Honduran Coffee Ultimate Guide – Everything you Need to Know

Discover the Best Coffee Beans that Honduras has to Offer

Honduras is now the largest producer of coffee in Central America. But for some reason, it remains relatively unknown across a lot of the world. So we are going to dig into what makes Honduran coffee so special and why it should be on your shopping list. 

You will find Honduras sandwiched between Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Here, the growing conditions are ideal thanks to the rich volcanic soil and mountainous terrain – elements that are sought after by coffee growers all over the world. Plus, the last 50 years have seen large government investment to improve the quality of Honduras coffee beans. 

Dive in and get to know this little country boasting prodigious coffee production. Then find the best Honduran coffees to add to your next coffee order.

Table of Contents

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Honduran Coffee History

The start of coffee’s story in Honduras is unclear:

In 1804, the first mention of the quality of coffee grown in Honduras appears. So, at the very latest, coffee trees were planted in 1799 as it takes a few years to get a good harvest.

For decades, Honduran coffee beans were only used as part of blends. And it is only in the last 20 years that Honduras has seen a meteoric rise to being one of the biggest coffee-producing nations in the world.

During the 19th-century, coffee-growing drove improvements in infrastructure across Central America. But Honduras was a late bloomer so similar improvements took place much later.  

This lack of infrastructure meant that the destiny of Honduras coffee beans was the high-volume mass market. In fact, it is only in the last decade or so that they have built quality processing facilities. Plus, the increased traceability allows us to truly appreciate the premium Honduran coffee flavors. 

In 1970, the Instituto Hondereno del Café (IHCAFE) was established. Their goal was to improve the high-quality coffee beans grown in each of the 6 defined regions. Each region has its own coffee tasting lab that works with the farmers to get the best possible coffee seeds from their farms.

By 2011, Honduras was producing more coffee than Costa Rica and Guatemala combined.

Now, small to medium family farms dominate the Honduran coffee industry. In fact, there are around 120,000 families involved in the cultivation and production of coffee in the country, supporting around 300,000 rural workers. This is despite an issue with leaf rust that devastated the harvests of 2012 and 2013.

In 2020, Honduras produced over 6 million 60kg bags of coffee. It was actually one of the few Central American nations where coffee production grew from 2019.

Is Honduras Coffee Arabica or Robusta?

Over 90% of the coffee grown in Honduras is Arabica. But, the Arabica vs Robusta debate only just scratches the surface. In fact, there are several varietals of Arabica, many of which are grown in Honduras and each has its own unique flavor profile: 

Honduran coffee farmers predominantly grow Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, and Typica varieties of Arabica coffee beans.

Bourbon coffee typically has notes of vanilla, pear and chocolate and is famous for its balance. It is common across Central America. Whereas, Caturra (another commonly grown variety) has a more citrussy edge to it’s flavor. 

Smaller plantings of Typica, Catuai, and Pacas are found in the coffee-growing regions of Honduras. But Bourbon and Caturra are the dominant coffee plants in the country.

Honduran Coffee Growing Regions

The 6 Honduran coffee regions vary in height from 3,300 –5,200 feet above sea level and are found away from the coast, in the country’s mountainous interior. This varying terrain affects the quality and flavor profile of the end coffee beans.

Copán

Named after the city which resides in the region, famous for its Mayan ruins, Copán borders Guatemala. Though many may feel Guatemalan coffee is vastly inferior to Honduran the growing regions run into each other as most country borders are fairly arbitrary lines.

You will see some Honduran Coffee labeled as “Santa Barbara” which lies within the northern part of the Copán region and often wins awards for the quality of it’s coffees. 

Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai varieties are grown in Copán and altitudes range from 3,300 to 4.900 feet above sea level. 

Montecillos

The Monetcillos region is home to a couple of important sub-regions, most notably the sub-region of Marcala which is a protected name.

Marcala is a well-established name in the Honduran coffee scene. So, coffee beans are regularly labeled as Marcala or La Paz – La Paz being the wider area that houses Marcala. Doing so increases the accuracy of coffee labeling and attracts higher prices.  

The highest coffee farms in Honduras are also found in Montecillos, at altitudes ranging from 3,900 to 5,200 feet above sea level. This is a contributing factor to the top-quality coffee beans from this region. 

