Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera
Grow and process coffee near Marcala, Honduras
This husband-wife team has been growing coffee together for decades
Partnered with Stumptown:
Red Catuai, Bourbon, Caturra, Yellow Catuai, Gesha
They are constantly experimenting and growing exquisite new varieties in greenhouses.
We fell in love with Marysabel and Moises at the 2004 Honduras Cup of Excellence auction, when we bought every bean they had available. Eleven years later, we love them even more. They are like family, and they make it a point to come visit us often. When we’re in Honduras, we set aside time to stay up late with the two of them to drink wine, play guitar and enjoy each other’s company. Marysabel’s coffee heritage dates back to her great-great grandfather Felipe Garcia, a pioneer in the cultivation and export of coffee.
The Marcala region looks very different from most places we visit. Rather than being a lush cloud forest, it’s rocky pine scrub forest. In fact, it looks a lot like Idaho. It’s also famed for the rich fruitiness of its coffee — it was one of the first places in the world to get a Protected Origin Denomination for coffee.
Cross a friendly cowboy with a mad scientist, and you’ve got Moises. He does some of the most crazy, innovative things we’ve ever seen with coffee in massive greenhouses he built himself. He experiments with soil, minerals, temperature, shade, water — anything, really. And he does it with Gesha, which is the orchid of coffee. It’s a finicky, unique, exotic plant, and Moises understands it better than almost anyone in the world. The result is some of the most exquisite coffee we offer.
The tradition of coffee cultivation for the Caballero-Garcia-Herrera family goes back to 1915 with Felipe Garcia, a pioneer in the cultivation and export of coffee. He transported his crops by ox cart from Marcala, Honduras to the closest port in El Salvador so they could be sold to the European market. This operation was passed down to his son, Arsaces Garcia in 1940, and then to his granddaughter Sandra Isabel and her husband Fabio Caballero in 1975. Twenty years later, their daughter Marysabel returned from university to Marcala and met Moises Herrera, a Guatemalan native. Moises had moved to Honduras in 1992, where he managed a mill for a Guatemalan exporter he had worked for in Guatemala. Originally, he was an accountant for the company, but as he spent his extra hours in the cupping lab, he fell in love with coffee. After living in Honduras for a bit, he purchased La Piedrona farm in Marcala to cultivate coffee and met Marysabel. They married in 1996 and began the current chapter of this family’s legacy with coffee.
Moises manages the family’s 245 hectares of farms in a valley near La Piedrona (the big rock) in the Marcala region. Each morning Marysabel, Moises, Fabito, Melker, and Mundo meet at patriarch Don Fabio’s house to discuss the agenda. After many years and a lot of growth they still approach the operation in a small, intimate manner. Moises manages the family’s wet mill in Chinacla de Marcala de La Paz that was purchased in 1996.
Marysabel and Moises stand out as top producers within Honduras with a genuine focus on putting resources back into the local community: hiring local workers, providing electricity for a health clinic near the farm, funding two schools in Marcala, and supporting the native environment.
Our El Puente lot comes primarily from the Montana region, but the family also cultivates coffee in three other regions in La Paz: Mogola, San Francisco and San Jose.
The beans are wet processed using Ingesec equipment, traditionally fermented for up to 12 hours and washed. In 2012, they began a set of experiments with different drying techniques. They meticulously separated each lot and worked with Stumptown to cup the coffees in order to determine the preferred results. The beans are either dried on uncovered metal mesh raised beds for up to 8 days, in Solar driers (a covered greenhouse) for up to 12 days, or traditionally on patios for 1-2 days and then finished on low heat in one of their three guardiolas (mechanical dryers).
The Caballeros use three Penagos in their wet mill. They dedicate one of the Penagos with its own soaking tank to special lots. They reuse the water, filtering the clean water into a separate tank. The dirty water gets pumped back to the top and used to push the cherries down to the Penagos.
In 2007, Stumptown’s Green Dept brought Gesha seeds to the Caballeros and suggested La Matilde as a perfect spot for Gesha. In 2012, we tasted the first harvest of this gorgeous coffee.
In 2012, Moises cut back some of the shade trees to allow direct light to kill Ojo de Gallo, a fungus recently affecting the coffee trees at Finca El Puente. At the same time, he added wind-breaking trees to protect the plants from high winds in the area.
In 2013, Moises and Rual Manueles, who has managed their wet mill for 21 years, renovated the wet mill in a number of ways. He enclosed the ceramic tiled fermentation tanks to stabilize ambient temperatures during processing. He rearranged the depulping setup to increase the efficiency of gravity flow which conserves a lot of water. He also added an elevator turbine to haul the cherry pulp to the compost area.
Each year, Moises and Marysabel experiment with new techniques that will improve their farm, plants, processing and coffee beans. This year, they are experimenting with soaking the beans for 24 hours after the dry fermentation and utilizing water from a nearby spring for the initial wash. After fermentation, the water is siphoned to a pond for treatment with lime and other natural pH balancing elements which avoids pollution to the water stream.
Recently, Caballero and Herrera replaced their old mechanical dryers with new ones. They’ve also improved their raised bed drying infrastructure and purchased more land to cultivate even more great coffee.