In March of 2007, we were invited by COCAFCAL (Cooperativa Cafetalera Capucas Limitada) to meet their staff and farmers and advise how they might improve their quality and market access. This introduction was the catalyst for what has become an amazing example of how direct relationships between roasters and farmers can benefit a community. Omar Romero Rodriguez has been general manager of COCAFCAL since that time, and his vision and dedication to the people of Las Capucas knows no limits.
COCAFCAL was one of the first registered coffee cooperatives in Honduras, wisely putting in the extra work early on to obtain both Fair Trade and Organic certifications to add value to their product. Prior to the mid-2000s, few specialty coffee buyers expected much quality from Honduras. That began to change as farmers learned that buyers would pay premiums for high quality, and that traceability to the farm level could add as much value as certification. Omar Rodriguez saw this right away, and reaching out to buyers directly has been one of the keys to COCAFCAL’s success. In 2007 after my initial visit, we hosted a cupping in our lab with several buyers from local roasting companies featuring samples brought back from the trip. These samples were from individual small farmers, whose coffee is normally blended with that of their fellow coop members and rarely (if ever) tasted on their own. COCAFCAL set up a web camera in their warehouse; we did the same in our lab, and through the magic of technology buyers and farmers were able to taste and discuss coffees together, even while thousands of miles apart.
Fast forward to today, COCAFCAL has produced a microlot competition at the coop every year since 2008, and Atlas has been involved each time. The cooperative has grown exponentially, and from each competition event new roaster-farmer relationships are formed, most of which carry on for years. COCAFCAL has since added a computer lab for their members, a coffee shop and roasting business to train members on other components of the supply chain, a coffee tree nursery and massive solar drying complex – not to mention the world’s nicest coffee eco-tourism facilities capable of hosting up to 80 people at a time. Microlots continue to be the jewel in COCAFCAL’s crown, with competition scores routinely breaking the 90 point ceiling, with lush acidity and exotic tropical fruit flavors. The coop’s bulk FTO/RA SHG EP coffee is one of the most reliable certified Central American coffees we work with, showing green apple, dark chocolate, toffee and honey in the cup. The diversity of growing conditions and genetic varieties provide an infinite range of profiles, and expert processing ensures that the potential of each lot is fully realized.