Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
A U of M student project pays delicious dividends a decade down the road
One of my favorite Coffee Company coffees is back for the season. It’s over 15 years ago now that University of Michigan alum Andrew Boyd first reached out to me to talk about a new project he and some other recent graduates were getting into. Their idea was to work with quality-oriented coffee growers in Honduras to enable the farmers to sell their beans for a much higher price, freeing themselves from the mass market’s unmanageable price swings. By having us roast the coffee and sell it here at Zingerman’s, he suggested, we could bring it back home to Ann Arbor where the idea from whence this wonderful project originated.
All these years later, I can confidently say the project with the company Andrew and his colleagues now call Aldea Development is going strong. The Honduran coffee this year is really wonderful, and right now it’s featured as the Roaster’s Pick from the Coffee Company. The crew at the Coffee Company says it’s got a “cocoa-like body with flavors of caramel and almond.” I agree. Add maybe a touch of dark-toasted toffee or roasted walnuts. Its flavor is super smooth, and I’ll say too that the finish is cleaner and more compelling than ever. As our partner at the Coffee Company, Steve Mangigian shared, “It shows that when you work with the producer year after year, and when everyone is committed to quality gets better and better each year.” I agree. This year’s coffee is tasting terrific; a happy Honduran start to 2024!
Back in the winter of 2015, a crew from the Coffee Company flew down to Honduras to visit the farm. The farmer, Pablo Paz, won their hearts with his commitment to quality, his family’s five generations in coffee growing, and his interest in learning and continuous improvement. The crew shared: “Long before many folks in the specialty coffee world were paying a premium for high-quality beans or taking trips to remote areas of the world to source rare and distinct micro-lots, growing fantastic coffee was just how the Paz family operated, and we’re so lucky to have developed a relationship with him.” Pablo’s farm is located in the hills outside the town of La Union, in the highlands, in the center of the country. The town is doing well, in great part thanks to the attention and income that comes from being a central point for high-quality coffee.
Steve from the Coffee Company shares:
We have purchased Pablo’s coffee for over a decade and we continue to be inspired by his commitment to quality. Coffee plays an important role in Pablo’s life on multiple levels. No doubt, it is his livelihood. But coffee is also a source of pride and a means of connecting to his village and to his history. And yet, Pablo has seen the final product of his efforts—a bag of roasted coffee—on only a few occasions. When we met Pablo, we presented him with a sample of his coffee, brewed it, and drank a cup together. He liked it. And for a few minutes, the world felt exceptionally small.
Coming back to the coffee, Pablo Paz’s Honduran beans brew up is what I would suggest is an exceptionally egalitarian cup—a set of more forward flavor notes for those who like their coffee on the bolder side, yet simultaneously soft enough for people like me who prefer their brew to be mellower. At the Coffee Company, it’s in what we call “the third hopper” which means you can order it—as I’ve been doing—as an espresso as well. It’s got a nice toasty, almost graham-cracker flavor. I tried one again the other day just to reaffirm an earlier experience, and sure enough, it tastes terrific. I particularly love it in Chemex—super smooth, nutty, with the kind of clean finish that I really like.