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Every year, we select a project in the coffee world that we wish to support. This year, we have chosen a naturally processed coffee from the Comsa Cooperative in Honduras. We are captivated by the notion that they produce Organic-Fair Trade-Shade Grown coffee with the aim of enhancing the lives of each of their members and their families. Furthermore, the coffee itself is as good as its mission.
Honduras, a small yet formidable coffee producer, boasts the highest per capita coffee production in the world. Since 2017, it has consistently ranked third in global Arabica production volume. With ideal growing conditions, fertile soils, high altitudes (with farms situated mostly above 1,000 meters), and diverse microclimates, Honduras possesses all the necessary ingredients to become a leading specialty coffee producer.
During the early 2000s, the coffee industry in Honduras began prioritizing quality. Infrastructure improvements, such as better mechanical dryers, centralized wet mills, and a rise in solar dryers, coupled with quality control and assurance trainings (such as separating lots based on quality and conducting cupping schools), specialty-focused exporters, increased volumes of certified coffees, and a strengthened cooperative movement, have collectively contributed to Honduras's emergence as a coffee origin worth watching.
A significant generational shift has also played a crucial role in this movement. Unlike many other Central American countries, Honduras has a younger average age among coffee producers. Today, many cooperatives and exporters are led by young, innovative, and creative entrepreneurs who prioritize quality and collaboration to achieve a shared objective. Their efforts have significantly improved Honduras's reputation for quality and have fueled international demand for its coffee.
Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) was established in December 2001 with the vision of providing new development opportunities for small-scale coffee farmers in the Marcala region. Originally formed by 69 small-scale farmers of Lenca origin, COMSA aimed to collectively sell their coffee under the umbrella of a rural credit union. At that time, the prevailing production practices in the region were conventional (chemical-based), and farmers often sold their coffee to local intermediaries at prices that did not even cover their production costs. COMSA's founding objectives included transitioning from conventional to organic production methods and shifting from commercial to specialty buyers. The initial challenges were immense, as transitioning to organic practices can lead to significant drops in production yields, causing some members to become discouraged and leave the organization.
To support the transition, the COMSA Board of Directors and technical team sought out new intensive organic farming methods and formed a strategic alliance with the Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense (CEDECO). With CEDECO's assistance, COMSA staff and members learned innovative practices to transform their lands into integrated organic farms, focusing on soil and water conservation, as well as the preservation of local flora and fauna. As a result, members began witnessing improvements in coffee yields, better family relationships, and a rapid growth in COMSA's membership. With these initial successes, members became increasingly open to experimenting with innovative organic practices.
In addition to serving their now 1,200+ members, COMSA engages in multiple projects that educate farmers about organic farming practices, produce affordable organic inputs, and positively impact their communities through various social initiatives.
COMSA places a strong emphasis on sustainable and organic agriculture, with a training structure that focuses on disseminating knowledge while encouraging experimentation and innovation. This approach has helped build a cooperative membership that firmly believes in and practices sustainable farming methods. Many member farmers create experimental plots to test new techniques and customize organic inputs according to their specific needs. Additionally, COMSA supports members in constructing processing infrastructure, making quality processing and value addition more accessible to them.
In 2019, COMSA established a recycling plant that collects recyclable materials from 44 educational centers in Marcala. Non-recyclable materials are incinerated to prevent pollution. Furthermore, COMSA promotes beekeeping as a means of income diversification and harnesses the natural medicinal benefits it offers for cooperative members.
When COMSA acquired Finca La Fortaleza, the land was abandoned. However, under their care, it has transformed into a model farm for COMSA members and serves as a grassroots training facility for cooperatives not only in Honduras but also beyond. The farm includes dedicated spaces for farmer trainings and classes, and the on-site cabins accommodate a wide range of visitors, from eco-tourists to NGO workers and field technicians from other cooperatives.
Apart from being a training center, Finca La Fortaleza is where COMSA produces organic fertilizers, pesticides, and foliant sprays on-site. They also cultivate various vegetables and herbs in the farm's garden, primarily for use in natural medicines.
Recognizing the importance of investing in the younger generation for a better future, COMSA took a significant step in 2017 by purchasing a struggling private school adjacent to their wet mill in Marcala and establishing their own international school. The majority of students are the children of cooperative members or coffee farm laborers, with an impressive 80 to 90% of them receiving scholarships. A school bus facilitates daily transportation for the students, whose ages range from 6 months to 17 years.
Notably, the school embraces progressive teaching principles, drawing inspiration from various educational philosophies, including Montessori principles and the Doman method (a pioneering approach for teaching students with learning disabilities). Classes are conducted in both Spanish and English, ensuring that all students acquire proficiency in both languages.
the first step involves selecting and cleaning the ripest beans, discarding any that are not ripe enough or have imperfections. The beans are then dried on African beds for around 20 days, with frequent raking to ensure consistent drying. This drying stage is critical for the final quality and flavor of the coffee.
In the cup: apricot, rhubarb, cherry, cream. Syrupy body, long aftertaste.
Resting period: at least 10 days from the roast date for espresso roast.
|Typica, bourbon, caturra|
|Natural, dried on raised beds|
Two profiles available:
For espresso & moka pot
|Apricot, rhubarb, cherry, cream. Syrupy body, long aftertaste.|