We’ve been roasting coffee from the JASAL group in El Salvador since 2013. Over the years have become good friends with the Salaverria family and have gained some experience in tasting and selecting lots from the wide range of coffee profiles they produce. Our importing partners at Nordic Approach have developed several projects with JASAL for many years, including recent changes to the infrastructure at the Las Cruces mill to process more honeys and naturals. Typically for us the coffees that perform best are the washed lots that are subsequently soaked in clean water, as these make for very clean, stable and consistent cups.
Last year, wind and rain patterns caused problems on the Finca San Francisco estate, stripping trees of their leaves and cherries, reducing overall yields. This year the on/off two-year cycle of productivity that coffee trees go through means that volumes were always slated to be lower, but late rains caused maturing coffee cherries to swell rapidly, often resulting in one under-developed or malformed seed sitting alongside a perfectly healthy one inside each cherry. Through processing and dry milling these light seeds can be removed from the quality lots, but it has meant that each tablón, or block, on the estate has out-turned lower volumes than we would normally buy and run as individual espressos. We’ve decided to combine our two favourite coffees, those that cupped the best when we made our selections earlier this year, and so this year’s espresso from Finca San Francisco features coffee from both the Pedregal and Santa Rita tablóns.
Alongside improving their coffee quality, the brothers are focussing on sustainability for both their coffee plants and the livelihoods of their employees. It is the norm in El Salvador to rely heavily on chemicals found in traditional fertilisers and fungicides, as leaf rust is a widespread problem. To ensure their soil, and therefore their trees, are as healthy and robust as possible they use a mixture of nitrogen and a compost composed of coffee pulp and other organic materials. They also apply various foliar sprays and feeds throughout the year. The goal is to create more intense and flavourful coffee through ensuring the trees are vigorous and healthy, and then through proper processing and drying protocols we are seeing this quality being retained for an extended period after harvest, allowing us to roast their coffees well into the winter months.
Their pickers are paid premiums above what they would receive working for neighbouring, less discerning producers, and they do an incredible job of ensuring only uniformly ripe cherries get delivered to the brothers’ mill. The farm managers also receive bonuses based on the coffee’s quality, which emphasises the importance of crop husbandry, proper cherry selection and subsequent hand-sorting. Workers are further supported with accommodation, education on work safety and efficiency plus a health care program, which includes doctors visiting the farms. The JASAL group have also built and finance two medical clinics in the area, having also donated land to the government to build two further clinics and a school, complete with enough land for a football field.