A Mystery Cultivar with Unprecedented Flavor
“Oddly shaped and pointed.” Or, "looks like a dragon’s tooth.” These are not the usual descriptions of a coffee cherry, but then again, the Parainema cultivar is not your typical coffee. Benjamin Paz’s El Dragón, grown on the renowned Santa Bárbara Mountain, is aromatic, floral, and herbaceous, demonstrating in each sip the miracle possible when a cultivar finds its ideal climate.
A Star is Born
Benjamin Paz was not always a farmer. He was once known as the dry miller’s son. But in this role as matchmaker between local farmers and micro-roasters, Benjamin propelled Santa Bárbara Mountain to specialty-coffee fame—a reputation that today rivals some of the world’s most-renowned origins, like Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, or Boquete, Panama.
It all began with an oddly shaped coffee cherry that farmer Eulogio Martínez was growing on his property. Benjamin helped Eulogio to isolate the outlier cherry and then cupped coffee made from it. Benjamin believed the floral and aromatic coffee to be exceptional and pushed Eulogio to submit it to that year’s Honduras Cup of Excellence. They labeled it “Pacamara” because they didn’t know what other cultivar it might be.
No other coffee came close to Eulogio’s in score, regard, or price per pound. And Benjamin, who had, up until that point, focused only on shepherding other farmers’ harvests in the milling process, decided to grow the Parainema cultivar higher than it had ever grown before on his new farm, La Laguneta. After years of focusing on other farmers' quality of coffee, Benjamin was adept at developing unprecedented expressiveness and clarity in the Parainema cultivar. When skillfully roasted—its large, oblong shape is a challenge for consistent caramelization—we have a pristine and beautiful coffee that’s as surprising as a mythical creature rising from the mist blanketing the lush slopes on Santa Bárbara Mountain.
All of this is an ironic turn of events for a cultivar that was developed decades ago in Central America to boost farmers' yields, which had been hit hard by coffee root-knot nematode. The name "Parainema" itself is a portmanteau of the region where it originated, Paraiso, and the Spanish word for nematode, nematodo. It seems that El Dragón, like Santa Bárbara Mountain, and Benjamin Paz himself, has many stories to tell and many gifts to offer.
Share this special coffee over the holidays, and taste the cultivar that changed the course of history for this decorated region.