Honduras Finca El Puente GeshaOct 30, 2019
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Stumptown’s founding, we're releasing three limited edition coffees that each exemplify a different aspect of our sourcing practices - all honoring transparency and direct relationships. Our third and final offering is Honduras Finca El Puente Gesha.
Stumptown has partnered with husband and wife team Moisés Herrera and Marysabel Caballero of Finca El Puente since 2004. A fourth generation coffee farmer, Marysabel’s relationship to coffee is intertwined with her family’s history. Coffee cultivation in her family dates to 1907, when her great-grandfather began growing coffee in Honduras. As a young woman, she tried to make a go of it in the city; her love for her home brought her back to Marcala’s coffeelands, and she was determined to make a life there.
Moisés Herrera came to coffee while working for a Guatemalan coffee exporter. An accountant by training, he was put in charge of finances at the company’s mill in Chinacla in 1992. He fell in love with the town and with coffee, and bought a small coffee farm, La Matilde, a year later. Moisés drew Marysabels’ attention as a young, single man who shared her passion for coffee, and she was able to engineer a meeting in due time. They started dating in 1994, married in 1996, and began farming together that year. They spent their first years of marriage living in a small house where their immaculate milling operation is today; since then, they have expanded their farm, plot by plot, and built an impressive business with international reach, traveled the world, raised a family, and maintained the same deep love for coffee and the land that brought them together.
Each year we have the opportunity to purchase microlots from Moisés and Marysabel in addition to our perennial single origin offering. This year’s special lot comes to us from their farm El Pino, which was the first place they began planting the Gesha variety. Moisés and Marysabel are constantly innovating, and the decision to begin experimenting with natural process coffees is just one example. The ripe red fruit is picked and laid out to dry slowly on raised beds just outside their bedroom windows, where Moisés can keep a watchful eye on them.
We were first able to taste Moisés’s Gesha processing experiment when a group of Stumptown employees traveled to Honduras this spring. Partially as an educational exercise, but with a knowing twinkle in their eyes, Moisés and Marysabel included it in a selection of coffees from the farm for Stumptowners from all over the US to taste; we all kept coming back to this cup, incredibly sweet with aromatics of rosewater and vanilla that layer beautifully with tropical fruit acidity and juicy melon notes. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pass it along to you.
Since our first meeting, over 15 years ago, Moisés and Marysabel have treated us like family. On the trip where we tasted this coffee for the first time, they dropped everything to host; showed us the sights, walked us through the farm, and cooked us dinner every night (now you know: Moisés’s talent for coffee processing is matched only by his skills at the barbecue). We count ourselves incredibly fortunate to have a close relationship with such pillars of passion and generosity; in honor of our latest collaboration, we caught up with them over the phone.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Moisés & Marysabel, tell us about how you first got introduced to Stumptown!
Marysabel Caballero: In 2003, a coffee organization from the US brought a group of roasters to Honduras, including (Stumptown founder) Duane Sorenson. As a group we cupped through our offerings, and Moisés gave Duane two samples to take home - one from our farm, and one from my father’s. After all the roasters left that day, we didn’t hear anything back. Flash forward a year, and we’re competing in Honduras’s Cup of Excellence, which Duane was also attending. He took us aside and told us that he’d been thinking about our coffee since we met. Even though our entry into the competition came in second, Duane had scored it first, and told us he’d like to buy coffee directly from us. Soon after, he made his first purchase from us, and that purchase was sold as a direct trade lot from Finca El Puente. It was the first lot we ever sold via direct trade, and that’s why Stumptown means so much to us. Stumptown is the first company that ever trusted our quality.
SCR: Have you done a natural process version of your Gesha variety before?
Moisés Herrera: This is the first time we’ve ever offered it. Normally our coffees are washed process, and whenever we work on a coffee with a new process, we always want Stumptown to have first taste. We wanted to make something special for Stumptown’s 20th anniversary, and this felt fitting because Duane actually brought us our first Gesha seeds back in 2007.
The story goes, Duane drove the seeds to us from Panama because he knew he wouldn’t be able to get the seeds through customs in the airport. It was a total surprise - him driving up to our house in a funny little bus. He said, “I brought you something very special.” Together, we walked across our farm and picked out the most amazing place for Gesha to thrive. It was in a place called Finca El Pino - the exact spot where this anniversary lot was harvested. What you’re drinking is Gesha from the first spot where we ever planted this variety.
SCR: Marysabel, can you tell us about your origins in coffee? How this all began?
MC: My great grandfather started growing coffee in the early 1900’s. He and his family were from El Salvador. They were talking about having a mountain place to put their cows in the summertime, and that’s when he started leaning towards coffee. He lost interest in the cows, and moved his family here to Marcala to live. Their youngest kids were born in Marcala, my grandfather being one of them. He was an amazing, visionary man. Within his first few years in the coffee industry, he started exporting coffee to Germany. This is when they prepared coffee for shipment in big leather bags - cow skin bags (sorry cows). My great grandfather and grandmother and their children would all go to the port in El Salvador while doing their export work - it became a reason to have a family vacation too, and they’d spend time on the beach. While there, they’d purchase textiles and then bring them back to Marcala to sell. They really made the most out of all of their time.
When my mom married my father he was a banker, but inspired by our family history, she convinced him to buy a coffee farm. While he was working at the bank, they started buying land, planting coffee, and eventually made that their full time job. I’ve been living in the middle of coffee my entire life. My weekends, my family vacation, all of my time. It’s beautiful.
SCR: Are your children interested in working in the coffee industry?
MC: Our oldest son recently graduated from college, and he’s definitely interested in coffee, but Moisés told him that he needs to stay at least 4 years out of the industry; 4 years thinking and living by himself to look at what he wants to do.
SCR: What are you excited about for the future?
MH: Retirement! (they both laugh)
MC: He loves to go to the mountains, and never wants to come back to the city.
MH: But really, working in coffee is such a nice job - on the farm you can improve techniques, varieties, you always have an activity. You have so much to do. The same goes for the mill - at the mill, every year we have a new challenge. For example, right now we’re working on upping our sustainability efforts, specifically in water management. Every year we continue to be more efficient in our facilities. Since I’ve started working in coffee I don’t remember one year where we haven’t had new things on our list to innovate or accomplish.
MC: For example this week - it was so nice - Moisés wanted to move some of our machines, and started work on a redesign. And recently we built a new classroom at the local school - and we had a big grand opening. It was such a beautiful day. The kids and community were so excited.
MH: Every year we want to have one social project. For example - every year we rebuild one worker’s house. We want them to live better, and are able to to help them do that. In our local community, one of the main problems is access to education. Our farms are located between two small village communities, and each community has its own school. One school didn’t have a dining room, so we built one.
MC: We can do these things because we have a great partner in Stumptown. Because you purchase our coffee directly, we get a price that is impactful to our business. From there, we can better support our employees, and share that prosperity with our community. We need to be involved, because the people who work on our farms are the people who live next door to us in our communities. You can imagine how many memories we have with Stumptown. A company is the people that have made it. After all these years, we still feel the same glow that made us want to work with you in the beginning.