The 2016 parainema from Finca Los Yoyos is unique among the multiple harvests that Passenger has featured over the years in that it offers particularly concentrated sweetness that perfectly complements its predictably mouthwatering acidity. Dried mango, cocoa, and subtle nutmeg on the nose lead to a cup with layered flavors of lemon, lime, caramel, and juicy stone fruit .
Eulogio Martinez won the 2015 Honduran Cup of Excellence with coffee from his farm, Los Yoyos. One year later, Passenger was lucky enough to purchase some of Eulogio’s unique coffee which is of a variety called Parainema. Thanks to careful preservation in Passenger’s frozen archive of notable harvests, we are excited to re-release a small portion of this 2016 selection simultaneously with the freshly arrived 2020 harvest from Los Yoyos.
Eulogio Martinez’s story so aptly highlights the systemic issues surrounding specialty coffee and its ties to commodity coffee and also the absolute necessity for constructive conversation and dialogue at origin. A number of years ago Eulogio Martinez needed seeds. As is typical in Honduras, he went to a local government store, of sorts, to obtain seeds of the Pacas variety. Pacas is a naturally occurring mutation of the famous Bourbon variety. The store was out of Pacas seeds and as such Eulogio was handed a bag of seeds of unknown origin. Judging by the slightly larger than usual size of the seed, Eulogio was told that it was most likely a varietal called Pacamara. Upon returning to Los Yoyos, Eulogio’s farm in Las Flores, Santa Barbara, he cultivated the dubious variety.
At the time of the plants’ first fruiting, Eulogio was not a producer focused on specialty coffee production. Rather, he was focused on commodity coffee. Benjamin Paz, whose family owns San Vicente, the exporter and (more importantly) community organizer responsible for bringing the coffees of Santa Barbara to market, asked Eulogio if he could taste his mystery variety. Upon tasting the coffee, Benjamin as well as a number of international buyers noted its unique flavor profile. Extremely acidic and uniquely fruited, the cup profile was immediately divisive, prompting some to say it was amazing and yet others to say it was atrocious.
On a whim Benjamin Paz decided to enter the coffee into the Cup of Excellence competition, a prestigious competition in which coffees are rigorously evaluated and reevaluated first by a national jury and then an international jury. In short, the purpose of the competition is to highlight the best producers in a given country. Many people laughed at Benjamin and said the coffee would be disqualified as defective. The coffee was entered into the competition and was labelled as a Pacamara lot, though it had earned a different nickname amongst the team at San Vicente: Pacaweirdo.
To the surprise of many, not only did Eulogio’s lot not get disqualified, but it won first place in the 2015 Cup of Excellence! A remarkable accomplishment for any producer. Following that memorable competition, we learned that the variety is decidedly not Pacamara. Rather, it is a hybrid variety known as Parainema. Bred for its nematode resistance (it also happens to be resistant to the fungus known as coffee leaf rust), this variety was not initially developed for its cup profile. The cup profile remains controversial with some who praise the unique tropical fruit qualities and others who deride it for having an overly herbaceous flavor and quinine-like finish.
Since releasing this selection from Eulogio’s 2016 harvest at Los Yoyos, his dynamic and perennially divisive parainema has been an annual fixture on Passenger’s Reserve Lot menu. This fall, as we prepared to release the freshly arrived 2020 lot from his farm, we discovered a small amount of the 2016 that we’ve kept fresh in deep-freeze storage since its arrival and decided to re-release it as well! Tasting these coffees side by side provides an inspiring demonstration of the highly impressive standard of quality and consistency that Eulogio Martinez has maintained year after year.