El Salvador – this is where I saw my first real coffee tree. An escapee growing wild in the wonderfully named National Park, El Impossible. It’s a vast wild and mountainous area where enormous chameleon laze in the trees and the giant cigarillo insects sing their hearts out. El Salvador is the smallest of the Central American nations but don’t let its diminutive size distract you. It produces exceptional coffees to a consistently high standard.
Finca San Cayetano is a small farm of 7 hectares, in Apaneca, Ahuachapán. It is located in the volcanic Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range at an altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level. This altitude makes the crop mature slowly resulting in a harvest between January and March. The farm employs between 8 to 10 people all year round increasing to between 70 and 90 workers during the harvest season. The farm cultivates shade-grown Bourbon which derives from old variety of Arabica which produces a delicate taste. Cultivating coffee under shade produces 60 pounds of fresh oxygen per day as well as sheltering a huge variety of birds and insects, which enrich the ecology of the region.
The Bourbon from San Cayetano features a clean cup, smooth mouth-feel, champagne acidity and very good balance. The coffee’s profile has flavors of white grape, citrus, black cherry, chocolate, nuts and toffee.
The ecological awareness on the farm has led them to put in place innovative ways to produce organic matter for fertilization. They have a massive earthworm ‘farm’, where coffee pulp is processed in order to create a “vermicompost” that is used to fertilize the trees, each year decreasing their use of chemical fertilizers. The farm uses rainwater reservoirs all around the plantation to collect water during the winter season for use on the farm. The farm also features natural wind and erosion barriers. They also get involved with the social issues of the local community.
Bourbon: This varietal originated on the Island of Bourbon (now known as Reunion Island) and is a mutation of early Arabica species from Ethiopia. It yields slightly more coffee than the Typica varietal but is relatively low yielding. The leaves are broad and cherries can ripen red, yellow or orange. This varietal is known for its amazing complex acidity and great balance.
Coffee Growing in El Salvador: Approximately 60% of the coffee produced in El Salvador is the Bourbon varietal, which is characterised by an exceptionally clean, bright and sweet profile with strong citrus tones. Notably, El Salvador is also the birthplace of the Pacas and Pacamara varietals, the latter being a hybrid of the Pacas and Maragogype. 95% of the coffee produced here is shade grown.
The harvest occurs once a year between the months of November and February meaning that the first new crop coffees generally arrive during June to August. The majority of coffee is produced from farms considered to be medium sized in comparison to other Central and Southern American producing countries and the coffee produced is a result of the farmers’ passion and expertise. Combine this with a skilled picking and milling workforce, and this creates some truly wonderful coffees.
The coffee producers are supported by the Consejo Salvadoreño Del Café which does great work in supporting and promoting El Salvadorian coffee, both domestically and overseas. Through their work, there has been a tireless drive to stimulate export markets for the growers and to maintain and improve the quality of the coffee produced in El Salvador. As they say in El Salvador….Drink it and Smile!