Earlier this year we again headed back to El Salvador to visit our longstanding partners, Jose Antonio and Andres Salaverria at their Las Cruces estate in Santa Ana, El Salvador. As well as sleeping at Las Cruces, which is collectively their processing station, dry mill, cupping lab and old family home, we visited two of their farms: Finca San Francisco and Finca Santa Rita Vivero. This first coffee of 2018 comes from a small parcel on the San Francisco complex.
This year the Loma Linda tablón was one of a handful of lots that we visited on their estate that hadn’t been severely affected by heavy winds. Even though the brothers have long established protective hedges on their farms, changes in wind patterns in late 2017 has meant that instead of shielding the coffee trees on each small plot, some of them actually funnelled the wind into the trees more aggressively, resulting in leaves being stripped from the plants, and cherries being knocked to the floor. Thankfully, they have still been able to produce some amazing coffees this year, which we were able to taste with Raoul and Rosio who run the Las Cruces cupping lab.
The long-term goal of producers Jose Antonio and Andres is to improve their coffee quality continually. This involves planting new varieties and trialling new preparation methods. Part of the fun is in learning which varieties work well at different altitudes and microclimates, and what preparations bring out the best results for each lot. We have found over the years that the preparation of washing and subsequently soaking seems to stabilise the seeds and bring the flavour into a sharper focus, as well as adding to their shelf life.
Alongside 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. Regenerating the health of their farms means that year after year, JASALs coffees taste more intense and concentrated. This, coupled with proper processing and drying protocols, means coffees from them taste fresh for an extended period.
Pickers are paid more than those 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 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.
Apaneca-Ilamatepec, El Salvador
Conjuring up thoughts of the dessert trolley, expect flavours of vanilla, milk chocolate and nutmeg to come through. Hints of fig and orange lift a classic espresso.