I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to the COMSA co-op in the Marcala region of Honduras. The purpose of this trip was to cup different micro-lot coffees, visit farms and learn as much as I could about the co-op and the farmers we buy our coffee from. This trip was taken the first week of March, and it was an experience that changed my perspectives and challenged my priorities. I met amazing people, visited fully integrated organic farms, and cupped stunning coffees.
The people of COMSA are truly set apart as coffee growers. Everyone I met, from the coffee pickers to the co-op manager, were not only invested in the finished product, but genuinely kind and generous people. Rodolfo Penalba, who runs the day to day operations of COMSA, is a tireless ball of energy... always willing to lend a hand when needed or provide insight. He is just as quick to give you a smile as he is to explain the intricacies of running the co-op.
Fredy Perez, who is in charge of the organic agriculture, is a fountain of knowledge regarding organic farming practices. He took the time to explain how the farms are bio-diverse and how they utilize everything on their farm to support the organic growing practice. Another individual we met on our trip was Oscar Omar Alonzo, who owns and operates the farm Finca Cual Bicicleta. Oscars friendly nature and jocular personality helped us all feel at ease and part of the COMSA family. You may remember the farm name, as Oscar supplied our Honduras Finca Cual Bicicleta offering last year.
While in Honduras, we were able to visit 6 different farms. At each farm visit, we saw how the coffee was grown and how the growers care for their crop. One of the most memorable farms was Finca La Casita, owned by Fabio Claros. Up until a few years ago, Fabio did not believe in organic farming as he held onto the "old school" ways of farming. However, in the summer of 2013, roya (a coffee disease) hit his farm and hit it hard. With the assistance of Safai Coffee Company, he was able get the help, support and equipment to start farming organically. Through this experience, he has now seen how organic farming really does make a difference. Which in turn, changed his views on organic farming, even to the point of farming his vegetables and raising his animals organically. While telling us his story, he would excitedly raise his hands and shout organico, which made us all smile! Now that he has started farming in this way, a lot of other local farmers have been interested in doing the same and joining the COMSA co-op.
Coffee cupping was the main focus of our trip and the activity we spent most of our time doing. During the 3 days we had to cup, we tried over 100 different kinds of coffees and were pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the lots. Most of the coffees sampled were of the washed processed method, with a few Honey processed and some Natural. One Village Coffee ended up choosing 3 different micro-lots, which we will be offering starting this May.
We at One Village Coffee will be continuing our 3 year relationship with Juan David Chavez, President of the COMSA co-op and owner of the Finca Los Tuneles farm. His coffee this year has never tasted better, and I hope you will agree. Also coming back for a second year will be the Finca Cual Bicicleta, a Natural processed coffee from Oscar Omar Alonzo. Last but not least, we will be starting a new relationship with a farm called Los Zorzales, owned by Amilcar Claros. This was one of my favorite coffees on the cupping table, and it carried flavors with lots of ripe fruit and pronounced sweetness.
Visiting the COMSA co-op was an amazing experience. My hope is that this allowed you to see a little bit into what made this trip so exciting and help you to connect the dots. Be on the lookout for these new coffees. They are going to be fantastic!
Woodrow DeCasere, Licensed Q Grader for One Village Coffee