Here, you will find Bourbon, CaturraCatuai, and Pacas coffee varietals. 

Agalta 

Agalta stretches across the northern part of Honduras, just inland from the Atlantic coast. 

Most of this area is protected forest and is very important for tourism in the country. The extra money from eco-tourism helps protect the environment around the coffee farms and ensures the best environmental farming practices are observed.  

Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica are grown in Agalta at altitudes from 3,300 to 4,600 feet above sea level. 

Opalaca 

Opalaca is situated between the regions of Copán and Montecillos, bordering El Salvador to the south. It is named after the mountain range that stretches through the region.  

The region of Opalaca is home to the coffee-producing areas of Intibucá and Lempira. 

Here, Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica varieties of Arabica coffee beans are grown. The farms can be found at altitudes from 3,600 to 6,000 feet above sea level. 

Comayagua 

With dense tropical rainforest, Comayagua is named after the old capital city of Honduras which lies within the region. Although the new capital, Tegucigalpa, is also within this region.  

Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica are grown in Comayagua on farms at altitudes of 3,600 to 4,900 feet above sea level. 

El Paraiso 

One of the oldest and biggest growing regions in Honduras, El Paraiso is near the border with Nicaragua in the east of Honduras.  

During the coffee rust emergency in 2012/13, El Paraiso was the hardest hit Honduran coffee region. But, it has recovered since then. 

Both Catuai and Caturra are grown in El Paraiso, making it unusual as there is no Bourbon coffee grown here. As one of the lowest coffee-growing regions in the country, you will find the farms at altitudes from 3,300 to 4,600 feet above sea level 

Honduras Coffee Grading System

Coffee from Honduras is graded not just by region, but also by altitude. This is because of the varied landscape across the country, with both lowlands and more mountainous regions.

The coffees can be classified as one of the following:

  • Strictly high grown: A minimum of 4,400 feet above sea level
  • High grown: Coffee grown between 3,900 and 4,400 feet above sea level
  • Central standard: Anything below 3,900 feet above sea level

So, if you want to enjoy the very best quality of coffee that Honduras has to offer, you should look for strictly high-grown coffee. The additional elevation adds to the rich depth of flavor. 

Over and above altitude classifications, you can also find Bird-Friendly and Shade-Grown specialty Honduran coffee labels. Not only are these classifications better for the environment, but they produce a more robust flavored brew.

Honduras’ Climate Concerns

The topography of Honduras is ideal for coffee growing thanks to its rich soil and mountain ranges. However, the high rainfall can cause issues with processing: 

It can be quite difficult to dry the green coffee beans after processing. So, many farmers use a hybrid method of sun drying and mechanical drying. 

Mechanical drying can cause the quality of the beans to drop off a cliff very suddenly if not done correctly. This has put an extra emphasis on freshness with Honduran coffee in order to avoid this issue. That said, many of the best Honduras coffee beans will hold up just as well over time as coffee from anywhere else in the world.  

Read Next: Coffee Processing 101 

What Does Honduras Coffee Taste Like?

Having such a range of altitudes means there is not one set Honduran coffee taste profile. Instead, each region produces different coffee flavors and styles unique to its location. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for something sweet and fruity, bright and acidic, or even deep and complex, you are sure to find something you love in Honduras coffee.

However, you will commonly find a marriage of the lighter tropical fruity notes with the darker caramel tones. In the best Honduran coffee, you will find complex fruit with lively, juicy acidity. 

The Best Roast for Honduran Coffee

Honduran coffee beans are very versatile and you can find great-tasting coffees at most roast levels so you can have fun finding your favorite. 

However, the complex fruity notes don’t generally lend themselves to being roasted any darker than a medium roast. Whilst the bright acidity and sweetness absolutely make great dark roasts, you lose some of the more subtle flavors that make Honduran coffee so special. 

Best Honduran Coffee Beans

Now that we have a better understanding of all things Honduran coffee, let’s take a look at some of the best coffee beans you can try. You are spoiled for choice with so many specialty Honduran coffee brands out there.

No matter which single-origin Honduras coffee beans you choose, we recommend buying whole-bean rather than pre-ground. By grinding your own coffee, you will get the best out of your beans. 

