Honduras, a country about one-third the size of Japan, has been one of the top ten world’s larger-volume coffee producers for years. That standing is on the up and up, too, with Honduran farms enjoying recent booms in both production and quality. In the coffee world, observers long saw Honduras as a kind of “sleeping giant”—a country boasting the latent potential to be a legitimate coffee hotspot. The reason behind the hunch? Probably the geographical context: farms just across the border from Honduras are frequent Cup of Excellence champions, an honor that reflects the premium quality of the beans from the area. Considering the string of success at nearby farms, Honduras clearly has the ideal climate and natural conditions for great coffee to grow in.


Why, then, did it take so long for the “sleeping giant” of Honduras to wake up? The biggest obstacle was the country’s production processing, especially the drying techniques. Great-tasting coffee doesn’t come from optimal growing conditions alone. There are myriad other variables in play, each capable of affecting quality for the better or the worse. The grower’s farming and processing methods are just two examples. While Honduran growers had the right environment, they didn’t have the right techniques to take advantage of those natural blessings. That is, until something injected life into the local coffee industry: the COE. It was in 2004 that COE, a competition that determines the best coffee in individual countries, made its Honduras debut. COE-winning beans go up for auction and, owing to the prestige of placing in the competition, fetch much higher prices than normal and make the farms prime targets for buyers from around the world. It’s a simple premise: good beans lead to glowing reviews, which energize business. In the COE, then, Honduran growers had a new, enticing incentive for producing higher-quality coffee. The farmers started to research cultivation methods, take closer looks at their production processing techniques, and finally tap into the long-dormant potential of their surroundings.


One of the most steadfast, quality-conscious growers in the “waking giant” of Honduras is Marysabel Caballero, a fourth-generation coffee farmer. Growing up watching her father do his work, Marysabel started gleaning the basics of coffee production at a young age. Learning is a passion at Marysabel’s farm, a constant quest for better cultivars, better cultivation methods, and better production processing. That serious, mindful approach has shaped Marysabel’s beans into the epitome of quality—her first-place triumph in the 2016 COE makes that much clear. With that big win sparking a buzz across the coffee world, the beans from El Puente garnered the highest bidding price in COE auction history.


The COE competition has the power to redefine the entire coffee market in a given country. Marysabel’s win, for example, has thrust her into the spotlight in the global buyers’ community. She could bask in the limelight if she wanted to, but she’ll probably just keep on pushing ahead—consistent and sincere in her approach, probing the depths of coffee under the vast Honduran skies.