Aaron MacDougall, roaster and owner of Broadsheet Coffee Roasters, won our Roast and GO roasting competition—and a trip to Honduras, home of his competition-winning coffee. To our delight, Aaron agreed to write about his experience. This is his fourth installment in the series. His first, second and third posts are highly recommended reading.
I’m sitting in the cool, breezy open porch of the restaurant of the Finca Santa Helena hotel reflecting on a relatively relaxing day (Carlos said he’d take it easy on us today, as tomorrow will be a bit of a death march).
We left Santa Rosa de Copan at the leisurely hour of 8 a.m. and headed to the Molinos de Honduras facility about 10 minutes away. The complex is enormous, but it doesn’t de-pulp coffee. Instead, it receives coffees that producers have pulped and washed elsewhere (typically at their farms or at a facility in their neighborhoods) for drying, quality appraisal and storage.
Drying takes place in both enormous vertical dryers and solar dryers reserved for the highest-quality coffees. After drying, the coffee is bagged and allowed to “rest” in its protective parchment husk for approximately two months. This allows the moisture levels within beans and between bags to even out; water activity falls, which is believed to help keep the coffee tasting fresh for extended periods of time.
However, the weather is too hot at the main dry mill in San Pedro Sula, so the parchment coffee is kept here at Santa Rosa de Copan (or another high-altitude mill) until right before it is scheduled for milling, after which it will be immediately re-bagged and loaded into containers for shipping.
Cupping with Lourdes Rivera
Bags are stacked 30 feet high at the facility and Carlos points out to us that each bag is tagged with a color-coded plastic bracelet of sorts. Yellow means that the coffee has been scored 83–84, orange 84.25–85.25 and green, 85.5 and above.
The quality control lab in Santa Rosa — which has put these scores on the coffee — is run by Lourdes Rivera, who has been working at the MDH mill for 16 years. She says she loves her job, and she radiates pride. Lourdes is responsible for evaluating the parchment coffee that is brought in to mill. She “grades” the coffees; sorts out defects and measures moisture content; and then roasts and cups the coffees and fills in a report for each lot.
Lourdes’ scores and evaluations determine what the producers will be paid. She sits down with the producers and explains her scores, what types of defects she found and how production can be improved. Carlos says she’s an expert at dealing with angry farmers.
Happily, Lourdes has set up a cupping for us — seven microlots from the region and all from MDH farms. Our group is much better calibrated today than on the first day of cupping, and Lourdes has put out some beautiful, floral coffees. It is a great cupping table, we’re all super excited with the coffees, which we score in a range from 84–87.5.
— Aaron MacDougall, Broadsheet Coffee Roasters