Sourcing coffee in Coban, El Salvador.
Day one El Carmen Estate
Our day starts in Guatemala City as always on these trips at 5:30 am, a solid and classic breakfast of eggs, re-fried beans, black coffee and the nearest thing to yoghurt and muesli I can find! Kas is ready and waiting for our short three hour drive across the boarder to El Salvador. This is a common route for lots of coffee producers as they may have farms in both Guatemala and El Salvador. We were heading to El Carmen Estate where we would cup 2 tables of coffee take a short tour of the farms and stay for the night in the farm house. This was so very welcome as El Carmen is more of palace than your classic farm house.
We were met by Fernando Alfaro the owner of El Carmen and his friend and local producer Renato Arturo Romero Silva owner of Finca Lorena. Before checking in, we hit the cupping tables, where we also met Mario Acosta a young and very successful producer who owns Finca Nazareth who we bought from earlier this year. The coffees are fantastic and we learn all about El Carmen estate and how El Salvador operates.
The model from what I gather and this is by no means fact is this.... Larger producers such as El Carmen estate own the mill. Local producers focus on growing cherries which during harvest they bring to El Carmen. El Carmen (and other producers owning a mill) help them build lots which they process for each of the local producers. When a local producer thinks they have a particularly great day or two of pickings they will chose to process seperatly thus building a micro-lot. These are often processed naturally or honeyed a process where a certain amount of cherry is left on giving the cup a different profile. From what I can gather this is the trend, for me personally I much prefer the cup profile when the process is either washed or full natural. Many of the honey processed coffees I have tried or cupped on the day where stuck in the middle, this seems painfully obvious to write and to read however the purpose is to highlight sweetness but I found the clean washed coffees to offer much more sweetness and less dryness. Upon further research I found that the market in the USA is huge for Honey coffees and it is fantastic because you can buy a much smaller lot which is unique to the roaster, while giving the producer a name. Disclaimer alert these are my thoughts and not FACT.
The afternoon is spent viewing the mill, and El Carmens own fields of Boubon trees. In true Estate style our afternoon ends with a stunning meal of steak and pupusa and El Carmen coffees brewed by Fernando Alfaro. To be honest the whole day felt truly special and from another time and the experience gave me a chance to feel like a true tourist overwhelmed by generosity, hospitality and beauty.
From this day we purchased:
Finca Nazareth…. All sold now
Finca El Agulia …. We will release before Christmas
Finca Lorena… We will release before Christmas
Day two in El Salvador I will write about very shortly and it will mainly be a full feature on a new producer we met and one which I fell for from the get go.