What to Expect from Spirit Animal’s Catuai and Bourbon: 

Roast Level: Medium Roast 

Region: Lempira, Opalaca 

Varietals: Catuai and Bourbon 

Processing Method: Washed 

Tasting Notes: Hazelnut, chocolate, and jasmine with a background of fruit 

Important Notes: This organic Honduran coffee is grown at strictly high altitudes. Spirit Animal are also Fair Trade certified, paying all the farmers a fair wage 

Spirit Animal is one of the best Honduran coffee brands, supplying exceptional quality single-origin coffees. All of their coffees are micro-lot sourced from small farmers, focussing on ethical practices and flavor.  

Their Catuai and Bourbon coffee beans come from a farm in the Lempria sub-region of Opalaca. Grown at 6,000 feet above sea level, the complexity and nuance in this coffee are superb. It is ideal for pour-over or drip coffee and is possibly the best coffee produced in Honduras.  

By cutting out the middleman, Spirit Animal pays a fair wage to the farmers (at least Fair Trade prices) and delivers specialty-grade coffee to your door for a reasonable price. Every batch is roasted at source in Honduras – essential for the greatest support of the local economy. Then, it is air-freighted to you to ensure optimal freshness. 

Fresh Roasted Coffee, Organic Honduran Marcala, Medium Roast, Fair Trade Kosher, Whole Bean, 32 Ounce

What to Expect from Fresh Roasted’s Honduran Marcala: 

Roast Level: Medium Roast 

Region: Marcala / La Paz, Montecillos 

Varietals: Bourbon, Typica, CatuaiCaturra  

Processing Method: Washed 

Tasting Notes: Notes of walnut, milk chocolate, vanilla, and lemon 

Important Notes: Honduras organic coffee and Fair Trade at very affordable prices

Freshly Roasted do a superb job of keeping the time from roast to delivery very short despite selling on massive sites such as Amazon.  

Their Honduran coffee is from the Marcala and La Paz sub-regions, grown at altitudes of 4,200-4,900 feet. This coffee comes from a cooperative of 62 farms and holds organic, Fair Trade, and kosher certifications.  

If you want to try Honduran coffee but don’t want to break the bank, this is a great choice. The medium roasted coffee beans have a rich, robust flavor. The nutty, milk chocolate flavors are commonly found in this region. But, unlike many other Honduran coffees, the bright hit of lemon gives this brew a unique character. 

As a complex coffee, it is ideal for pour-over, French press, or Chemex brewing. 

What to Expect from Volcanica’s Honduras Natural Honey Coffee: 

Roast Level: Medium-Light Roast 

Region: Copán 

Varietals: Arabica blend 

Processing Method: Natural Honey 

Tasting Notes: Berries, tea-like lemongrass, and honey-suckle 

Important Notes: Sourced from the Finca Terrerito farm, this single-origin Honduras organic coffee is both Direct Trade and Bird Friendly certified 

Volcanica, as you may have guessed, focuses on coffee grown in volcanic soil. Volcanic soil is much sought after, not only by coffee farmers but also by wineries and basically all fruit and vegetable growers. This is due to the nutrient-rich soil that adds a superb flavor to whatever is being grown.  

Their Honduran offering comes from a single-family-owned farm in Copán. Certified organic and Bird Friendly (a lesser known but very high standard of certification from Smithsonian), this micro-lot coffee has the sweet fruit notes of the natural honey processing with the complexity you’d expect from high quality, volcanic coffee. 

What to Expect from Well-Bean’s Positive Nancy:  

Roast Level: Medium-Light Roast 

Region: Honduras Coffee Blend 

Varietals: 100% Arabica 

Tasting Notes: Toasted peanut, molasses, and caramel 

Important Notes: The quirky Well-Bean coffee roasters showcase their Rainforest Alliance, Organic certified coffee (and CEO’s favorite). As a woman-owned social enterprise, they are proud to support Nicaraguan health programs. 

Well-Bean is a woman-owned social enterprise in the male-dominated coffee industry. They work with communities and charities in Nicaragua to improve healthcare and living standards in Chichigalpa. So, a cup of Well-Bean coffee comes with the added good feeling that your dollars are helping those in need.

Their Positive Nancy medium roast Honduran coffee is a blend of several regions in Honduras. But it ticks the right boxes as it’s Rainforest Alliance Certified and organically grown.

