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El Salvador

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El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro 2 Lb Set

I am a little scared how quickly our meager amount of Kilimanjaro will sell out this year, on the heels of the New Yorker article about Aida Batlle. And this year we are offering the coffee as a unique set: 1 Lb. of traditional wet-process (TWP) Kilimanjaro and 1 Lb. of the "Kenya-process" (KP) Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro farm is located on the highlands of the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, 40 minutes away from the city of Santa Ana. The Batlle family purchased the farm in 1983, and are the third generation of a coffee family. Aida Batlle (the daughter) takes care of this coffee plantation which is nearly 40 years old, and located in one of the oldest coffee-growing areas in the country. The farm is on the Santa Ana volcanic slopes, and is planted with 80% Kenya cultivar, 15% Bourbon and 5% Pacas. Aida is a "hands-on" coffee grower, seen often at the farm and monitoring all the aspects of the harvest. The New Yorker article represented her active, involved approach quite well. In her zeal to experiment and learn, she has tried a variety of post harvest processes to see how it influences the flavor of the coffee. We cupped samples earlier this year of experimental batches with varying fermentation times and techniques, and from these Aida chose to go forward with a double-fermented Kenya process (KP) in addition to the traditional single-fermented wet-process (TWP) we have offered in the past. The other notable difference with KP is a soaking period in which the coffee is held in clean water after all the fermentable mucilage layer is removed by washing it vigorously between each of the two 12 hour fermentation periods. While the differences are subtle, they are definitely there. Both coffees are great, but I am really impressed by the sweet refinement of the KP sample. Perhaps its just that its new, and experimental, but it offers a slightly different interpretation of the Kilimanjaro flavor that I look forward to enjoying each year when we receive this small lot.

The two coffees have much in common, and some interesting distinctions as well. With both TWP and KP Kilimanjaro the cup has an intense dry fragrance; strong caramel sweetness, dark fruits and berry notes. There seems to be a bolder plum fruit note in the TWP fragrance. The wet aromatics have an almost minty liveliness to them, with honey and butter as well. There are mature fruits in both coffees, raisin and plum. The TWP has a touch of woodyness and apple fruit, whereas the KP is slightly floral on the break. The cup flavors are outstanding. There's a very sweet cinnamon spice in the cup at the lighter roast level, pairing well with orange tea notes. I preferred City+ roast, with violet floral note (especially in KP), black cherry, marmalade, currant fruits, a touch of Meyer lemon and black tea. The fruits have a slightly winey, ripe tonality to them. The body is medium, and pairs well with a malty-sweet roast taste at City+ roast. The volatile aromas on the cup are just fantastic. It is the best of what really high grown Central coffees can be ...it's what many other coffees wish they could be. After you cup a lot of Centrals, you key in on the qualities that this cup has in abundance and amplitude. I find the KP slightly sweeter in the finish with ripe, dark cherry notes. Again a tea-like note, perhaps slight wood accent comes out in the finish of the TWP. I am not sure that has to do with the process, precisely, but it's part of why I can see the KP scoring 2-3 points higher in comparison.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Sorting coffee cherry after picking at Finca Kilimanjaro
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: October 2011 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: "Kenia Bourbon"
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Bright, dynamic cup, complex and sweet
Roast: City+ to Full City: takes a wide range of roasts. If the lighter roasts are too bright for you, try FC roast. It will still have a bright tone to the cup.
Compare to: One of the nicest, classic, bright Central American coffees I have cupped, but with a decidedly African hint to the cup character.
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El Salvador Finca El Manzano

Finca El Manzano is 10 miles to the southeast of Santa Ana town, owned by Margarita Diaz de Lopez who is the great granddaughter of Cornelio Lemus who founded the farm in 1872. The farm is a true coffee estate, growing, wet-milling, dry-milling and exporting coffee from the one location. While total production is around 700,000 lbs, the Beneficio has been built to handle small lots. This 100% Bourbon varietal was all harvested from the same plot on the farm, from the higher altitude nearing averaging 1400 meters. The coffee is processed using the forced demucilage method that results in the same taste as traditional wet-processing, but uses much less water. A remarkable aspect of the coffees here is the quality of the fruit selection. Earlier this year we witnessed the hand-sorted coffee cherry arriving and the dark red ripeness level was astounding. This shows as balance and sweetness in the cup.

Finca El Manzano has a soft and pleasant wet aroma, with the scent of cane syrup, slight fruit hints of peach with a bit of banana. Darker roasts have a molasses and aromatic wood sweetness. The wet aroma has nutty tones of almond-walnut and a touch sandal wood, with raw honey as well. The cup has a nice brightness in light roasts, red apple fruit, and creamy body. The medium City+ roast is the best for brewed coffee, with a bracing brightness, pleasant tightness in the high notes, and a Muscavado sugar sweet finish. Lightest (City) roasts have some fruit skin astringency in the finish. I roasted one batch a bit into 2nd crack and found the coffee lost some of its dynamic qualities and seemed rather flat. So City+ to Full City+ is the best range here, before 2nd crack. We had some nice SO espresso at Full City roast as well.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Fantastically ripe coffee cherry at Finca EL Manzano, earlier this year.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHG EP
Region: Manzano, Las Cruces, Santa Ana
Processing: Wet-Process Style
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival - GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity/ Creamy body, apple brightness, balance
Roast: City+ to Full City+. See the full review for details.
Compare to: Balanced El Salvador coffees, nice body, espresso uses.
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El Salvador La Montanita Pacamara

La Montanita is a coffee we have bought for years now, and the special Pacamara lot from this farm has always been good. Owned by Antonio Rene Aguilar Lemus, it is a fairly small farm of 17.5 Hecatares in total. Pacamara is a cross between a naturally-occurring hybrid Pacas and the so-called "elephant-bean" cultivar, Maragogype (known for it's low-yield trees with huge bean size). The result is a non-traditional cup character with medium body, bright and lively acidity and unusual flavor profiles. The farm was handed down through the Aguilar family. The Aguilars run their own wet-mill so all steps of the coffee cultivation and processing are under the control of the farm. While the farm is not organic certified, it could be; the Aguilars do not use herbicides and practices manual weed control. They use organic fertilizers like chicken manure, coffee pulp and they count on nature for insect control. La Montanita is located in the Alotepec Mountain Range and has excellent altitude for coffee (1460 meters, 4790 feet) which accounts for the slowly-maturing, dense coffee seeds and better acidity in the cup. But in the case of Pacamara, a lot of the cup character comes from this unusual cultivar. La Montanita placed several times in the Cup of Excellence, including #2 place in 2006 and #3 in 2010. We offered this coffee many times going back to 2004, when we bought the CoE lot.

