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Your guide to Honduras Coffee
It may come as a surprise to many people to discover that Honduras has climbed into the top six of the world's coffee producers. According to the International Coffee Organization, it produces 350,000 metric tons a year, making it the biggest coffee-growing nation in Central America. So why don't we know more about Honduran coffee? Let's take a look at what we may have been missing out on!
Coffee Production in Honduras
When it comes to product awareness, Honduras coffee lags behind its neighbours in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, although it produces more than the latter three combined. One simple reason for this is that most of its output goes into coffee blends from other countries. In other words, you have quite possibly been happily drinking Honduran coffee without knowing it. Maybe that delicious Arabica blend of Central American coffee you just enjoyed contained beans from one of the Honduras coffee regions...
But this isn't because Honduran beans are poor quality; on the contrary, they are highly prized for their fruitiness and in some cases their distinctive sweetness.
Honduras has the same basic requirements for growing Arabica coffee varietals as other Central American countries: high altitude, average temperatures of 16-20C, good soil, though not as richly fertile as elsewhere, an agreeable climate and plenty of coffee farmers with the necessary knowhow.
While that sounds ideal, the coffee industry in Honduras is tough. More than 100,000 families are the backbone of the production, three-quarters of them working on less than 2 hectares of land, and they have to struggle with the challenges life throws at many people within the country, such as poverty and malnutrition.
In 1994, almost 80% of the production of coffee in Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch. The damage was devastating for the country's farms and farmers.
Historically, as a result of poor infrastructure, very little of the Honduran coffee output was exported at all. That has changed, and the crop now plays an essential part in international trade. The government and Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE) has established initiatives to get more people, particularly the young, into the coffee world. Progressive farmers, blenders and importers alike are increasingly aware of the potential in growing and shipping speciality coffee varieties.
Six of the best
There are six main coffee regions in Honduras, each making a claim to producing coffee with unique tasting notes: Agalta, Comayagua, Copan, El Paraiso, Montecillos and Opalaca. They are all at least 1,000 metres above sea level and several have unique micro-climates; you will find Bourbon Typica, Caturra and Catuai varieties grown in most regions. Catuai and Caturra are the most compact plants, so are widely grown; although all these varieties are highly susceptible to leaf rust which makes consistent quantities somewhat difficult to achieve.
Agalta lies to the southeast of the country, has a climate that is humid and warm, and farms are at an elevation of about 1,200 metres to 1,400 metres. They produce Bourbon, Typica, and Caturra varietals. The flavour profile for coffee from the area is a bit chocolatey with hints of citrus.
Comayagua is in the middle of the country, and the Arabica varieties grown here are Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai. Much of the harvesting in Comayagua is completed from December to March, and you will find the coffee here has tasting notes that are considered typically Honduran: lightly acidic and sweet. This region frequently has the country’s greatest yield with an average of 100 pounds of green coffee beans per 1.72 acres.
Copan is near the border with Guatemala to the east of Honduras. Once again, its main varietals are Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai, yet the harvest starts slightly earlier, running from November-March. Coffee beans from here will be fairly sweet, with some chocolate and caramel notes and a citrus tingle.
El Paraiso is one of the oldest coffee-growing areas in Honduras, lying on the east of the country on the border with Nicaragua. The most common varietals here are Caturra and Catuai Pacas. The region, as with much of the country, has recently been affected by leaf rust but is bouncing back with a crop noted for its flavours of apple, berries and peaches. Some of the best, award-winning products come from El Paraiso, including the 2017 Cup of Excellence winner.
Montecillos climbs up to an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level, and the cold nights in this micro-climate slow down the ripening of the cherries, which enhances the flavour. The coffee from this southwest area is fruity, with the sweetness characteristic of Honduras.
Opalaca, lying to the east of Copan, is named after the mountain range stretching through the region. Harvesting is completed between November and February, and the chief varietals are Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai and Typica. Opalaca beans have a complex fruity taste and it is not uncommon to detect mango, grapes and floral aromas.
Honduras Coffee Ranking
The most common way of processing coffee in Honduras is the wet-processing method. In this process, the outer casings are removed by water action before being left to dry and then stored in bags. The farmers believe this method, while more expensive, gives the coffee beans a better flavour than natural drying. The coffee is then graded at the washing stations according to the altitude at which it was grown.
Three grading levels are:
- Strictly High Grown: for an altitude of 1,350 meters or more.
- High Grown: for 1,200 to 1,350 meters above sea level.
- Central Standard: for coffee that is grown from sea level and up to 1,200 metres.
A brief history of Honduras Coffee
The end of the 19th century saw the origins of the coffee growing business in Honduras, albeit on a very small scale. It can take years for farmers to get any return on their investment, so the take-up was very slow. It wasn't until the 1950s that coffee approached a commercial scale after the government piled investment into building roads and boosting coffee exports. Previously, the poor infrastructure had restricted access to any economy outside the country itself. By now, Honduran coffee was starting to get recognised internationally.
Fast-forward to 2012, the year in which Honduras was invited to join the Special Coffees Association of America, and it was booming. Now, despite recent setbacks with unpredictable weather and leaf rust, it is on the map as a major coffee exporting country, shipping products across the globe.
Honduras Coffee Tasting Notes
A taste of fruity sweetness will reward coffee drinkers who are tempted to try what Honduras has to offer. This distinctive fruity finish is the reason why it is often chosen for blending with less sweet, heavier coffees from elsewhere in Central America.
Within the overall flavour, there are some subtle differences depending on the region where the beans have been grown. Copan coffees offer touches of caramel and chocolate; as do the beans from Agalta. If you are looking for something more fruity, with a little jasmine added to the mix, try El Paraiso. A lot of fruit and sweetness shines through in coffee from Montecillos, as they do in the crop from Opalaca, while the Comayagua will give you citrus hints with a little acidity.
Honduran coffee brands really do deserve to be known for their unique and special qualities.
The best Honduras coffee beans
Our Honduran Arabica coffee is produced in the Comayagua mountain region and is medium roasted to produce a mild strength, but full-flavoured brew. This makes a perfect espresso or filter coffee, and bags of green beans can also be purchased if you would prefer to roast the product at home.
Still not convinced? Take at look at the recent Honduras coffee reviews from our customers:
“Love this coffee, a bit of a weakling for coffee, I like it mild, this is perfect for me.”
“I add this to your decaff coffee and it makes a wonderful 'cappa' Just like the real thing!”
“A great mild taste but still has good flavour”
Caroline K. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Is Honduras coffee good?
Honduras is one of the top six coffee producers in the world, so they must be doing something right. While much of the coffee is used in blends with beans from other countries, on its own it is of exceptional quality with distinctive aromas and fruity flavours.
What does Honduras coffee taste like?
The taste of Honduras coffee will differ according to its region of origin and the varietal, however, overall you can expect a distinctively fruity, sweet taste. Montecillos, Opalaca and El Paraiso will be the fruitiest options, while caramel and chocolate hints are to be found in the beans from Agalta and Copan.
Where does Honduras grow coffee?
In Honduras you will find six primary coffee regions, which accounts for the differences in tastes and aromas you may experience in coffee from the country. These regions are: Agalta, Comayagua, Copan, El Paraiso, Montecillos and Opalaca, all of which are at a relatively high altitude and have specific micro-climates. While many of the same varietals are grown in each region, they all have unique aromas and taste profiles.
Not sure which size bag you need? See How Many Cups each size provides.