Rio Olancho rated as 'outstanding'

The Rio Olancho Coffee Project is an amazing success story, made possible only by the dedication and hard work of coffee producers in a number of communities throughout Olancho.  And the success of this project is also due to a huge number of Canadian individuals, churches and businesses that have embraced this project and fallen in love with the great tasting coffee.

Prior to this direct trade program being established, most of the participating producers sold their coffee to middlemen who traveled from farm to farm.  Producers usually had few options other than to sell their small coffee harvest (typically 500 pounds) for a fraction of the market price.  And these producers were at the mercy of wildly fluctuating global coffee prices.

Then, during a 2009 visit to the community of El Carrizal, a visiting delegation from The Carpenteros and Friends met with local leaders and heard about the challenges they were facing.  Linking into existing coffee certification programs was neither practical nor affordable for these small-amount producers.

Instead of looking for additional ways to trim costs and produce ‘supermarket grade’ coffee, they opted to focus on producing the highest quality coffee possible.  This truly took a leap of faith, hard work and additional investment on the part of the coffee producers.

WHAT IS DIRECT TRADE?

The new direct trade ‘partnership’ saw The Carpenteros and Friends provide funding for training through the Honduran Coffee Institute, new equipment to accurately measure the humidity of the coffee beans and the altitude of the fields, and improvements to facilities for drying the harvested coffee ‘cherries’ and protecting them from the rains.

Since the collective goal was now to produce a larger quantity of quality coffee, the farmers no longer considered each other to be competitors, but rather they were cooperative partners with an interest in seeing others succeed too.

At each stage of the growing cycle, steps were taken to improve quality and protect the environment.  As the harvest season approached, special training was given to pickers. Only the best ‘cherries’ were picked at the optimum point of ripeness.  This also meant that pickers would need to visit the fields twice as often as they did before.

Protecting the harvest from rain is critical at this stage in the production cycle, and funds were provided to allow for repairs to existing drying facilities and the construction of new small greenhouses.

Once the coffee has dried and the husks are removed, it is processed for export.  As part of the emphasis on quality, a much higher standard is applied for removing defective coffee beans, including triple hand-sorting by experienced sorters.

And the training cycle also continues at harvest time, with producers again meeting with trainers from IHCAFE – the Honduran Coffee Institute – to ‘cup’ the coffee and taste how their quality-control efforts are achieving a premium flavour.

WHERE DOES THE COFFEE COME FROM?

The Rio Olancho coffee project began with six producers from the community of El Carrizal, near San Francisco de La Paz.  But the popularity of this coffee grew quickly, increasing the demand for a larger shipment to Canada.  And producers in neighbouring communities also served by Diaconia Nacional were soon asking if they too could become part of the project.

While the coffee producers come from several communities in rural Olancho, all of the coffee is grown on remote fields, in the mountains of east-central Olancho.  All of the coffee is strictly high-grown Arabica, from the mountains of Olancho.  And the farmers are committed to protecting the water supply, forests, birds and wildlife in the beautiful Olancho mountains.

WHAT IS CERTIFIED ETHICAL?

Beginning with the 2014 shipment, Rio Olancho Direct Trade Coffee is 'Certified Ethical' by Diaconia Nacional de Honduras – the arm of the Christian Reformed Church in Honduras that engages in community assistance and agricultural training and development. 

This certification program, developed specifically for the Rio Olancho coffee project, ensures that growers are paid a premium price, pickers are paid premium wages, and the coffee is grown in such a way that it protects the mountain environment, the cloud and rain forest, the water that flows from the mountains, and the birds and animals that live in the coffee-growing region.

HOW MUCH ARE THE GROWERS PAID?

The price of coffee changes daily.  But farmers who participate in the Rio Olancho Direct Trade Coffee project are guaranteed a fair base price plus a premium to recognize their commitment to quality.  The base price reflects the global market price for Honduran coffee, and is monitored through the Honduran Coffee Institute.  We honour this base price so as not to cause turmoil within the local Honduran economy.

In addition, all Rio Olancho coffee is cupped and scored by experts in Honduras.   Before being deemed export-worthy, coffee must achieve a certain degree of ‘excellence’.  All farmers whose coffee is accepted for export receive a 30-percent over the base price, with additional premiums paid for exceptionally high scoring coffee.  This payment schedule was developed by the coffee growers, and it not only rewards their hard work but it also creates an incentive for achieving even higher quality.

OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE

Additional coffee producers and communities are constantly asking how they can become involved in the Rio Olancho Direct Trade Coffee project.  The only way to add more communities and more producers is by spreading the word and increasing the demand for this delicious coffee.

Starting in 2014, a number of new Canadian partners began buying Rio Olancho in bulk.  For a list of these partners, please see the ‘Where to Buy’ page.

We are always looking for additional churches, businesses and individuals who want to support this endeavour.

To purchase coffee, or to learn more about participating in this project, please contact Ken at 905-689-5491, or send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

CLICK HERE to view or download the Rio Olancho Direct Trade Coffee brochure

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