The cup is really outstanding! The dry fragrance from the grounds has sweet molasses-caramel, raisin, plum, malt. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics have a lot of spice, cinnamon stick in particular, aromatic wood, fig and black currant jam on the break. The cup has strong fruit-forward character from hot to cool, intensifying as the coffee looses temperature. It's a juicy cup, with strawberry-rhubarb, pomegranate and apple flavors. There is a hibiscus floral note as well, with hints of mulling spices. For a Pacamara, it has very good body and exceptional balance, a darker flavor profile than expected, with slight suggestions of Indonesia-like foresty flavors. As you can see, this coffee inspires many flavor descriptors! Darker roasts have a scotch malt roast taste. While the flavor profile is affected greatly by roast level, I liked the results all along the roast spectrum, from City+ to Full City.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Pacamara is a large bean cross between Pacas and Maragogype.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: El Tunel, La Palma, Chalatenango
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: October 2011 Arrival -Grain Pro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-20+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold / Unique flavor profile for this origin
Roast: City+ to Full City roast.
Compare to: A fruited, sweet cup. Unusual among the El Salvador coffees, a character driven more by the cultivar (Pacamara) than the origin.
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El Salvador Cascara Coffee Tea

Coffee, or tea, or both? Cascara is the skin of the coffee cherry. When you wet-process coffee, the skin is difficult to save, and usually becomes part of the compost mix for the farm. But in Arabia and Africa, the skin of the cherry is used to make a very potent tea called Qishr (also spelled Kisher). In fact, making a tea from the dried coffee fruit pre-dates roasting the coffee seed to crush and steep in water, coffee as we know it. And even today, the price of Qishr is higher than the price of coffee in an Arabic market. Aida Batlle, who produces some of our most amazing Central American coffees (Finca Kilimanjaro, Aida's Grand Reserve), started to save and dry the coffee fruit skins from her small dry-processing experiments. Cascara is the name used in Central America for these fruit skins, and a perfect name for the tea made from them as well. If you like fruit-blend herbal teas, especially those with fruited flavors like hibiscus, rose-hips, tamarind, orange peel, mango, apple, you should like Cascara tea a lot. It makes amazing iced tea as well, and with a very moderate amount of honey can be very pleasant. The best way to make Cascara tea is in a French Press, or you can use any method you would use for preparing herbal tea. Brewing like filtered coffee does not work well. Cascara benefits from a long steep time (8 minutes), and you can make it a bit strong, then add water (or pour over ice) to taste. Traditionally, Qishr has additions of cardamom pods and sugar while brewing, and that is another interesting preparation with Cascara as well. Does it have caffeine? Yes, since all parts of the coffee plant do ...but we don't know how much, and it will certainly depend on steep time and the amount used to make each cup.

Cascara has a raisin-prune smell, clean and clearly fruited. It definitely smells like dried hibiscus flower, also used to make Jamaica, the iced sweet tea found in Mexico. As soon as you add water you can smell tamarind as well, the other popular Latin iced tea. As mentioned, the flavors of many dried fruits come out in this tea: hibiscus, tamarind, raisin, plum/prune, dried passion fruit, and mango. I feel that it benefits from a little sweetener; I have used a moderate amount of honey with good results. It's best to experiment with steep times and additives to find the combination that works best for your taste. Possibilities for the use of Cascara tea seem endless; cooking, sauces, baking, beer brewing. It's a tea. But it's coffee. It's unique.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

While not super pretty, Cascara coffee tea makes for a unique fruited cup.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: n/a
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Dry Process
Arrival Date: October 2011 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: n/a
Varietal: Skin from Typica, Bourbon and Kenya
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Super fruited tea!
Roast: You don't need to roast Cascara, brew it as is. But in parts of Ethiopia they do roast it slightly in a pan, which affects the flavors in an interesting way. Experiment!
Compare to: Fruit blend teas, especially with rose hips, hibiscus, and passion fruit skins.
 
 
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El Salvador Manzano Process Experiment - 3 lb set

Finca El Manzano is located 10 miles to the southeast of Santa Ana and is owned by Margarita Diaz de Lopez who is the great granddaughter of Cornelio Lemus who founded the farm in 1872. The farm is home to the cutting edge Beneficio De Manzano established by CuatroM Single Origin Coffees in 2005. CuatroM has sold coffee from El Manzano to Atlas Coffees for the last couple of years, and they introduced us to this really exciting and unique opportunity to look at El Manzano's coffee processing experiments. While total production is around 700,000 lbs, the Beneficio has been built to carefully handle small lots, and in this case offer 3 different processing methods of the same coffee. This 100% Bourbon varietal was all harvested from the same plot (identified as Tablon 4B La Cascajera at 1450-1500 meters), on the same day, (2/14/11), and then processed using three different methods: Wet Process, Pulp Natural, and Full Natural (Dry Process). The coffee was brought to the Beneficio after harvest and then through a cleverly designed receiving station were separated to go to either the pulper and then fermentation tanks, or the demucilager and then to patio drying, or straight to the drying patios (after a careful cleansing of the whole fruit). Usually when looking at the differences that these processing methods give to the coffee, there is not the same level of control in that the coffee was most likely harvested and processed at different times, from different plots at different altitudes, and could very well be a blend of various varietals. In this experiment, Emilio Lopez Diaz (the VP of CuatroM), wanted to get as clear a picture as possible of the difference processing method makes. We are offering this experiment as a 3-pack of one pound of each of the three processes because we feel that this a unique learning opportunity not just in understanding the taste differences of these processes, but the roasting differences as well. Watch how each process reacts leading up to and during the first crack: the washed coffee (and the pulp natural to a slightly lesser extent) seem to resist the crack and need a little more of a push, while the full natural moves into the crack and it was vital not to let it run away. We will start a thread on the SM forum again this year since I am curious to find out what other peoples' experiences are with these coffees.

