Earlier this year, i flew down to Honduras to meet up with Lowell & Mayra Powell from Catracha coffee, and see first hand, the community of producers that they work with to not only connect with them on a human level, but also meet Carminda Vazquez sorto who's coffee we ended up purchasing last year. I had the pleasure of meeting Mayra at the SCAA in Seattle through Mr. Charlie Habbeger of Blue Bottle Coffee and instantly, after hearing her speak with fervor about her community and her country, i felt compelled to reach back and try some of her coffees.
Fast forward to February of 2016, i myself and Kevin Stark from Royal Coffee, flew down together from Chicago to San Pedro Sula and made the 4 hour journey to Los Naranjos where we met with the rest of the crew. During our week in Santa Elena, we stopped in to visit dozens of small producers, all with roughly 2-4 hectares of land to work with and all with the most impeccable yet simple wet mill operations on site. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of data gathered by Lowell and his team, and also the constant follow ups by everyone at Catracha coffee, so needless to say, support was not only visible but definitely felt. Moreover, what was most impressive about the Catracha Quality Project besides the amount of education and support offered to the producers is that each producer under the Catracha canopy has to meet a few simple, yet beneficial requirements in order to participate: 1) they must have an operating wet mill on site and 2) they must follow proper drying instructions 3) all producers must have a solar drier on premises. 4) each dryer is equipped with a data logger in order to keep the most accurate information that correlates to the quality of the coffee produced.
Catracha, which is the Honduran slang for "girl" is the brainchild of Mayra Orellana Powell who gained notoriety within the specialty coffee world in a short documentary "The Way Back to Yarasquin". Since 2011, Mayra has been helping farmers from Santa Elena access the specialty coffee market with a firm commitment to her community and the environment. Mayra’s family has harvested small quantities of coffee on family farms for generations. Coffee has traditionally been their main source of income. Mayra understands that finding ways to improve the income earned per pound of coffee can impact the choices families are able to make in their daily lives. Catracha Coffee purchases from small farmers and returns the profits from the sale of green coffee to the farmer who produced the coffee. These farmers do not have the land or infrastructure to produce large volumes of coffee but they can still improve their earnings per pound with better quality coffee.
About Profit Sharing
Beyond the production of quality coffee, Catracha Coffee wants producers to have opportunities to diversify their sources of income. Growing coffee is risky business and a misstep at the farm level could endanger a producer’s ability to feed his or her family. Building a more diversified set of opportunities in Santa Elena is a good long-term goal, but often the cost to invest in projects designed to achieve this goal are too burdensome for a small coffee community that depends on razor thin margins from the sale of its coffee.
Catracha Coffee is grateful for the additional profits that are returning to producers in Santa Elena, but there is also opportunity to invest in long term projects, like inspiring young people and addressing food security, without taking resources from a farmer’s bottom line. Mayra & Lowell, along with the help of some dedicated friends, have established a 501(1)(c)(3) nonprofit called Catracha Community to start investing in some of the long term opportunities.
Twenty-five cents has been included in the FOB price of Catracha Coffee micro-lots to fund projects for 2017. In particular, Catracha Community will continue to fund the CQP (2017 harvest) and host the third annual youth conference in January 2017. Catracha Community will also move forward on plans to fund a community kitchen initiative.
Hospitality & Tradition
Just about everywhere you visit, besides a warm welcome and a smile, almost everyone offers you a fresh brewed cup of coffee and some pan dulce. It's lovely to see this type of tradition which places coffee at the epicenter of each visit and is used not so much as a vehicle for caffeination, but more as an invitation to connect with one another and enjoy in togetherness the fruit of our labor.
Aside from coffee and the staple sweet bread (pan dulce) i was lucky to have shared on some of the most delicious, yet simple foods. Fresh vegetable stew's coupled with an even fresher kill of a bird (chicken) was not just a pleasure to enjoy, but reminded me that good things can be made simply, if only served with a dash of love and humbleness.
Introducing: Honduras Santa Elena Carminda Vazquez Sorto Microlot
In conclusion, this year will mark the return or Carminda Vasquez Sorto microlot in to the Metric Coffee menu. Carminda's coffee is cultivated on a 3.5 acre farm located in the municipality of Santa Elena within the department of La Paz, Honduras.
We are grateful to have Carminda's coffee return to us for a second year in a row and can't wait to hear your thoughts on the work she put in to this coffee. Aside from Carminda's efforts, if it were not for Mayra & Lowell's drive and compassion for the people of Santa Elena and the Catracha Quality Project, these producers may have a tougher time connecting with roasters that not only believe in the work they do, but also are willing to ensure that higher premiums are returned to the producers in the most transparent way possible. For Catracha, this marks their 3rd year with the project and has grown from a dozen producers to over 60 in three years and counting.
In conclusion, we hope you'll swing around by our soon to be open shop on Metric West Fulton, online or amazing partners who will carry Carminda's coffee and give it try.
Meanwhile, enjoy this little ditty filmed by yours truly after an incredible meal in Luis Nolasco's home.