||El Salvador Finca Argentina Natural Bourbon 2014
||Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Ranges
This coffee is in its forth year with us and is a little bit of a step back from the traceability we have had over the previous three years, but also highlights the real issues facing producers today at origin.
The first time we came across this farm it was via a very well presented sample that just landed on my doorstep. It came from someone who had visited the farm and offered to try to help find a buyer for them in the UK. We get lots of these and always give them a try on the cupping table, but often find they are just not good enough for us to stock. This one was quite different: the quality was amazing. So initially we stocked it, although we knew very little about it. Since that day, I've been to see Alejandro four times in El Salvador, the last two times stopping at his house with his family and enjoying a day at the beach. Alejandro has also been to see us in Stafford twice. We have worked with him on projects (some successful, others we'll brush over); we have also told him what we would like to see from the farm (some he took on board, others he didn't).
Most importantly, he has become a very very good friend, and someone whose coffee I love and company I enjoy. Alejandro took over running the farm from his father a few years ago, having returned to El Salvador after travelling around the world as an investment banker. A very intelligent guy and a very good business man, he understood the farm needed to step up in work if it was to flourish: lots of work has gone into making this cup the quality one it has become. Part of this work last year was to separate the farm into tablons (the Spanish word for plot). It was separated into 8 plots, with 7 of them growing coffee.
This is where we have had to take a step back from the 8 plots we had last year. Central America is suffering from something called 'Roya', or leaf rust. It's a fungus that grows on the plants and makes the leaves fall off, making the plants unable to process the photosynthesis, and making them unable to produce fruit. Certain varietals of coffee are more susceptible to this, Bourbon being on of the main ones. Take into account that El Salvador produces around 70% Bourbon: El Salvador farmers have been some of the worst affected. Some farmers have been lucky and lost 30-40% of their crop. Others were not so lucky. Alejandro lost 90% of his yield this year, through a combination of replanting, pruning, and one of the most severe attacks of Roya that I have seen. This is not because of his plant husbandry, but that of his neighbours. So much so that Alejandro has bought the abandoned farm next door to try to get this under control.
The coffee is 100% Bourbon, as 70% of plant stock in El Salvador is. This heirloom varietal is one of the reasons why coffee from this country is right up amongst some of the best in the world. They have the perfect climate and conditions for this low yielding, high maintenance strain.
The farm is based in the Apaneca-Ilamtepec mountain range near to the town of Turin in the Ahuachapan dept. During the non-picking season 16 people work on the farm, maintaining and tending to the plants. During the picking period this goes up to 50 people. The altitude of the farm is 1,350 m.a.s.l. The coffee is a washed process coffee, and is sun dried on patios.
This is a world exclusive for us. Up until we met Alejandro hadn't done any Natural processing, and this coffee proves we did a good thing convincing him to give it a go. It's a funky little number; liquorice and black grapes, chewy body and bold aftertastes, while retaining some of that sweetness that Argentina is so good at.
Country: El Salvador
Farm: Finca Argentina
Processing: Natural and Sun Dried
Workers: 16 full time rising to 50 during the picking season
Altitude: 1,300 m.a.s.l.
Owner: Alejandro Martinez
City: Near Turin, Ahuachapan
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain ranges El Salvador
Medium to medium dark roast. Anywhere after first crack and up to around 20 or so seconds into second.
"Quick Look" Guide
Liquorice, black grapes, chewy body, bold.
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