Cupping these coffees is an exciting intellectual experience. There is a pronounced difference in the cup, but at the same time a very logical progression of the development of certain flavors and characteristics which show how similar the coffees are as well. The coffee itself is sweet and bright, not a lot of delicate floral notes, but the transformation is clear. One interesting thing was that my scores increased with the amount of coffee cherry that was left on the parchment; meaning, in my opinion the natural was the best of the three, with the pulp natural being second, and the washed lacked the complexity and dimensions offered in the two other processes. The score on the spider graph reflects the full natural process, but I have individual scores for each process at the end of their respective cupping notes. Generally where the scoring differed was in the body-mouthfeel and the depth of flavor categories. Wet Process: Orange/citrus on the dry aroma, some almond and orange on the darker roasts. Honey sweetness on the wet aroma and break with bright lemon notes and more of the almond on the darker roast. Sweet and clean, with slight vanilla character when warm. As the cup cools there's some pear and lemon and the continued honey sweetness. This coffee cools very nicely with lemon citrus with a bit of a cardamom, the totally cool cup very much reminded me of a belgian wit bier. The acidity really holds up and I added points as it cooled more and more, but I have to say that it did not hold up to the darker roasts. While the aroma and warm cup had a pleasant almond note, that note took on a more harsh quality as the cup cooled. On the second day out of the roaster, there is still great definition in this cup. City+ is probably ideal here. - Score: 86.4 Pulp Natural: Raisin and spice on the dry aroma, more spice on the darker roast. Rich wild honey on the break with some berry traces. The sweetness has definitely intensified, and there's a light syrup quality to the mouthfeel and a longer, sweeter finish. The fruit is more apple and melon than lemon and pear, and even a bit more like a cider. There's a muddled quality (like fruit and spices or botanicals in a cocktail) in the cup, but it's sweet and it's not a dirty quality. The second day out of the roaster, this quality also supports a candied nuttiness. I found a similar attribute in the PN last year, especially in comparison to the MW. This coffee was really similar in the range of roasts, a bit more spice and chocolate notes in the darker roasts but with a similar acidity and relationship between the acidity and the body. This coffee is very much about sweetness and mouthfeel and can produce some nice SO espresso as well as being a great component in an espresso blend. This coffee scored a bit higher due to intensified sweetness, but some cuppers might knock it for having less clarity than the MW. - Score: 86.8 Natural (Dry Process): Potent berry notes on the dry aroma, with just a bit of carob which gave it an earthy nuttiness. The darker roasts are sweeter chocolate laced with blueberry. The break shows the chocolate, berry, and carob fully realized. The warm cup has a certain breadiness to it with some malt sweetness paired with the chocolate notes. The fruit is prominent throughout the cup. There's blue and blackberry in the front of the palate and then black cherry and plum in a long syrupy finish. This was the best of the 3 at a darker roast, dark fruit and dark chocolate, should be an excellent component in an espresso blend or as an SO shot. Very impressed with the "stability" of the fruity Natural Processed character, from hot to cold it stayed consistent except for growing a bit sweeter with just a bit of the nutty earthiness to give it some texture. On day 2, there's more huckleberry in the finish, and perfumy flower like a plumeria. For complexity and for this stability this was the highest scorer of the 3. - Score: 87.5





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The depulping station at work. Depulping is done only at night.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHG EP
Region: Las Cruces, Santa Ana
Processing: Washed, Semi-Washed, Natural (Dry Process)
Arrival Date: 2011
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity/ Fruited notes are are crisp and bright in the Washed process, deeper and sweeter in the Natural Dry process. Pulped Natural has a muddled fruit character, more texture in the body.
Roast: City+ to Full City
Compare to: Bright and light to medium bodied Central American profile, processing methods add body, fruited notes, and sweetness
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El Salvador La Divina Providencia

Not far from Finca Siberia is a small farm called La Divina Providencia. It is in the Palo de Campana canton of Santa Ana district. The farm was bought 9 years ago by its current owner, Roberto Ulloa, and was in poor condition then. During a period of historic low prices, the "coffee crises" as people call it, many farms were abandoned. It made no sense to farm coffee; you lost money with each bag you produced. Roberto saw potential in this farm, situated at 1600 meters on average, and made quality improvements. He re-planted coffee shrubs, and built a traditional wet mill to process his own coffee cherry. This is the first year we have offered the coffee, but I was really attracted by the cup quality.

The fragrance from the dry grounds has a reverberant sweetness, brown sugar and butterscotch. There is an orange essence present too, and this comes out more adding the hot water. Orange-mandarin scents emerge in the wet aroma, with citrus flower and a caramel backdrop. The cup has a fine brightness, well-defined and crisp acidity, with orange-peach fruited sweetness. A refined honey flavor comes out as the cup temperature drops, and graham cracker roast taste at lighter roasts. It's not a powerhouse coffee, but a nice delicate cup that intensifies on the palate as it cools. The finish turns toward a pleasant tartness, peach skins - lemon tea. It makes me think that a light roast of this would make a great afternoon iced coffee too...





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New coffee shrubs at the nursery, El Salvador
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Palo de Campana, Santa Ana
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Kenya
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Crisp brightness, clean fruited notes, light body, honey finish
Roast: City+ to Full City. Full City+ works well for espresso.
Compare to: A very refined take on El Salvador Bourbon type coffees, with added orange-floral accents.
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El Salvador Finca Matalapa Peaberry

Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the love of archaic machinery on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's not the highest farm around, but the coffee cups out so well. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal.

This coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet praline, honey and orange notes at City+, and a raw sugar sweetness at Full City roast. You can find the same sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with almond and toffee sweet scent, with a piney hint too. The cup is bright in the light roasts, with a nice, bracing orange acidity, and laced with slight floral qualities. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic, lemony with a cinnamon note and malty grain sweetness. Light roasts have a correspondingly light body, but it fits the high-toned, refreshing flavor profile overall. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned. But the FC roast had a very nice sweetness and balance between roast taste, brightness and body. But if you like a more bittersweet cup with softer acidity, FC roast works great too. Overall this Peaberry lot is the brighter, livelier version of the Matalapa flat bean coffee, and excellent brewed in a vacuum pot, dripper or Technivorm. It's a very small crop again this year, and Vickie could produce only 6 bags of peaberry for us this year. But still, we are excited about the cup quality of this coffee.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Roberto, the manager, and Vickie at Matalapa mill
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: La Libertad District
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 16 PB Screen
Varietal: Pacas and some Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright cup, mild citrus, sweet
Roast: City+ to Full City
Compare to: Classic peaberry coffee, sweet and clean with bracing acidity. A competition-winning espresso and #10 in the 2008 El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
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El Salvador Santa Ana Naranjo

This is a lot from the El Naranjo area of Santa Ana, El Salvador. Nearly all of our coffee from El Salvador comes from the vicinity of Santa Ana town. This coffee is brought as fresh-picked cherry from Naranjo to the CuatroM Mill near Las Cruces for processing. It is depulped using the ecological machine wash process, which results in a coffee akin to traditional wet-processing, although the fermentation step is skipped. We call it forced demucilage process because it uses water pressure and friction to scrub the clingy fruit layer from the parchment that coats the coffee seed. I watched as the coffee cherry was delivered to the mill, and the even level of deep red ripeness was impressive. The mill also floats the coffee cherry for density before pulping, which improves fruit selection as well. Farms in this area are planted extensively in older Bourbon types, or the slightly newer Tekisic Bourbon, and some percentage of Pacas (which is a Bourbon mutation).

