffee market has been developing,” says WMF.

“This small Caribbean country already has plenty to offer coffee lovers. And with its clear focus on sustainable growing and high-quality speciality coffees, the coffee industry in Honduras is well prepared to tackle whatever the future holds.”

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