Oscar Nunez – Los Datiles
El Plantel Village, Yorito Muncipality, Yoro Department, Honduras
Latitude 15.066978 Longitude -87.348675
There’s nothing more exciting than releasing a new coffee that has the potential to become a long term partnership. So far, in 2021 alone, we’ve release coffee from the Baroida Estate, Toldopamba, and Milceades Minga—all different coffees with genuine opportunities for long-term, meaningful partnerships (this isn’t even to mention that each of these coffees is absolute show-stopper). We’re continuing this trend of introducing new partnership coffees with this special microlot selection from coffee farmer Oscar Nunez in Honduras.
I’ve recently become interested in sourcing coffee from Honduras. When I first started working in specialty coffee I heard virtually nothing about Honduran coffee. I knew neighboring countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua had some great coffee, but little was ever said about Honduras…
At one point I was told that Honduran coffee was considered “lower” quality, and, because of this, Honduran coffee farmers had been sneaking their coffees across the border into Guatemala to receive higher prices. While I can’t confirm the accuracy of this tale, it definitely seemed there was some sort of implicit bias against Honduran coffee.
Fast forward a couple years. I started hearing some buzz about Honduran coffee. I heard about roasters who were working directly with farmers in Honduras and producing flavors that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere. Immediately, my interest was piqued. I started digging into where these amazing coffees were coming from, and one name kept on appearing over and over again: Benjamin Paz.
Through a couple Google searches I was able to find out that Benjamin had worked with many farmers who had won the Cup of Excellence competition in Honduras. If you don’t know anything about the Cup of Excellence, in short, it’s a stringent annual competition created to highlight the best coffees produced in a given country. It also highlights individual farmers and their hard work and dedication to their craft. So, the fact Paz was working with a multitude of COE winners told me that he was the guy I needed to talk to.
And, just like that, boom, the Law of Attraction (or whatever) kicked in and set me on a path to directly connecting with Benjamin. In 2019 I traveled with the Utopian team to Guatemala. While there I became friends with Gabe Boscana, the founder of Maquina Coffee. We’d stayed in touch ever since, and were catching up on the phone when he told me about how he had partnered with a young Honduran coffee farmer and was purchasing his entire crop this year despite the difficulties of COVID. Gabe mentioned he’d been purchasing this coffee through Benjamin Paz, and the rest is history.
Gabe was kind enough to introduce Benjamin and I via email, and, a couple weeks later, we began talking about the potential for Utopian to source coffee in Honduras.
Bonaventure Coffee Project
During our conversation, Benjamin mentioned a new company he’d started called Bonaventure Coffee Project.
Because of the pandemic, many coffee farmers lost their roaster-relationships because that roaster either went out of business, or they were unable to buy the producer’s coffee this year. This left literally hundreds of bags of coffee unsold, and many farmers were at risk of slipping through the cracks and having no home for their coffees. I told Benjamin I’d be interested to taste whatever coffees were still available through the Bonaventure project.
I received a handful of samples, and though each coffee was quite good, Oscar Nunez’s microlot was a clear winner in every category. I found Oscar’s coffee to be more aromatically intense, and possessed a deep flavor that grew in complexity as the coffee cooled. We ended up purchasing five of Oscar’s bags this year, adding a surprise gem to our lineup while supporting Oscar and the Bonaventure Coffee Project.
Tasting Oscar’s coffee helped me understand the excitement and buzz around Honduras. In Oscar’s coffee I find sweet and sugary flavors of caramel and milk chocolate with dense macadamia-cookie like flavor. On the back there’s a slew of soft fruity flavors that oscillate between red grape, pear, apple, and berries. I really love the depth and complexity I find in this cup, and it definitely acts as the perfection introduction to a larger, long-term sourcing relationship with both Oscar and Benjamin Paz.
Using the Longitude and Latitude provided above you can view the area where Oscar’s farm, Los Datiles, is located.
Latitude: 15.066978 Longitude: -87.348675
Thanks to Benjamin, we have some great information about Oscar and how he produced this wonderful microlot selection. Benjamin asked Oscar how he began in specialty coffee, and here is his response:
I lived in El Progreso city, but when my family was little, I had economic problems and we returned to Yorito 30 years ago, here we started to work as pickers in coffee farms. With a lot of effort, we saved money until we bought a small plot of half a hectare, I grew it with coffee and we continued working and saving until we bought the rest of the property on the farm.
Despite always selling in the conventional market, thanks to coffee I could make a big coffee farm and give to my sons the school study.
2 years ago, my son in law participated in the Cup of Excellence and could not go to the final, but in the competition, he knew Arturo Paz of San Vicente and he helped him to connect his micro-lot with a coffee buyer, thanks to this relation, and the support of my son-in-law, I could prepare my first microlot of specialty coffee the last year.
To give a little context to Oscar’s words, there’s a couple of things we need to understand. The first is that most coffee farms hire “pickers” during the harvest season. These pickers are the people who literally go out into the coffee fields and pick coffee for the farm and are paid based on the amount of coffee cherries picked. The best farms tend to pay their pickers very well for the ripest coffee cherries, as well as providing meals and a place to live, as these pickers may quite possibly be migratory, moving as the harvest shifts from one region to another. This means Oscar’s family worked extremely, extremely hard to earn enough money to purchase land, and eventually purchasing the rest of the farm.
Oscar also mentions selling into the “conventional” market, which we also call the “commodity” market. Quality is not seen as an important factor in the commodity market, and coffee producers are not compensated based on quality or the costs of labor, frequently leaving them without a lot of extra money to invest in their livelihoods. Luckily, Oscar was able to make enough money despite the lower prices in the commodity market to send his sons to school.
Through his son-in-law, who participated in the Cup of Excellence and knew Arturo Paz (Benjamin’s father), Oscar was able to begin producing microlot coffee in hopes of also connecting with a buyer in the United States. We’re happy to be one of the companies working with Oscar’s coffee and supporting him into the future.
Making a difference in the world through specialty coffee takes multiple different actors. It takes people organizing and collaborating together and taking risks together and sharing equity. At Utopian Coffee, we’re integrating into meaningful supply chains, one by one, step by step, in order to do our part in making this world better. Coffee that tastes good should do good.