tasting notes: caramel, milk chocolate, citrus
producer: smallholder farmers of comicovel cooperative
elevation: 1500 masl
harvest: december - march
The COMICOVEL cooperative—Cooperativa Mixta Cosecha Verde Limitada—in San Juan Intibucá is composed of smallholder producers who farm coffee organically with a focus on overall environmental sustainability. The co-op is the product of Catholic Relief Services’ Blue Harvest Project, which improves agroforestry management on farms throughout Central America and is headed by Geovanny Martinez and with Carlos Guevara acting as a consultant. To date, Blue Harvest has helped 1400 producers transform their farms into ecosystems that protect the forest and its freshwater sources. All producers in the project farm organically.
COMICOVEL came into being specifically to bring together the Blue Harvest Project farmers who invested time and energy into improving their farms. The co-op was formed in 2016 and exported its first coffee in 2018. 2019 was the first year that the COMICOVEL could export with both Fairtrade and Organic certifications, which will earn producers premiums to continue the organic farming and ecosystem preservation that protects freshwater sources.
COMICOVEL’s members’ properties are located in the Opalaca mountain ranges across the Intibuca and Lempira Departments. The dry mountains are generally planted with pine trees. Planting trees is a special focus of the co-op, along with their water management project. Producers process coffee using their basic depulping and fermentation infrastructures. Most have wooden hoppers for cherries with a concrete tank for fermentation. Coffee is fermented in the tanks for 18-24 hours and washed in washing channels. Most farmers dry their own coffee on concrete patios or sometimes also on raised beds in greenhouses for 14-20 days. The coop has worked with these farmers for many years and provided technical assistance to increase productivity on the farms.
The Opalaca mountain range spreads between the arid departments of Intibuca and Lempira. Thanks to the extensive agroforestry management in Opalaca, enough humidity is preserved to successfully grow coffee in this region.
The coffee trees give a bright color to otherwise pale slopes. With altitudes ranging from 1400 to 1800 meters above sea level, there are many impressive peaks and mountain sides dotted with villages comprised of a soccer field, a church, and several houses, usually surrounded by coffee farms.
Most farms have neatly planted rows of coffee with a mix of government promoted Lempira and IHCAFE 90 varieties as well as Catuaí.