Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #10
Counter Culture Honduras El Puente – Marysabel Caballero. Counter Culture’s Peter Giuliano calls this coffee the Purple Princess “because its perfume and silkiness seem feminine and regal, and the aromas and flavors of the cup—lavender, plum, grape, incense—all seem purple.” I was eager to try this coffee. Not only did the description seem intriguing (especially for a Central American coffee), I had not yet tried a Honduran. Importantly, it was also shade grown — and farm owner Marysabel Caballero fosters a hectare of native forest for each hectare of shade coffee she grows. She has 17.5 ha in coffee at this time.
Caballero’s farm, Finca El Puente, is in southwestern Honduras, La Paz department, near the city of Chinacla; coffees in this vicinity are often marketed under the name of another nearby municipality, Marcala (see map, click to enlarge). Cataui is the variety grown.
El Puente has a great pedigree in the Cup of Excellence competitions. It garnered third place in 2004 (under Dulce Nombre) and moved up to second place in 2005. It slipped to 8th in 2006 (although still scoring 88.91), yet it went for a higher price at auction than any of the other winners.
This was the most subtly complex and distinctive Central American coffee we’ve tasted. The beans smelled of chocolate — very specifically milk chocoloate, like a Hershey bar — and delicate floral tones. Like many of the coffees we’ve tried, the chocolate doesn’t come through in the cup. Instead there is a honey-like sweetness and most interesting winey/plum/berry notes after it cools briefly. This reminded us of African coffees. I posed this question to Peter, and he told me that Marysabel believes her beans get this unique taste from the repeated washings she gives them with fresh, natural spring water. Peter notes that “it is common in Kenya to soak coffee in manychanges of fresh water, and coffees that are treated this way frequently have asilky, fruity flavor not unlike the Purple Princess.” Alas, he says this is speculation, and the mystery of the Purple Princess endures.The Purple Princess comes in at just a feather under 4 motmots, and is easily my most favorite Central American coffee so far. Highly recommended!
Speaking of motmots, the Blue-throated Motmot, which has the smallest range of the motmots, is found in La Paz dept. Other interesting or restricted range birds found in the vicinity of El Puente are Bushy-crested Jay, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and the spectacular Resplendent Quetzal. The (U.S.) federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler winters in Honduras, including in La Paz. The preservation of forest at El Puente takes on added importance in light of the rich bird life of the area.
You can read a review of Counter Culture’s 2005 El Puente crop at Coffee Review.
Map adapted from those at Wikipedia.