Benjamín is one of three second generation cousins who are presently running the Beneficio San Vicente mill (BSV) in Peña Blanca, Santa Barbara. BSV was started as a large commercial mill by Benjamín’s dad, Fidel Paz. But over the past decade Benjamín, along with his older brother Fidel and cousin, Arturo, have been redefining their company’s role. BSV has single handedly changed the face of Honduran coffee.
Santa Barbara is a region that is now responsible for over 50% of Cup of Excellence finalists in the country. Needless to say, there’s good coffee in the region! BSV’s role over the past decade has been to encourage the many small producers in the area to take better care of their coffee and sell it, with their help, to specialty roasters around the world. BSV provides financing, quality control, agronomy support and rewards the producers with a very good price, far greater than they could obtain in the commercial market. But perhaps even more important, BSV focuses on connecting the buyer with the producer, linking the chain and giving the producers a sense of pride in their work.
Benjamín and I have spent countless hours visiting producers in El Cedral and El Cielito and working with them on improving their methods and adopting a more quality-focused approach. This is how we approached Pedro’s coffee. Pedro’s potential is unquestionable. Now it’s up to him to consistently convert the potential into tasty coffee. This year, we purchased a part of Pedro’s production and all of his son’s (Pedrito) production. Although Pedro has arguably one of the best coffees in Honduras, his drying needed some work and last year’s coffee (2016) was a good example of that. When I was in Honduras in May 2016, I cupped Pedro’s coffee and scored it 91 points, but I also measured its water activity and noted some concerning numbers – the coffee was not well dried.
Because I had committed to buy Pedro’s coffee, I felt an obligation to still buy the coffee, even though the water activity was very concerning. Alas, as feared, when the coffee arrived in Calgary, it no longer cupped over 90 points, it had lost most of its magic. It went from being an intensely floral, fruit basket, crisp coffee to a more generic nougaty, sweet, chocolatey coffee. The coffee was still nice but it was not the bomb I fell in love with in Honduras. When I visited Honduras prior to the 2017 harvest, I shared my experience with Pedro in an effort to convince him to add shade to his drying. It was not easy to convince him, but he did agree to put shade on the dryers and I was delighted with the results – the coffee has that brilliance that I fell in love with and it has maintained it since its arrival in Calgary. I guess a less than stellar 2016 was a small price to pay for long term quality improvements, which we continue to see today.
This green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.