In February this year I embarked on a two week journey through Central America to source coffees for the year ahead. My first week was spent in El Salvador with visits to the producing regions of Apaneca-Ilamatepec and Usulután to cup through this years harvest and gain insight into the work of producers and our import partners. In line with our sourcing strategy, where we aim to work with many of the same producers and farms each year, my first few days were spent with Jose Antonio and Andres Salaverria of the JASAL group, producers of many of our favourite coffees over the past years.
Las Cruces Mill
Set into the mountain region of Apaneca-Ilamatepec, near Santa Ana, JASAL manage the sprawling Finca San Francisco and Finca Santa Rita along with their corresponding mill, Las Cruces. To maintain lot separation and unique processing, Finca San Francisco is divided and managed in various tables/blocks ("tablónes") and hills ("cerro's"). The standard of hand picking is immaculate and with experimental varietals and processes already under way it is clear that JASAL is only looking forward with a consistent improvements in quality each year.
In selecting this years coffees I was able to cup through more than 50 samples representing each farm lot and variations in processing. Though these cupping marathons were conducted blind it was no surprise that the attributes we are often evaluating lead us back to some familiar names. With various brew methods in mind we have lots from Cerro Las Ranas and El Martillo returning to our range, chosen for their unmistakable clarity, sweetness and balanced citrus acidity
View of Finca San Fransisco
With such reliable producers and outstanding quality coming from the Santa Ana region my journey south to Usulután was an education in progressive processing at Finca Los Pirineos. Here, farm owner Gilberto Baraona has constructed raised drying beds alongside brand new milling equipment to move away from commercial coffee production to specialty micro-lots. This is a growing trend with drought and leaf rust affecting much of the country. As such the additional effort required in producing specialty coffee is now more worthwhile as farmers can achieve higher prices whilst commercial crops suffer low yields and commodity market prices.
Usulutan, Finca Los Pirineos
Simon Clark, Head Roaster