I roasted this to 3 different levels and the coffee does really well throughout the roast range; it's a versatile coffee. The dry fragrance has a sweet milk chocolate tone, a hazelnut hint, with a slight red apple fruit and floral sweetness. The wet aroma is malty in the lighter roasts, and actually has increased sweetness with darker levels, at Full City. The cup is impressive for it's balance and body. There is a brightness at all roast levels, a mild citric acidity that provides liveliness to the cup. It's more pronounced in the lighter roasts, whereas at Full City it is integrated into a dark brown sugar roast sweetness. As it cools the lightest roasts turn toward a green apple puckery quality, where darker levels have a resonant sweetness, heavier body, with a hint of cinnamon stick spice to go with syrupy sweetness. Full City roast makes a wonderful SO espresso as well.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ripe coffee cherry arriving at the mill, earlier this year.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHG EP
Region: Naranjo, Santa Ana
Processing: Wet-Process Style
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival - GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Tekisic, Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity/ Balance, moderate brightness, sweetness in darker roasts
Roast: While the coffee is brighter and livelier a City roast, Full City has a deep sweetness and balance
Compare to: Balanced El Salvador coffees
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El Salvador Manzano Dry-Process

This is a dry-processed coffee from an origin that produces wet-processed type coffees. We have had natural El Salvadors before, and I still have reservations about doing dry-processing in areas that might not have the ideal climate for it. Harar is ideal for dry-process, Yemen too, but El Salvador? Dry process coffee is created by picking ripe cherry and instead of peeling off the skin and fermenting off the fruit layer (or forcing it off by machine) the whole cherry is laid out to dry. This lot is done at the Finca El Manzano mill, and to get this whole coffee "pod" dry in a reasonable amount of time, they follow up sun-drying with tumbling the coffee in a Guardiola type coffee drier. (You can see the dried brown pods in the picture with this review, which is coffee from this exact lot photographed at the mill in February this year). The result is a well-processed natural coffee, fruity and wild, and without musty off notes. If you haven't tried it, the difference between wet process and dry process is quite dramatic.

This coffee has a very heavily fruited fragrance from the dry grounds, raisiny, melon, dry banana, sorghum syrup and wild honey, as well as a hint of tobacco. We aroma has a strong, rustic molasses syrup quality, mulling spices, and the dark roasts have a rummy note. This definitely is nothing like your wet-process Salvador coffee! The cup assures this: strong fruity tastes, heavy body, rustic sweetness. The body is jammy. I want to use the term sticky; is that going too far? It seems appropriate. Ripe melon, dried banana, peach and mango; there's a cornucopia of fruits in this cup. The sweetness is palpable, finishing with a rustic twist, a chicory-like aftertaste. Darker roasts coalesce around semi-sweet chocolate roast taste, with that multi-fruited complexity providing more of a backdrop than hogging the spotlight. Acidity is low, a shift in the typical El Salvador profile toward the tenor-bass range of flavors overall. I found this coffee works under a wide range of roasts depending on preference; light roasts being more fruit-forward. If you like natural coffees, you can't go wrong.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Dry process "pods" are whole coffee cherries dried intact.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHG EP
Region: Las Cruces, Santa Ana
Processing: Dry-Process
Arrival Date: July 2011 Arrival - GrainPro Bags
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold Intensity/ Rustic fruity flavors, body, chocolate, low acidity
Roast: City+ to Full City is ideal. See the review notes. If you want more of a fruit cup coffee, try City+, for chocolate laced with fruit, try FC+
Compare to: More like a natural Ethiopia Harar than anything typical of Central America.
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El Salvador Finca Matalapa Peaberry 2010

Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the love of archaic machinery on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal.

This coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet citrus, praline, honey and floral notes at City+, and a syrupy molasses sweetness at Full City roast. You can find the same sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with butter-caramel and Almond Roca scents. The cup is bright, with bracing orange acidity, laced with slight floral bits. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic, lemony with a cinnamon note and malty grain sweetness. Light roasts have a correspondingly light body, but it fits the high-toned, refreshing flavor profile overall. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. I felt the Full City roast level was a little more pedestrian. But if you like a more bittersweet cup with softer acidity, FC roast works great too. Overall this Peaberry lot is the brighter, livelier version of the Matalapa flat bean coffee, and excellent brewed in a vacuum pot, dripper or Technivorm. It's a very small crop this year, and Vickie could produce only 5 bags of peaberry for us, compared to 22 last year! But still, we are excited about the cup quality of this coffee.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Our peaberry, stored in parchment for the "reposo" (resting stage) at Matalapa mill, a couple months ago.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad District
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 16 PB Screen
Varietal: Pacas and Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright cup, mild citrus, sweet
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above
Compare to: Classic peaberry coffee with orange and cinnamon highlights, and bracing acidity. A competition-winning espresso and #10 in the 2008 El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
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El Salvador Finca Siberia Pacamara

Siberia is a farm we have worked with for some years now. It's a pleasure to know the owners, Carmen and Rafael Silva Hoff. It has a great track record in the Cup of Excellence for their Bourbon varietal coffees, and we value Siberia Bourbon as a balanced straight roast, or in espresso blends. As with previous years, I was very impressed again with the Pacamara cultivar coffee from Siberia in 2010. Some Pacamara coffees can be more herbal and oniony, not something many people want in their coffee. This lot is very clean, sweet, floral and citrusy. This coffee is from one of the best and most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1300-1450 meters. Ironically it is not far from other farms we buy from, as the crow flies that is. But the drive to the farm is circuitous and takes hours on some of the dustiest roads I think I have ever been on!

So sweet, floral, brightly fruited ...This coffee can be a little hard to roast, partly due to the large bean size, but that should not stop anyone from trying. In air roasters, cut back on the batch a little. It seems to finish fast, so when you hear first crack start, pay close attention and be prepared, or you may miss your roast level target. And for that I recommend City+ roast. The dry fragrance is beautiful, sweet floral, ripe orange and red fruits, cane sugar. The wet aroma is very sweet as well: light brown sugar, caramel sauce, sweet peach, delicate flower blossom scents. I get cinnamon toast notes along with the soft floral accents. The cup has juicy red apple flavors, hibiscus ...like the tea called "Jamaica" (pronounced Ha-my-ka) in Latin countries. It's sweet, and the aromas persist through the sapid flavors on the palate; it has what they call "after-nose". The body is light, but suits the cup character overall. In the finish there is a root beer sweetness as the cup cools. I liked the darker roasts I did as well, with dark brown sugar flavors and a more pungent spice note. But I admit I did some of those by accident. Keep an eye on this coffee in the roaster! Note: Because of the large bean size of this coffee, I strongly recommend that you measure this out by weight, not by volume, when brewing.



