San Marcos – Capucas (Part 7)
The breakfast routine had become quite settled and our starts continued to err on the slightly later side as the distance to the processing plant of San Marcos was a matter of minutes by car.
Today after a brief coffee stop in the offices of San Marcos we went round the warehouse which was filled to the gunwales with parchment coffee awaiting buyers. Some coffee was being further processed, by that I mean hulled and graded so presumably, things were on the move.
The main objective of the morning was to cup a wide range of coffees. The standard is very high but the coffee can taste a little vegetable or herby as it’s only just finished processing and needs time to acclimatise. Time was not something we had on our side. We probably cupped a further 20 coffees which took our tally over a couple of days to around 40, some going! You need to be a real coffee nerd to survive this level of intensity. I also think it’s about respecting the producers. Giving a couple of hours of our time is infinitesimal compared to the hours of effort they’ve taken to get this coffee in front of us.
Today we say goodbye to Paul and Aleaume as they head home to France. We also said goodbye to Cassia and wish them all a safe onward journey. Cassia had managed to have some lunch with us. As always a fabulous selection of Tacos, meat and salad not forgetting those smashed beans. The other thing that is so striking are the colours on the walls of the restaurant. The ochres, oranges and yellows sit so well with the heat and sunshine and the indoor/outdoor lifestyle in this part of the world.
We were now moving out of the Ocotepeque region which is bordered by both El Salvador and Guatemala, north into the Copan region. This area contains the highest mountains in Honduras. Once you are off the main road you start to climb pretty quickly. It probably took between one and two hours to reach our next destination “Copucas”, another very special co-operative. The setting of this farm is spectacular, a word I feel I’m starting to overuse. We drive into the compound where the coffee processing takes place with plenty of coffee out drying on the patios. Steam is billowing out of a rooftop chimney no doubt from a heavily used mechanical coffee dryer. Two things now happened, we dropped our bags in the only café I know that sits alongside a coffee patio. We drank a mandatory coffee although we lacked enthusiasm after all the tasting this morning and knowing that we had a further coffee tasting that evening. Even the tasting room sits just off the patio. Next, we tasted a further round of coffees. That took us to at least 50 coffees in the last 24 hours. I think I was beyond wired! I really feel for the poor girls who pour the hot water from huge kettles onto the coffee for brewing purposes, they are so tiny and the kettles so big. On top of that, the tasting tables are nearly always tall. As a result, these tiny girls are literally pouring hot water from above their heads, yet they do it with a cheery smile as if there is “nothing to see here”.
Cupping over we transferred to our rooms, five minutes away from the factory. It’s the first time we’ve stayed in anything one might describe as basic. The “rooms” were in effect self-contained flats surrounding a large restaurant. The five of us and a couple of drivers made little impact in the cavernous space. However a balcony overlooking the rainforest really makes this an incredible space. The one thing that is unique about this restaurant is that it is devoid of alcohol. For religious reasons they have decided that this is appropriate and who am I to argue. It did, however, make me try the Lemongrass that they promote. This was a drink I really developed a taste for, both healthy and tasty.
Our evening meal was quite a basic affair with traditional Honduran fayre and after a long discussion about honey, a major export of Honduras we all retired to our rooms. The noise of the Rainforest is quite something. Millions of insects appear to be rioting outside my room and I’m thankful for the very fine mesh that enables the window to remain open without any insects getting in. All at once the insects fall silent, it’s as if someone had pulled a plug.
An individual I forgot to mention earlier was Lorenzo. He’s an Italian intern working in the factory and harks from Genoa. There’s an air of the medieval monk about him. He’s tall with black curly hair and an earnest expression. For someone in their early twenties to embark alone in such a place takes great fortitude. He was keen to engage with us I guess because he could relate to us. It made me think of the first Spanish conquistadors who back in the day would probably not have seen another European for months and as for a white woman well………………………… It reminded me of a line in a Raymond Chandler novel which goes as follows: “She was a blond, a blond to make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window” (sorry Priscilla you’re not even blond!)
I struggled to sleep in this new environment and cursed myself for tasting all those coffees earlier in the day.