ABOUT UNION

WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO

ABOUT UNION

UNION DIRECT TRADE

MORE THAN JUST PAYING A FAIR PRICE

UNION DIRECT TRADE

BREWING TIPS

BREW COFFEE LIKE A PROFESSIONAL

BREWING TIPS

How did we discover COCASMIL?

It has always been bit of a quest for us to find really tasty organic certified coffees that comply with our strict quality requirements. Finding a coffee with the flavour profile we look for and also certified organic that we can roast for our Organic Natural Spirit Blend has not been easy. Fortunately we were introduced to COCASMIL by Beneficio Santa Rosa in Honduras. We were excited because we weren’t offering any Honduras coffees. For many years, when talking about speciality coffee, Honduras was not an origin that popped to our mind and our concern was that harvesting techniques would not be to the stringent degree we require which would affect the flavour profile.

 

What impressed us about this coffee?

So when we first cupped COCASMIL, we were very happy. We found the coffee was exceptionally fresh, creamy and sweet with notes of vanilla, peach and fudgy-like finish.This is the first season we have bought from this producer and we are in that process of getting to know them and their coffee.  Pascale Schuit, who manages our farmer relationships, visited them in March to understand how we can developing a long-term Union Direct Trade relationship with them. She is hopeful because she observed how Beneficio Santa Rosa, the dry mill organization through which the coffee is prepared for export, delivers regular training on quality, and also on social aspects such as security and hygiene on the farm. Effective management is the key to success.

About these Producers

COCASMIL is a Co-operative; which means they are a group of 82 organized small-scale farmers, including 6 women, located in a mountain range up to 1700 mASL near San Miguel in the Intibucta department. The cooperative takes its name from this: Cooperativa Cafetera San Miguel Intibuca or “Coffee Cooperative San Miguel Intibuca”.  It started in 1999 and has built cement patios for sun-drying and an office for good administration; and now they work with the local school to provide books and help to support the health centre.

These 82 producers organized themselves to work together as a cooperative entity because they all have small plots of land for their farm. Each individual producer would never have enough coffee to export directly to Union Hand Roasted Coffee. They have different varieties, but mainly Catuai, Caturra and Villa Sarchi. Their coffee is washed and then sundried.

 

About the farmers

All farmers in the co-operative produce organic coffee. Each farm takes special care to weed by hand or using a machete, no herbicides are allowed and they apply microorganisms; coffee pulp compost and bocashi to enrich the soil. Bocashi (from the Japanese bokashi) is a highly effective natural organic fertiliser grown from microbial cultures from locally available organic material resources.

 

 Jorge Vásques

Jorge Alberto Vásques

 

Jorge Alberto Vásques is a member of COCASMI and he is committed to producing coffee through sustainable farming.

The technique of land management by terracing

 

The picture above shows terracing; a method used to transform steep sloping farms that can be unworkable, into areas with level strips of land that are easier to manage. Constructing these terraces is very labour intensive and very few farmers opt to do so.

Terracing manages soil erosion, avoids landslides and prevents fertiliser and mulch from washing away quickly.  They make working in the coffee more comfortable.

 

Meet Benjamín Mejía Vásquez

When Pascale was in Honduras earlier in the year, Benjamín Mejía Vásquez explained how he prepared cultures of microorganisms to apply on his farm.

Farmer Benjamín Mejía Vásquez

 

Benjamín collects layers of sand from high up into the mountains, an area untouched by human activity and where there is a vibrant and healthy ecosystem. The microorganisms present in the sand are brought back to his farm and applied to the soil; this can support re-establishing the equilibrium in the farms soil.

This in turn yields a healthier crop, with fewer problems from pests, and is a convenient and cheap way of managing soil fertility. Bejamín has a very small de-pulper and does not work with a washing channel.

The coffee is both washed and fermented in the same tank. On his cement patio it takes around 3-4 days to dry the coffee.

Benjamín’s de-pulper; simple but perfectly functional

 

We were delighted and excited to have two Unionistas on the international judging panel for the Honduras Cup of Excellence (CoE) earlier this year.

We are now roasting one of the finalist coffees which we bid for in the online auction – Cristal microlot 13 – which you can find out more about here.

 

Defining Excellence

The Alliance for Coffee Excellence established the Cup of Excellence to promote coffee quality in the countries where it works. The prestigious award generally represents the best coffee at that particular time from a given country.

Any farmer can choose to participate by presenting a particular lot into the Cup of Excellence Programme.  Each coffee is rigorously cupped on its quality by a team of National judges. If the coffee gets through these first rounds and scores above 85 it will go through to the international jury. At this stage, a further and final cupping takes place, with those coffees deemed to be of the highest quality ranked, by taste score, ready for an international online auction.

Prices at these auctions can reach around USD $45/lb, with the highest bidders often being from coffee roasters in Japan, China and other Asian countries.

CoE – best for buyers

The CoE helps those farmers who are quality-driven to access new markets, as roasters and green coffee buyers recognize CoE as a roadmap to find new sources of quality speciality coffee. It rewards growers for focusing on quality and the winning beans are especially prized in countries such as Japan.  It’s a great way for buyers to see familiar faces – farmers who’ve taken part year on year, plus newcomers who are excited by CoE.