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The unique and large shape of the Pacamara coffee cherry, at Siberia earlier this year.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: May 2011 Arrival GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-20 screen
Varietal: Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Floral and fruit tones, sweetness, clean cup
Roast: City+ had all the floral and sweet juicy fruited notes. FC and FC+ have dark brown sugar and more pungent spice flavors. See the roast notes, and keep an eye on this one as you get into first crack. It tends to pass from C+ to FC+ very quickly
Compare to: Pacamaras are a bit exotic, unlike the typical coffees from Salvador. You might even call them mild Gesha-like coffees when they are like this lot, for their fruit and floral hints.
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El Salvador Finca Siberia Bourbon

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield than modern types like Catuai, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolaty and have a creamy mouthfeel. Bourbons should be appreciated for more than their sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components) and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown up to 1450 meters, and 100% Bourbon cultivar. We bought it before as a 23rd place coffee in the Cup of Excellence, and it has been as high as 6th place in previous competitions. The farm was founded in 1870 and is managed by Rafael Silva Hoff, representing the 4th generation of the Silva family to run the farm! The name Siberia refers to the chaotic weather at this altitude, and inaccessibility of the farm in the past. The coffee is processed using a traditional fermentation technique that draws out a bit more fruit and sweetness from this coffee.

It's a versatile coffee, which works well in espresso and drip type brewing. I did a very light City roast and the cup was lemony, sweet, zingy, mildly floral. I did a City + roast that had creamy nut tones with ripe orange underneath, and a cinnamon accent. I did a FC, and FC+, a light Vienna, and with each the cup had great character, chocolate tonality becoming more intense and bittersweet as the roast darkened, but never becoming flat, ashy or carbony. The wet aroma has a mild hoppy floral note, orange sweetness, and some malt syrupy qualities in the light roasts, like a mild IPA ale. I highly recommend this lot for espresso, SO Espresso if you can extend the roast, finish slowly, tone down some of the brightness a bit in the final extraction. We love it as an espresso blend base, rather than soft Brazil coffees. It gives a classic espresso bittersweet flavor, and performs so well in the roaster.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Rafael and Carmen at Finca Siberia
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: May 2011 Arrival GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic Bourbon balance, mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC to Vienna - highly versatile.. A slow FC++ roast is ideal for espresso
Compare to: Classic, balanced Bourbon coffee.
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El Salvador Molino de Santa Rita

This coffee is from the farm adjacent to El Molino coffee mill. It's a big old school wet-process mill that has turned out great coffee forever. Besides using a traditional process and sun drying on the old brick patios (something peculiar to El Salvador coffee culture), the coffee trees themselves are the old Bourbon types. I have seen 80-year-old trunks on the farm at El Molino, still producing a heavy load of fruit. Bourbon (pronounced "bore-bone" and originating from the island of Bourbon, now called Reunion) is a classic cultivar that gives a compact and well-structured flavor profile. It's not a flashy cup; it's restrained and balanced. In El Salvador, older trees are called Bourbon and newer types (still Bourbon) are called Tekisic. There is really no difference between the two. In any case, the result of terroir, plant material, and processing is a very balanced coffee that is so versatile, great as brewed coffee or for use in espresso.

The fragrance from the dry coffee grounds is dominated by a hazelnut-almond nutty scent, with toffee sweetness. Light roasts have a touch of sweet grain scent, steamy porridge, and that comes through in the wet aromatics as well. This coffee can take a wide range of roasts. Lighter roasts (City to City+) have a sweet orange hint, with malty sweetness and almond suggestions. The body seems thin when the coffee is fresh, but develops quite a bit after several days of rest. Darker roasts in the Full City range or more are much more dominated by semi-sweet chocolate, although some clean-fruited hints are detectable in the background. I highly recommend this lot for espresso, SO Espresso if you can extend the roast, finish slowly, tone down some of the brightness a bit in the final extraction. We love it as an espresso blend base, rather than soft Brazil coffees. It gives a classic espresso bittersweet flavor, and performs so well in the roaster.





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Coffee cherry being separated for denisty before pulping. El Salvador
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Rita
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: March 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Balanced body, brightness and nut-to-chocolate roast tastes
Roast: City to Full City+ and beyond. This is a very versatile selection
Compare to: Classic Bourbon character, balance, great as brewed coffee or for espresso uses.
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El Salvador Finca El Majahual

El Majahual is part of a larger farm that was divided some years back. THe lot we offered from Finca La Florida is a lower part of the same original farm, while Majahual (say Ma-Ha-Wall) is on the steeper slopes at higher altitude. Majahual averages 1500 meters although much of the farm is higher up. I visited in April and was amazed by the 50 to 80 year old Bourbon trees. There is a minority percentage of Pacas at El Majahual, which is a local type of Bourbon as well. The trees at the farm seemed so healthy, with great coffee production on branches from top to bottom, despite their age. It proves that long-term, traditional farming techniques can result in good production volumes and cup quality too, rather than new techniques that exhaust small hybrid plants that must then be replaced every 10 years.

From the ground coffee, the fragrance ranges from praline and chocolate malted milk balls. While pouring the hot water caramel-butter scents emerge, with chocolate syrup and cocoa powder as well. There are nut notes as well, pecan and almond. It's a very rounded and balanced aromatic image this cup paints, which suggests the old Bourbon cultivar that comprises most of this coffee. The cup taste stays true to the aromatics; rounded, balanced, full body, mild. Cocoa chocolate notes combine well with almond roast tones to give a confection-like character, finishing with a slightly tannic almond skin bittering accent. There's a very mild rose-like floral flavor in the cup, as well as a dash or warming spices. While mild as drip or press coffee, El Majahual is really intense and wonderful as espresso. I made SO espresso shots from City+ to FC+ roasts and found it performed well all along the spectrum. Classic espresso flavors of chocolate bittersweets have a nice bright note, gingerbread spice flavors, and a long finish.