Flavor-wise, you can expect notes of toasted peanut, molasses, and caramel. As this is a medium-light roast, the complex fruit profile of Honduran coffee shines through with each cup of joe. To really get the best out of these Honduran coffee beans, try using them in a French press or drip coffee brewer.

MONTE VISTA CRAFT COFFEE, ORGANIC Honduran Specialty Coffee-MICRO-BATCH ROAST-Medium, STRICTLY HIGH GROWN

What to Expect from Monte Vista’s Medium Roast:  

Roast Level: Medium Roast 

Region: Santa Barbara, Copán

Varietals: 100% Arabica 

Tasting Notes: Citrus and caramel notes, moderate acidity, and rich chocolate finish 

Important Notes: Strictly high grown (4,700 feet), Honduran specialty coffee. Organically grown on a family-owned farm

You will find Monte Vista’s family farm situated amongst the mahogany and cedar trees of Santa Barbara in the Copán region, famous for its high-quality coffees. They also donate drinking water to local communities and work with charities to improve the education and wellbeing of their workers and the surrounding region. 

You only the get the very best quality Honduran coffee beans thanks to hand harvesting and roasting in micro-lots. The result is a flavorful cup of coffee with moderate acidity, citrus and caramel notes, finishing with chocolate flavors. 

Fresh Roasted Coffee, Swiss Water Decaf Honduran, Organic Fair Trade Kosher RFA

What to Expect from Fresh Roasted’s Swiss Water Decaf:  

Roast Level: Medium Roast 

Region: Copán

Varietals: Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Pacas

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting Notes: Rich warm flavors of chocolate, redcurrant, and toffee with a light, fruity finish

Important Notes: Decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process to deliver great flavor without keeping you awake. The coffee beans are Organically grown and Fair Trade certified

The Swiss Water process for decaffeinating coffee involves immersing the beans in Green Coffee Extract. This is water that is rich in all the flavorful oils and compounds that make coffee so delicious but minus the caffeine. The immersion process draws out all the caffeine molecules, leaving behind caffeine-free coffee beans that haven’t lost any flavor or used any chemicals.

Fresh Roasted’s Honduran Decaf is impressively similar to the quality of their caffeinated Honduran coffee from the Marcala region. So you are definitely not giving up great flavor for a good night’s sleep.

The medium roasted beans boast a floral nose, with hints of milk chocolate, redcurrant, and toffee. If you want to try your hand at roasting your own green coffee beans, you can also buy Unroasted Honduran Swiss Water Decaf from Fresh Roasted. 

Subtle Earth Organic Coffee - Medium-Dark Roast from Marcala, Honduras

What to Expect from Subtle Earth Organic Marcala Coffee:  

Roast Level: Medium-Dark Roast 

Region: Marcala, Montecillos

Varietals: 100% Arabica

Tasting Notes: Intense depth of flavor with caramel, chocolate, and nut notes and a sweet fruit finish

Important Notes: Grown and created with environmental protection in mind, the Organic, non-GMO coffee beans are chemical-free

Subtle Earth pride themselves on their sustainable farming practices, low acidity, and roasted to order coffees.

Their Honduran coffee comes from the Marcala sub-region of Montecillos. As well as being certified organic, it’s also certified GMO free and they offer a “money-back guarantee” if you don’t enjoy their coffee. So, there really is nothing to lose.

The medium-dark roast is ideal for espresso lovers. Your shot of liquid gold will have a deep, rich, chocolate and nut flavor that is low in acidity whilst still having the sweet complexity that shows off Honduran coffee at its best. 

Summing Up

When it comes to coffee growing, Honduras hasn’t always had the best of luck. There has been violence, poverty, and natural disasters including coffee rot in 2012/13. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, it is likely they will hugely suffer at the hands of climate change. 

But, despite the setbacks, the Honduran coffee industry has gone from strength to strength, particularly in the last 20 years. Thanks to investment the industry and a shift in focus towards quality, coffee beans from Honduras have exponentially grown in popularity. And with good reason:

Single-origin specialty Honduran coffee has widespread appeal. There truly is something to suit every palette and brewing method.

If you’re as convinced as we are that Honduras coffee is worth every cent, put it straight to the top of your shopping list. The Catuai and Bourbon coffee from Spirit Animal really shouldn’t be missed if you are looking for the best quality and flavor out there.

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