Fratello Coffee tests the new Slayer Espresso Machine!

Slayer Espresso Machine @ Fratello - teaser from Chris Prefontaine on Vimeo.

Honduras Arenal Estate - Direct Trade buying trip

Last June I was lucky to be chosen to be a judge at the Honduras Cup of Excellence competition.  This was a great event that really opened my eyes to the possibilities that Honduras has to offer with its coffee profiles.  Honduras borders Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and often Honduran coffee will cross borders and will be sold as those varietals instead.   Guatemala is currently the largest Central American exporter of coffee, however if Honduran coffee wasn't smuggled into other countries - they would probably be the largest exporter.

Honduras has a long history with coffee and many of the estates/farms have been controlled by the same family for many generations.  An interesting fact is that 91% of the farms in Honduras contribute to 50% of the coffee sold in Honduras.  What this shows is how many small estates there are to work with in this country, the challenge is finding them.   Of the 38,000,000 lbs of coffee sold in Honduras, 45% is sold as an Organic/Fair-trade/Organic Fair-trade and only about 10% is even offered as a single estate.  Most of this is from huge farms and sold for commercial use.

Our goal when planning this trip was to establish a Direct Trade partnership with a family and farm who's products stood out as exceptional on our cupping table when sampling late last year.  

In the west of Honduras is a region called La Paz, and in this region is an area called Marcala. Marcala is known for the quality of coffee produced, and has a history & tradition that reaches back to the late 1800's.  Families have owned and worked there farms for 4 generations and practice harvesting techniques that produce clean, sweet and rich tasting coffee.  One hour south of Marcala is the town Opatoro, and just out side Opatoro is a very small village called La Florida, and just a few miles out side La Florida is a small coffee estate called Arenal (Arenal Estate is situated 70 km from El Salvador). (more…)

Guatemalan Montecristo - Coffee Buying Trip

We have been buying direct trade coffee since 2013, which means we have years of experience in understanding the best practices in coffee production and purchase. We go to Guatemala once a year to learn more about our producers and their families, to understand their challenges, and to stay up-to-date on their successes

On January 17th my brother’s Jason & Chris joined my self to travel to Guatemala to visit our friend Johann Nottebohm and his wife Holly at their farm Nueva Granada.  Our journey began in Guatemala City when we traveled 7.5 hours by car to the far North West corner of Guatemala which is known as the San Marcos region. 

The drive was long, but beautiful as the landscape of Guatemala is very mountainous and boasts 38 volcano’s which is the most in all of Central America.   When we reached the town of El Rosario and turned off the highway El Rodeo thinking we reached our destination, however, we had 167 more curves & turns in bumpy rock road before reaching the elevation of 4300 feet, the base of Nueva Granada.  This farm has views Volcano Tajumulco the tallest Central American volcano at 14,440 feet, and Volcano Tacana which is half in Mexico.
Coffee Farm

Johann’s is now the 3rd generation coffee farmer in the Nottebohm family.  His great grandfather, originally from Germany, moved to Guatemala in 1894.   Nueva Granda was the 3rd farm in Guatemala to become Rainforest Alliance certified, and their family tradition continues today of striving for better quality, consistency, improving environmental techniques and educating the families that live on their farm.

The pride in this farm is shown on every level.  It starts by watching their team pick only the ripest red cherries.  Every 2 weeks, each tree will have hands sort through their branches choosing the best coffee, for a total of 15 passes per harvest!  Most farms will only have 4 or 5 passes per harvest forcing them to choose over & under ripen cherries each time.

Once picked, cherries are brought immediately to the wet mill located on the farm.  (more…)