Essentials in Santa Rosa de Copán
Banco Atlantida. South side of Parque Central, Santa Rosa de Copan.
La Sultana. Barrio Miraflores, Santa Rosa de Copan. 662-0940.
Hospital Regional del Occidente. Barrio del Calvario, Santa Rosa de Copan. 662-0107.
Farmacia Central. C. Centenario, Santa Rosa de Copan. 662-0465.
Lenca Land Trails. C. Real Centenario SO and Av. 2, Santa Rosa de Copan. 662-1374.
Honduran Coffee: The Magic Bean
Walk into your favorite local gourmet coffee joint. Honduras's Central American neighbors occupy prominent positions there but not so Honduras itself. It's not for lack of ideal natural conditions. The country has the high altitude, warm days, cool nights, and distinct dry and rainy seasons necessary to provide quality coffee, and the plant is cultivated in 15 of Honduras's 18 departments (provinces). A drive through the highlands lets you see the spectacle of thousands of busy hands picking coffee during the October-March harvest. Directly or indirectly, the coffee industry employs about one million Hondurans, and the sector contributes 10% of the country's GDP. No question that this is one of Honduras's most important products.
It's been all about branding, a task Honduras has historically neglected to do. We know Guatemalan and Costa Rican coffees. But Honduran? It doesn't quite jog our associations. As a result, Honduran coffee has frequently ended up in mass commercial blends. The proximity of the Western Highlands to Guatemala means that some of the harvest here is even smuggled across the border into that country and sold from there as Guatemalan product, which fetches a higher price on the world market. Germany is the largest market for Honduran coffee; the United States runs a distant second, buying some 20% of the country's crop, but with the variety of competing coffees available, the average U.S. coffee drinker barely knows the Honduran product at all.
"You're not just buying a coffee, you're buying an origin," Carlos Lara, regional director for the Instituto Hondureño de Café (IHCAFE www.cafedehonduras.org) in Santa Rosa de Copán tells us. Some 90% of coffee production here remains in the hands of small producers, and most is shade-grown, an eco-friendly, bird-hospitable method of cultivating coffee; both are factors, Lara says, consumers like to hear about and that are now being bundled into the promotion of Honduran coffee.
IHCAFE delineates five coffee-growing regions. Agalta Tropical comes from the mountainous area around Tegucigalpa and the east, and is known for its acidic honey and citrus flavors. The creamy, slightly chocolaty Azul Meámbar is cultivated in the region around Comayagua. As the name indicates, the full-bodied, slightly chocolaty Copán comes from the area around Copán Ruinas and Santa Rosa de Copán. Montecillos, from the higher elevation La Esperanza region, gives you bright acidity with hints of fruity, floral flavor. The soft, aromatic, fruity Opalaca hails from the countryside around Gracias.
Here's the rub for you, dear coffee-loving reader: True to the economic realities of developing countries, the good stuff is exported, leaving behind a mediocre bean for the local market. On top of that, Hondurans make coffee with hideous amounts of sugar. Your best bet for a good cup is an upscale hotel or restaurant that will have export-quality coffee on hand and will be attuned to foreign tastes. Souvenir shops also sell foil bags of export-quality product. Their small size fits nicely into your carry-on for the trip home.
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