31 Aug 2017
San Vicente Series: Seeing Honduras Through BSV
posted by Jamie Isetts, Green Coffee Buyer
Over the next six months, we’ll be exploring a brand new partnership with a series of coffees from Beneficio San Vicente of Honduras. “Beneficio” means mill; in this case, it refers to the dry mill, where the outer shell is removed from coffee parchment to transform it into the lovely green beans that we roast and eventually, brew. But Beneficio San Vicente (or BSV for short) does MUCH more than simply process coffee.
Our connection to BSV really boils down to two people: Benjamin Paz and Todd Mackey.
Benjamin’s father Fidel Paz founded dry-miller and export company Beneficio San Vicente after a long history of working in the Honduran coffee trade. Ben, along brother Fidel and cousin Arturo, came to play a key part in the family-run business. Focusing on the surrounding area of Santa Barbara, the Paz family was one of the first groups that paired roasters and producers to provide price incentives for quality coffee. BSV acts as a “hub” where roasters and producers connect with the goal of developing a year-on-year relationship. Many of my favorite coffee producing projects around the world cite Beneficio San Vicente as an inspiration.
San Vicente also provides financing, agronomic advice, and really top-notch consultation on how even a beginning farmer can produce boutique-level quality. In fact, their project is almost synonymous with Cup of Excellence in Honduras. Farmers in their network place in this competition every year. Benjamin Paz has come to represent BSV on a global stage, working at the farm level and traveling the globe to interact with roasters.
We knew Ben and BSV were doing something great. So great that we couldn’t get a hold of any the coffee! It’s very competitive to buy coffee from this program since most farmers pair with a specific roaster. That’s where Todd came in. Todd Mackey currently serves as Training Manager and out main contact for importer Olam Specialty, but he’s been an educator, roaster and star cupper in all levels of the coffee industry. He also founded and owns a pretty great collection of multi-roaster cafes in Providence called Bolt Coffee. Todd and I sought out coffee from BSV for several years before Todd connected with Benjamin this season. With new roasters working with Todd through Olam, and new or growing farmers working with Ben, they both had more room for connections. Thanks to Todd, Merit was one of the first names that came up. Todd personally helped me select the BSV lots we bought this season, offering his personal observations on the farmers’ potential.
Beneficio San Vicente is FAMOUS for their lot separation, meticulously keeping farmers’ coffee separated by varietal, picking day, and lot. This is going to allow us to offer some really cool comparisons, like
- Two lots from the same farmer that were picked on different days (Nelson Ramirez)
- Two varietals from the same farmer (Nahun Fernandez)
- Two very different farmers from the same micro-region (Miguel Guzman and Allan Erazo)
- A broad range of farms, from first-year specialty coffee producers to Cup of Excellence winners
The best part? These lots are late harvest, meaning they were harvested in March-April rather than December to February, like many central American coffees. With the excellent care that they receive at BSV, these coffees can last well into the late winter on our offering list. We’ll see the first coffees in September, and slowly introduce more throughout the season.
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