In honor of the landing of the Hermanas Alvarado micro-lots (also known as "Café Yaunera") from the community of Yaunera in San Pedro, Copan, Honduras, I met with Iris Alvarado and Atlas Trader Chris Davidson, who provided insight as the Trader for Honduras and served as our translator.
This independently-owned, small-family business is one of Honduras's few women-produced coffee companies. As they operate, these pioneering women further promote equal opportunities in coffee for underrepresented groups within the origin.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
Tiffany Carlton: Your new business (Café Yaunera) has been very successful! In addition to your professional experience as a roaster and cupper, we understand that you also have a university degree in engineering. How do you think your professional and academic expertise influence how you produce and market your family's coffees?
Iris Alvarado: I am the youngest of six, with three brothers and 2 sisters. I studied industrial engineering at university. The engineering program included a social project which led me to manage Quality Control for the COCAFCAL Cooperative. I went to IHCAFE for cupping school and became a certified Q Grader. Until that point, my family was focused on coffee quantity, not quality. When I started managing my father's farm, I started experimenting with varieties and processing methods to improve quality. I worked in the lab for six years with COCAFCAL, and the demands of my job made it difficult to implement new techniques for producing and marketing of own coffees.
Cupping certification opened doors for my family and me. Understanding quality made us take better care of our plants, treating them like children.
A hill on my father's farm is "Cerro Yaunera." Yaunera is an indigenous word meaning "Hill of Water Spring."
TC: Could you tell us about your experience operating independently and managing a small family business? And how are you managing growth?
IA: It started as a small business with my siblings and parents, and a legal organization allowed us to obtain Organic certification. In 2020, we began with eight producers, and now we have more than 100 producers. Most have .5 - .25 manzanas of land (less than half a hectare.) The producer makeup is currently around 45% women and 55% men. We're opening a cupping lab to help producers.
The growth is a challenge, but with the family working together it's manageable. Also, involving our neighbors makes it easier, with more hands to share the work.
Our roasted coffee business is growing as well. We sell mostly around Copan but also to a specialty cafe in Tegucigalpa.
We also offer educational programs to get kids excited about working with coffee, from the farm to the cup. They start at age 11 up through 18, but it's ideal to start teaching in school.
TC: Many of the producers working with Café Yaunera are women. Can you share your experience working as a woman producer, and does Café Yaunera have a goal to promote coffees from women producers? Does working closely with your family influence the goals of the business?
IA: It's culturally very uncommon for women to be taught about coffee by their parents--it's considered men's work. So oftentimes, women don't learn anything about coffee growing up. I had to go to university to study coffee in an industrial engineering program because my dad didn't teach me about coffee while I was raised.
Women shouldn't have to be in the house making tortillas; they should have the opportunity to learn about coffee along with the men.
Most importantly, everyone is involved in the supply chain and paid well, including the pickers. Everyone benefits from success.
TC: If someone wants a larger volume and slightly lower quality than a micro-lot, can you produce that?
IA: Finca Paraiso is ten manzanas (7 hectares), and yields are 250 exportable bags.
TC: Finally, all the coffees from Café Yaunera arrived in excellent condition, with "toffee, brown sugar, and apple" as some of the most common descriptors. Could you tell us about this harvest season, and are you happy with the resulting quality?
IA: This harvest was a little challenging because we couldn't cup many of our coffees, but we hope to do more now that the lab is built. Our general profile is chocolate, caramel, and various fruit, depending on the farm.
Last year's flowering was bad, but this year is much better, and we're expecting twice the production over 20/21.
TC: Thank you so much, Iris!
Their new washed micro-lots, the Parainema and Parainema & Icatu, have officially landed at CTI, and we couldn't be more ecstatic to offer these highly anticipated coffees! To request availability, pricing, or samples, reach our team at CustomerService.Atlas@nkg.coffee.
The photo above is of Ana Isabel (left), Lourdes (center), and Iris (right) and was supplied by Iris.