Balbina was the very first female producer that we started working with in Honduras, back in 2018. We’re now 5 years into the relationship, and we’ve loved every minute.
Balbina's family have been producing coffee in Santa Barbara for three generations and today she works her modest farm with two of her children. There is something unique about her land that makes her coffee taste different from that of the surrounding area, and she already has a fan club of Proud Mary regulars who wait year on year for her coffee to arrive.
The farm, located close to the town of Las Flores, sits at 1,300 masl and is planted almost exclusively with Parainema (with a tiny bit of Geisha, that was planted recently). Parainema is a type of Sarchimor that was introduced into Honduras by Instituto Hondureño del Café (IHCAFE) over a decade ago, because of its good cup quality and resistance to leaf rust. Contrary to common belief, "Sarchimor" is not itself a distinct variety. Instead, it is a group of many different distinct varieties with similar parentage (various Timor Hybrid’s and Villa Sarchi). One of Parainema’s unique characteristics is how well it performs at lower to medium altitudes, making it the perfect variety for Balbina’s farm.
On our trip to Honduras earlier in the year, Nolan and I visited Balbina. We started the visit at the farm, just outside the town of Las Flores. It’s a small farm, and because of the lower elevation, there were more shade trees planted than at any farm we visited on the trip. For instance, at La Salsa, Benjamin Paz doesn’t need to plant any shade trees – the clouds and afternoon mist provide more than enough.
Even at the lower altitude, hiking through the farm wasn’t an easy task. While you’re not fighting the lower oxygen concentration, you are fighting the heat and humidity – plus, you need to be careful where you’re stepping. Somehow, I managed to stand on top of an ant hill, and my ankles got eaten all to hell.
Back at Balbina’s home – which is also where she processes and stores her parchment – we saw her processing mill and drying beds (raised and covered, much like the beds at the Fernandez family's Finca Don Andres).
(center, Proud Mary Coffee Founder, Nolan Hirte, and Balbina Sabillon)
In 2018, Balbina placed second in a small regional competition called Oro de Santa Bàrbara - one of the prizes she received was a Comandante hand grinder. Spotting it on a kitchen shelf, still unopened and in the box, Nolan had to rectify that immediately, and proceeded to give Balbina a one-on-one pour over tutorial, leaving her with the V60, filters, and kettle that we’d been traveling with (we only had one more day in Honduras, and decided that we could suffer through a morning without coffee … for the greater good).
Here’s a video Balbina sent to Nolan, of her brewing coffee with the set-up we left her:
Fellow Products (the company behind those slick kettles) also picked some of Balbina’s coffee to use in one of their Fellow Drops, in June 2022 – the coffee was Balbina’s Washed Parainema. Here's what Fellow has to say: