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Savoring Santa Bárbara

“When the two beans are squeezed from a fresh fruit and the slimy coating is removed, each bean remains loosely contained in a tough but thin shell known as the parchment.”
—Dr. F. L. Wellman1

 Dillon Edwards

This third volume of Parchment focuses on an origin closer to home: Santa Bárbara, Honduras. Fidel Paz and his children have dedicated their lives to building a vertically integrated export business: they buy coffee directly from producers, mill each lot, and ship to destinations across the globe. As you’ll learn, this operation didn’t spring up overnight: Fidel learned the trade from his father, logged time peddling on the street, and gradually transformed his humble hustle into the institution now known as San Vicente.

The next generation has furthered the vision. Fidel's son Benjamin is a rock star in the specialty coffee world. His farm won the Honduran Cup of Excellence in 2022; his name and face have graced bags sold by respected roasters the world over. But to know Benjamin is to know he's a modest man. I’m inspired by his ambassadorship for farmers throughout Santa Bárbara. As a grower himself, he intimately understands their challenges, as shown by his mission to build abiding bonds between local producers and global buyers. So far, it's working. But not without immense effort.

Whenever I'm with Benjamin in Honduras, I'm stunned by the pace he keeps. He works nearly daily, dawn to dusk. He'll oscillate between WhatsApp calls with far-flung clients and growers across the mountain while driving buyers up a winding hillside road to another farm. When I ask if he ever takes a break during Honduras’s nine-month harvest, his answer is always the same: "This is coffee. Every day is the first day."

It’s remarkable to witness Benjamin's achievements as an ambassador, producer, and torchbearer for his father's enterprise. But I believe his ultimate legacy will be his work putting his region on par with the most celebrated origins in the world.

Honduras

I’ve long loved Santa Bárbara coffees for their fruit-forward flavor profile, a pleasantly jarring experience compared to the mild, milk-chocolatey taste of most Central American offerings. The finest Santa Bárbara coffees are dense on the tongue, with saturated sugars, jammy textural tones, and tropical-fruit acidity. They’re for adventurous palates, though they provide structured sweetness anyone can appreciate. 

Celebrating this region, its producers, and the fruits of their labor by enjoying these coffees can support a community that’s faced many challenges, past and present. Among other things, Honduras struggles with overwhelming outmigration, frequent hurricanes, and a rapidly changing climate. But these stories emphasize the virtues of persistence and vision under difficult circumstances.

I hope you enjoy this volume of Parchment, and these coffees, as much as I do. I believe this is an origin worth embracing and savoring, the better to continue the legacy of the best Honduran coffees for generations to come.

 

 

Note 1: Dr. Frederick L. Wellman, Coffee: Botany, Cultivation and Utilization (London: Leonard Hill, 1961), 370.