Top Dollar

During the COE auction, it’s common for coffees to make record sales prices. This not only boosts the grower’s profile, it provides much needed funds that they generally re-invest in their farms, continually raising the bar.

Judges participating in the cupping,  many of whom are experienced buyers or roasters, have the opportunity to bid on the lots in the auction. Steven and Jeremy have been jury members in the past and found some tasty coffees, as well as outstanding producers. It’s also exhilarating with stiff competition bidding for the most coveted lots!

A palette of flavours from Honduras

Oli, (Green Coffee Evangelist) and Pascale  (Sustainable Relationship Manager) were in Honduras during the celebrations of CoE 10th year in the country and was honoured to participate with the International Jury:

“Any CoE programme will be very interesting to a cupper,” says Oli.  A country often has multiple areas producing coffee, each with a particular flavour profile and Honduras was no exception. The areas were Copan, Opalaca, Montecillos, Comayagua, Agalta and El Paraiso.  “We tasted coffees with chocolate and caramel notes and citric acidity. Some with red berry apple acidity, others with tropical fruit flavours. Some coffees had interesting creamy green tea-like flavours that were very sweet and balanced while others were very floral.

Many factors affect the flavour from the growing conditions, varietal of the coffee trees,  altitude and rain fall and the way in which they were picked and the processing methods used,  We could taste the impact of these factors on beans from the area throughout the week of cupping.”

 

Why did we bid for Cristal?

Oli tells us: “For me essentially it came down to the cup profile. It was clean and balanced with a lovely soft silky mouthfeel. Roasted apple, honey and  cinnamon milk chocolate flavour with  gooseberry and sweet tropical fruits on the finish.

One of the things I specifically enjoy in a coffee is the taste sensation of Umami. For me this coffee displayed this perfectly and the umami note balanced well with the fruit notes, chocolate, cinnamon and grape-like acidity.

Meeting the farmers was also very special and you can see how important the COE programme is to them. It raises the profile of quality coffee and introduces them to international markets and opportunities. Honduras has faced the difficulties caused by leaf rust and with fewer resources than many other countries in Central America, yet it’s a testament to all involved to see the quality and flavours, and justifiably high scores and prices that were achieved in this year’s auction.”

 

Cristal farm is located in the El Sauce community in the municipality of Santa Bárbara.

Cristal farm owner Jose Villanueva

Jose Esteban Madrid Villanueva started growing coffee with his father in 1985 when he was a child and now about 10% of his farm (about 2.5 hectares) is dedicated to coffee. Jose clearly understands the relationship between selection of ripe, healthy coffee cherries, a good technical approach to post harvest processing and excellent cup quality because his coffee is a regular finalist in Cup of Excellence competitions. He represents the new generation of farmers from this region.

The Cup of Excellence is a competition established to discover and promote the very best coffees from the producer countries in which it operates.
We were pleased to have two representatives invited to take judge as part of the international panel. Read more about their experience here.

How to serve

Our recommendation is that you experience this amazing coffee as a filter, ideally brewed in a Hario V60 and served without milk to get the best from these beans.

Discover the beans

Cristal Cup of Excellence microlot 13

Roasted apple, honey and  cinnamon milk chocolate flavour with  gooseberry and sweet tropical fruits on the finish. Clean and balanced with a lovely soft silky mouthfeel.

Category: Microlot

Varietal: Pacas

Process: Washed, sun-dried on patios.

Defining Excellence

The Alliance for Coffee Excellence established the Cup of Excellence to promote coffee quality in the countries where it works. The prestigious award generally represents the best coffee at that particular time from a given country.

Prices at these auctions can reach around $45/lb of coffee, with the highest bidders often being from coffee roasters in Japan, China and other countries in that region.

This is a very special coffee indeed, a Yellow Catuai prepared by one of our most innovative producers in one of Brazil’s most prominent coffee-growing regions. Felipe Croce and his family have transitioned their farm to be ‘more than organic’ and cultivate their coffee trees without pruning or artificial inputs. Indigenous trees are planted to form a protective forest-like canopy which promotes diverse plant growth and provides shelter for animals.

Felipe is also an excellent cupper so has been able to hone this coffee to perfection with innovative changes made after harvesting, in pursuit of this amazing microlot.

How to serve

As an espresso:  gives red berries, walnut and brazil nut, underpinned by dark chocolate. Pleasant dry aftertaste of quinine-like grapefruit acidity.

With milk: this is basically a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bar in a cup. Chocolate chip, nuts, raisins and dates.

Reminds us of

  • Frank Muir’s classic television ad for Cadbury’s from the 1970s – beware, this earworm will be with you all day
  • In the finest tea-time tradition, this coffee and walnut cake recipe is a classic
  • New interpretations of familiar confectionary favourites – Paul A. Young, master chocolatier’s stylish Pecan Whip

Discover the beans

Fazenda Ambiential Fortaleza Special Reserve, natural, lot 52, Brazil

Sugarcane with clean crisp sweet pink grapefruit acidity. Creamy body with red apple, and a walnut finish.

Category – Exclusive microlot

Varietal – Yellow Catuai

Process – natural, Microlot preparation
Photo from Bottled Bohemia‘s Flickr stream under a Creative Commons Licence

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