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Lush green and forested conditions at Finca El Majahual.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Los Naranjos, Juayua, Sonsonate
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: 82% Bourbon, 18% Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic balance, chocolate and nut roast notes
Roast: FC is ideal
Compare to: Classic Central American character; a balanced Bourbon coffee
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El Salvador Siberia Estate Bourbon 2010

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield than modern types like Catuai, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolaty and have a creamy mouthfeel. Bourbons should be appreciated for more than their sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components) and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1450 meters, 100% Bourbon. We bought it before as a 23rd place coffee in the Cup of Excellence, and it has been as high as 6th place in previous competitions. The farm was founded in 1870 and is managed by Rafael Silva Hoff, representing the 4th generation of the Silva family to run the farm! The name Siberia refers to the chaotic weather at this altitude, and inaccessibility of the farm in the past.

It's a versatile coffee, which works well in espresso and drip type brewing. I did a very light City roast and the cup was lemony, sweet, zingy, mildly floral. I did a City + roast that had creamy nut tones with ripe orange underneath, and a cinnamon accent. I did a FC, and FC+, a light Vienna, and with each the cup had great character, chocolate tonality becoming more intense and bittersweet as the roast darkened, but never becoming flat, ashy or carbony. The wet aroma has a hoppy floral note and some malt sweetness in the light roasts, like a mild IPA brew. I highly recommend this lot for espresso, SO Espresso if you can extend the roast, finish slowly, tone down some of the brightness a bit in the final extraction. We love it as an espresso blend base, rather than soft Brazil coffees. It gives a classic espresso bittersweet flavor, and performs so well in the roaster.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Harvesting red Bourbon varietal coffee cherry, El Salvador.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic Bourbon balance, mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC to Vienna - highly versatile.. A slow FC++ roast is ideal for espresso
Compare to: Classic, balanced Bourbon coffee.
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El Salvador FInca Matalapa "Las Matalapitas"

This is a special small bean lot of Matalapa, hence the name Las Matalapitas. Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the mechanical love of the archaic on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slope ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I look for in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. The crop from Matalapa is very low this year, and Vickie suggested I cup the small bean preparation to see what I thought. It's something we have done in Costa Rica with great result. I was impressed with the cup. It was brighter and more dynamic than the larger bean preparation. I prefer the lighter roasts of this lot. The dry fragrance has sweet nuts in the light roast, almost like almond praline. The wet aroma has sweet grain smells; barley, as well as the nutty sweetness I already mentioned. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet orangey citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy malt sweetness (C+ roast). It has a buttery body, laced with slight floral and orange blossom accents, where darker roasts tend to be more monochrome, but have a nice dark caramel sweetness. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and Full City roasts produce a great bittersweet, full-bodied cup. Really balanced, classic coffees like this might have very even numerical scores across the board, and not break into 87+ scoring, but they are the kind of coffee you want to drink every morning!



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Roberto, the mill manager, and Vickie, at Beneficio Paraiso.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 15 screen
Varietal: Pacas and Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, classic cup, sweet, orange notes
Roast: City to Full City roast.
Compare to: Classic Bourbon-type coffee with syrupy sweetness, great balance, body.
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El Salvador La Montañita Pacamara SHRUB

La Montanita is a coffee we have bought for years now. Owned by Antonio Rene Aguilar Lemus, it is a fairly small farm of 17.5 Hecatares in total, planted entirely with the large-bean Pacamara cultivar. If you are not familiar with it, Pacamara is a cross between a naturally-occuring hybrid Pacas and the so-called "elephant-bean" cultivar, Maragogype (know for it's low-yield trees with huge bean size). The result is a non-traditional cup character with medium body, bright and lively acidity and unusual flavor profiles. The farm was handed down through the Aguilar family. The Aguilars run their own wet-mill so all steps of the coffee cultivation and processing are under the control of the farm. While the farm is not organic certified, it could be; the Aguilars do not use herbicides and practices manual weed control. They uss organic fertilizers like chicken manure, coffee pulp and they count on nature for insect control. La Montanita is located in the Alotepec Mountain Range and has excellent altitude for coffee (1460 meters, 4790 feet) which accounts for the slowly-maturing, dense coffee seeds and better acidity in the cup. But in the case of Pacamara, a lot of the cup character comes from this unusual cultivar. La Montañita placed several times in the Cup of Excellence, including #2 place in 2006 and #3 in 2010. We actually offered this coffee way back in 2004, when we bought the CoE lot.

The cup is really outstanding! The dry fragrance from the grounds has sweet molasses and caramel syrup, aromatic wood, raisin, dried plum, malt. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics have a lot of spice, cinnamon stick in particular, but there are also lush floral aspects, tropical fruits and strawberry jam on the break. The cup has strong fruit-forward character from hot to cool, intensifying as the coffee looses temperature. It's a very juicy cup, with strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry and crisp apple cider flavors. There is a hibiscus floral note as well. For a Pacamara, it has very good body and exceptional balance, a darker flavor profile than expected, with suggestions of Indonesia-like foresty flavors. As you can see, this coffee inspires many flavor descriptors! Darker roasts have a scotch malt roast taste. While the flavor profile is affected greatly by roast level, I liked the results all along the roast spectrum, from C+ to FC.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Pacamara is a large bean cross between Pacas and Maragogype.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: El Tunel, La Palma, Chalatenango
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: September 2010 Arrival (Vac bag
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 19-20+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold / Unique flavor profile for this origin
Roast: City+ to Full City roast.
Compare to: A heavily fruited, sweet cup. Unusual among the El Salvador coffees, a character driven more by the cultivar (Pacamara) than the origin.
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El Salvador Finca La Florida

Finca La Florida is part of a larger farm that was divided some years back. La Florida was considered the nicer land because of it\'s gentle slope and rich soils. While lower in altitude than the surrounding terrain, it was the oldest plantings in the area. Still, at 1400 meters it is quite high in altitude. I visited in April and was amazed by the 50 to 80 year old Bourbon trees. They seemed so healthy, with great coffee production on branches from top to bottom. It proves that long-term, traditional farming techniques can result in good production volumes and cup quality too, rather than new techniques that exhaust small hybrid plants that must then be replaced every 10 years. Our lot of coffee comes from a particular \"Tablon,\" which means a board or plank, but refers to a plot of land marked off and harvested separately. Our Tablon Los Tanques lot is pure Bourbon varietal, and I found the cup very versatile throughout the roast range. Lighter roasts have a citrus brightness, darker roasts make great drip brew or SO espresso.

