Honduran coffee farming partners | Higher Grounds Coffee
Marcala, La Paz, Honduras
Elevation: 1200-1600 meters
Varietals Grown: Catuai, Caturra, Lempira, I-90, Paca
Citric acidity, honey, mango, baker's chocolate
Best brewing: filter
Recommended ratio: 17:1
We have featured a variety of honey-processed microlots from individual farmers within the COMSA cooperative and hope to purchase them again in 2017. We also source seasonally-available coffee from COMSA to be decaffeinated at Descamex, the Mountain Water Decaffeination plant in Veracruz, Mexico.
Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) was founded in December of 2001 with a vision of creating new and alternative development opportunities for small-scale coffee farmers in the region. The organization originally brought together 69 small-scale farmers of Lenca origin who were interested in selling their coffee collectively under the umbrella of a rural credit union.
At that time, the predominant production system in the region used conventional (chemical) practices and sold to the local coyotes, often at prices that did not even cover their production costs. One of the primary founding objectives of COMSA was to seek out and promote new ways of thinking – both in production, moving from conventional to organic production; and in markets, moving from commercial to specialty buyers.
In the beginning the challenges were enormous, as transitioning from conventional to organic practices can cause dramatic drops in production yields. Many members became discouraged and dropped out of the organization. In response, the COMSA BoD and technical team looked for new methods of intensive organics to support their transition and established a strategic alliance with the Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense – CEDECO.
With CEDECO’s support, staff and members of COMSA learned new and innovative practices to transform their lands into integrated organic farms. They are working to promote soil and water conservation and the preservation of local plant and wildlife. Meanwhile, members began to see improvements in coffee yields, better family relationships and rapid growth in membership for COMSA.
With their initial successes, members became more and more open to experimentation with innovative organic practices. Their organic evolution is as follows: 2001 – use of organic materials, 2006 – application of micro-organisms in compost; 2010 -exploring the use of minerals; 2012 – production of fermented live solutions; 2013 – strengthening the grey matter (brainpower) of their technical team, members and strong educational program with their youth and women’s groups.
In order to assure best quality control, COMSA now manages their own wet and dry processing plants and are organic certified with Biolatina and export under FLO, SPP, Denominación de Origen Marcala (DOP) and UTZ.
Harvest is carried out in the months of December to February, time when sunlight penetrates the farm softly and indirectly due to the abundance of shade in the farm, in the coolness of the shorter daylight hours. Harvesting is conducted by hand, carefully selecting fruit that has achieved optimal maturity, cherries that are freshest in appearance, firm and brilliant in colour. This meticulous cherry selection mandates at least three pickings of the same plant, in order to allow for a superior quality coffee.
After harvest, the fruit is submitted to a wet processing method where the coffee is depulped, and later placed in tanks where it gets fermented for over 36 hours. Any byproducts of this process, such as pulp, are reincorporated to the farm’s soil. Finally, the coffee gets laid out to dry under the sun in a protracted drying process.
Over the last few years, COMSA has been experimenting with honey processing as well as natural/dry processed coffees, which have rendered excellent cup results when submitted to quality evaluation. In 2016, HG sourced honey-processed microlots from Miriam Elizabeth Perez, Melvin Alonso, Rodolfo Penalba, and Montgomery Melghem, all members of COMSA. We featured Miriam’s (Betty’s) and Melvin’s coffee on their own and blended the others with a community lot for a seasonal/limited espresso blend, Carino.