El Salvador – Bosque Lya Natural
Finca Bosque Lya achieved fame in specialty coffee circles when it took first place in the 2004 Cup of Excellence. Whilst the competition’s focus is all about coffee quality and cupping, if extra points were awarded for a farm’s beauty then Bosque Lya would be in an even stronger position…
This is a 96 hectare farm – 64 hectares of which are dedicated to coffee and the balance is left as natural rainforest. However, in many parts of the farm it is difficult to recognise what is pure forest and what isn’t, since so many shade trees are used. There is an abundance of wildlife including birds such as humming birds, orioles and hawks and many migratory species. Mammals include wild cats, armadillos, deer and possum. There are endless beautiful flowers including colourful rare orchids and epiphytes that grow on the branches of the trees. The views from the farm are also jaw dropping, with the mountains and volcanoes of west El Salvador and Guatemala on the horizon. The towering El Chingo Volcano takes centre stage in this dramatic scene.
Finca Bosque Lya is situated in the municipality of Santa Ana on the foothills of the Ilamatepec Volcano (or Santa Ana Volcano as it now more commonly known) in the Apaneca Mountain range of western El Salvador. The farm was established in 1932 when Gustavo Vides Valdes named his property in honour of his newly born daughter, Lya. The farm name Bosque Lya translates to – Lya’s forest. Bourbon is the most prevalent variety on the farm – mainly red but there is a little orange and yellow too. Many other varieties are also grown for experimentation and diversity, including Pacamara, Caturra and Typica.
An altitude range of 1,473 to 1,650 metres above sea level enables the development of sweet and lively coffees of great complexity.
Ripe red cherries are handpicked and taken to a collection point to be hand-sorted by pickers before their onward journey to the El Borbollon mill. On arrival here, the cherries are emptied into separate tanks to keep them apart from other lots from farms around the region. Water is used to move the cherries up a pump and into a ‘Pacas’ depulper (of El Salvadorian origin) which works using a cylinder pushing against a metal wall to remove the skin of the cherry from the beans. The pulped cherry is composted with calcium and then re-distributed between the farmers who use the mill as fertiliser for the next harvest.
The sticky beans are then moved in channels to fermentation tanks where they rest for 13 to 15 hours and naturally present bacteria and microbes break down the sugars and alcohols in the mucilage of the bean. The fermented beans are then moved to a washing machine where fresh water is used to remove any remaining mucilage and prepare the beans for the drying patios. All water is recycled and is used to move fresh cherries around the wet mill. The washed beans are then taken to the drying patios still kept separate by lot.
There they dry there for around 8-10 days, though El Borbollon are experimenting with extending drying periods by laying the beans densely and covering them for parts of the day. It is believed that extending the drying time will result in even more complex nuances in the cup.
The dried parchment is then left to rest for around six weeks before being hulled to remove the parchment. Once hulled, the beans are hand sorted by a group of around 40 women who remove any defects. The women work in shifts, are paid well and above minimum wage and are highly skilled at their work. Once the hand sorting and defect removal is complete, the sorted beans are then packed ready for shipment to the UK.