From the ground coffee, the fragrance ranges from praline and malted grain notes in the light roast to milky chocolate at Full City level. Soft orange hints are apparent. While pouring the hot water, pungent dark chocolate bitterness wafts out, as well as sweet caramel-butter scents. In the cup too is a great balance off bittersweet flavors. City+ roast, through first crack and then some, is where this coffee really starts working. Mild citrus and red berry notes provide brightness, with caramel sweetness and slight chocolate bittersweetness. Darker roasts have a more weighty, creamy body, but still tending toward the lighter end of the spectrum. It's a very balanced cup, part of why it makes a wonderful SO espresso!



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A new leaf emerges from an old pruned Bourbon tree trunk, Finca La Florida
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Apaneca, Santa Ana
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic Bourbon balance, citrus notes, versatility
Roast: City+ to FC to Vienna - highly versatile.. A slow FC++ roast is ideal for espresso
Compare to: Classic Central American character; a balanced Bourbon coffee with sweet citrus and berry accents.
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El Salvador Cup of Excellence La Pinera Pacamara

La Pinera farm is located in the Cacahuatique mountain range in Ciudad Barrios, department of San Miguel. Indigenous peoples, the Lenca and Ulúa were established here, with its great natural resources. The region has abundant water, fertile land and dense forest in which animals like dear, tepezcuintles, and lion monkeys still live to this day. Many archeological artifacts have been found in this land as well. The Araujo Guerra Family has been producing coffee for more than a century but in the 1980s, due to the war in El Salvador, which started in Ciudad Barrios, many economic problems; unemployment and human loss blighted this area. Since the '90s, the Araujo Guerra Family started to re-build its land and decided to grow Pacamara coffee varietal. In fact, Finca La Pinera is one of the origins of Pacamaras coffee, its seeds have been spread through different areas of El Salvador and Central America, giving birth to many other Pacamara coffee farms. Due to this great achievement, Luis Alonso Araujo received a prize for Coffee Innovator Producer for Pacamara Variety in 1996.

This Pacamara coffee is different than others we have offered this year, Siberia and La Montanita. The dry fragrance has hazelnut, maple sweetness, and caramel candy. It's not fruited like the others. There's a mild apple scent in the wet aroma, but it's not a fruit bomb like Montanita. There are also sweet mulling spices (which pair well with the apple; spiced apple cider). On the break the cup has a strong roasted almond note, and this comes through in the cup flavors. Lighter roasts have a wonderful mandarin orange note, while Full City roast is more malic (apple-like) in it's brightness. The spices come through as well, cinnamon stick in particular, and especially in the finish. I think I like the slightly darker roast here, which has a more rounded body and more sweetness. The mild chocolate notes emerging at FC roast add another layer to an already multi-layered coffee.



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Large fruit form of ripe Pacamara cultivar coffee cherry.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Barrios, Cacahuatique, San Miguel
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Nov 2010 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 19-20+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold / Multi-layered flavors, spice, apple, mandarin
Roast: City+ to Full City+. See the notes above. Be aware that these large Pacamara beans will not agitate as easily in an air roaster, so reduce batch size slightly. Best to roast manually and stop at the verge of 2nd crack.
Compare to: Unusual among the El Salvador coffees, a character driven more by the cultivar (Pacamara) than the origin; fruited, exotic spice notes, sweet, unique.
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El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro farm is located on the highlands of the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, 40 minutes away from the city of Santa Ana. The Batlle family purchased the farm in 1983, and are the third generation of a coffee family. Aida Batlle (the daughter) takes care of this coffee plantation which is nearly 40 years old, and located in one of the oldest coffee-growing areas in the country. She is a "hands-on" coffee grower, seen often at the farm and monitoring all the aspects of the harvest. This coffee was the 1st place winner in the first Cup of Excellence held in El Salvador, 2003. They pay the workers well, with salaries double the usual rates, but also demand very high standards in picking and processing. The neat thing about Aida is, after winning, she has decided to take the small production from this 30-hectare farm and distribute it among just a few buyers. We get very little. And we all pay a healthy price for the coffee to support the farm's improvement. It's win-win for everyone. And this coffee is worth the effort - it's a fantastic, dynamic Central American coffee. The farm is on the Santa Ana volcanic slopes, and is planted with 80% Kenya cultivar, 15% Bourbon and 5% Pacas. There are definite hints of the Kenya character in this cup. Altitude is 1450 meters (4750 feet) and there are diverse shade trees on the farm including Pepeto Peludo, Copalchí, Cypress, Avocado and Peach.

The cup has an intense dry fragrance; strong caramel sweetness, dark fruits and berry notes. The wet aromatics have an almost minty liveliness to them, with honey and butter as well. There are mature fruits in the aroma too, raisin and plum. The cup flavors are outstanding. There's a very sweet cinnamon spice in the cup at the lighter roast level, pairing well with orange tea notes. At the lighter roasts there is jasmine flower, peppermint, a crisp brightness, with fresh raspberry and currant fruits, Meyer lemon, and black tea. The fruits have a winey tonality to them. The body is medium, and pairs well with a malty-sweet roast taste at City+ roast. The finish has fresh tea with lemon and mint. The volatile aromas on the cup are just fantastic. It is the best of what really high grown Central coffees can be ...it's what many other coffees wish they could be. After you cup a lot of Centrals, you key in on the qualities that this cup has in abundance and amplitude. And Aida's Kilimanjaro coffee shows that diligence, faith and investment in a farm can really pay off.



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The sign at the lower entrance to Finca Kilimanjaro, from my trip there this year.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: "Kenia Bourbon"
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Bright, dynamic cup.
Roast: City+ to Full City: takes a wide range of roasts. If the lighter roasts are too bright for you, try FC roast. It will still have a bright tone to the cup.
Compare to: One of the nicest, classic, bright Central American coffees I have cupped, but with a decidedly African cup character.
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El Salvador Manzano Process Experiment - 3 lb set

Finca El Manzano is located 10 miles to the southeast of Santa Ana and is owned by Margarita Diaz de Lopez who is the great granddaughter of Cornelio Lemus who founded the farm in 1872. The farm is home to the cutting edge Beneficio De Manzano established by CuatroM Single Origin Coffees in 2005. CuatroM has sold coffee from El Manzano to Atlas Coffees for the last couple of years, and they introduced us to this really exciting and unique opportunity to look at El Manzano's coffee processing experiments. While total production is around 700,000 lbs, the Beneficio has been built to carefully handle small lots, and in this case offer 3 different processing methods of the same coffee. This 100% Bourbon varietal was all harvested from the same plot (identified as the El Palmero plot), on the same day, (12/29/09), and then processed using three different methods: Wet Process, Pulp Natural, and Full Natural (Dry Process). The coffee was brought to the Beneficio after harvest and then through a cleverly designed receiving station were separated to go to either the pulper and then fermentation tanks, or the demucilager and then to patio drying, or straight to the drying patios (after a careful cleansing of the whole fruit). Usually when looking at the differences that these processing methods give to the coffee, there is not the same level of control in that the coffee was most likely harvested and processed at different times, from different plots at different altitudes, and could very well be a blend of various varietals. In this experiment, Emilio Lopez Diaz (the VP of CuatroM), wanted to get as clear a picture as possible of the difference processing method makes. We are offering this experiment as a 3-pack of one pound of each of the three processes because we feel that this a unique learning opportunity not just in understanding the taste differences of these processes, but the roasting differences as well. Watch how each process reacts leading up to and during the first crack: the washed coffee (and the pulp natural to a slightly lesser extent) seem to resist the crack and need a little more of a push, while the full natural moves into the crack and it was vital not to let it run away. I will start a thread on the SM forum since I am curious to find out what other peoples' experiences are with these coffees.

Cupping these coffees is a exciting intellectual experience. There is a pronounced difference in the cup, but at the same time a very logical progression of the development of certain flavors and characteristics which show how similar the coffees are as well. The coffee itself is sweet and bright, not a lot of delicate floral notes, but the transformation is clear. One interesting thing was that my scores increased with the amount of coffee cherry that was left on the parchment; meaning, in my opinion the natural was the best of the three, with the pulp natural being second, and the washed lacked the complexity and dimensions offered in the two other processes. The score on the spider graph reflects the full natural process, but I have individual scores for each process at the end of their respective cupping notes. Generally where the scoring differed was in the body-mouthfeel and the depth of flavor categories. Wet Process: The dry aroma has bright apple notes with added caramel sweetness at City and City+, and a full on molasses at Full City where this coffee begins to show smokiness as well. There is a classic malty sweetness in the wet aroma and the break. The cup is simple and clean, I kept thinking of the word "purity". A bright apple note, slightly brassy at first, and apple juice-like or thin satin body at City roast, with the apple taking on some deeper cranberry undertones in City+. The City+ roast level also opens up the middle a bit more, and the crispness of the apple isn't as prevalent in the finish. The malt and caramel in the City roast keeps growing sweeter and sweeter as it cools, and while there is a crisp bite to the acidity, it's never too sharp and never shows any vegetal qualities. Would not recommend a Full City roast for this coffee. Without any signs of crack in the drum, there was already a dominant smokiness to the cup that covered up all of the sweet and bright apple and cranberry notes. I found the City roast level to have the most clarity and articulation of flavors in the cup. 86.5 points Pulp Natural: The dry aroma of the City roast level has a fruit skin or zest note in it that carries through the wet aroma and the break. The cup has a sweet spice and raisin with again the fruit skin note that reminded me of the skin of a nectarine in a fruit salad. The skin note kind of cracks me up, since it is the skin of the coffee that was actually removed by the demucilager. There is a very textural middle with a general muddled quality to the body that's never earthy or harsh but reminiscent of a muddled cocktail with the sugary sweetness of a bruised stone fruit. The City roast does show some dry cereal or pie crust notes as it cools while the City+ roast has slight violet and lavender honey notes and a tanginess which is balanced with the viscous body. The Full City roast showed some smokiness but had a nice snappy nectarine in the middle and held it's sweetness well. Not as clarified as the washed process, but the added complexity to the body and depth of flavor gives it a slight edge point wise; although, because of the lack of clarity in the cup I could see some cuppers scoring this in the 85 range. 87.3 points Natural (Dry Process): Violet and fruit punch in the dry aroma at City, while City+ has a deep nectarine that turns more towards plum in the wet aroma with pie spices. The break promises a bowl full of various stone fruits in honey, and the first sips of both the City and City+ roasts are incredibly juicy, juicy down the wrist after the first bite juicy. The sweetness is intense, but never cloying, and the body just keeps getting more and more syrupy as the cup cools. For all the nectarine and plum and blackberry in this coffee and the rich syrupy body, it's actually not that complex. Just like the full washed process, there is a purity and clarity in the flavors presented here. The Full City roast shows less smoke than the two other processes at that level, and there is some presence of bitter chocolates along with buttery pie crust notes in the finish. I could see this as an espresso component or as a single origin shot itself. The City+ roast has the most balance between the tanginess, sweetness, and syrupy body. It is interesting to me to see the notes hinted at in the pulp natural become fully realized in this cup. Really sense that on the whole there is a very logical progression of characteristics in each process, and in the end that using the full natural dry process on this coffee improved on what was presented in the wet process. 89.9 points





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The depulping station at work. Depulping is done only at night.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHG EP
Region: Las Cruces, Santa Ana
Processing: Washed, Semi-Washed, Natural (Dry Process)
Arrival Date: 2009/2010
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity/ Fruited notes are are crisp and bright in the Washed process, deeper and sweeter in the Natural Dry process. Pulped Natural has a muddled fruit character, more texture in the body.
Roast: City to City+
Compare to: Bright and light to medium bodied Central American profile, processing methods add body, fruited notes, and sweetness
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El Salvador Peaberry "Aida's Grand Reserve" 2010

There's some debate about what coffee is the most exclusive, rarest, and most outstanding in the cup ... a debate I always find particularly elitist and boring. There is no single "excellent coffee" out there; it's not a peak you scale with one dramatic spire, and one perfect little cup of coffee waiting for you on top. If you market coffee packaged in a wine bottle, grown on a trellis, or scavenged from rodent excrement, it doesn't make it good or even rare. It's just a bunch of hoopla. Further, if you try to distinguish a set of truly excellent coffees, carefully processed, with dynamic cup character, you still end up with no single winner, since excellence in coffee means suiting the polymorphous aspects of the human senses. Luckily, great coffees are as diverse as our senses used to appreciate them. So given all my sidestepping and hesitations, if someone really turned the screws on me, and made me confess what coffee has the most time, care, passion invested in it, and reflects this in the cup, it would be Aida's Grand Reserve. Aida is Aida Batlle, who has several small farms of great distinction on the Santa Ana Volcano. (You can read about Aida in our Kilimanjaro review also). Like no other small-lot coffee I have tasted (or even heard about), Aida's Grand Reserve is the product of careful propagation, harvesting, picking, processing, and blending. Yes, blending, just as a master vintner might blend from particular parts of an estate to achieve a special reserve, Aida has selected pickings from her 3 small farms, Finca Kilimanjaro, Los Alpes and Mauritania, cupped and blended them to form the Grand Reserve. This involves traditional wet processing, as well as a very difficult "raisin coffee" component, in which the coffee cherry is allowed to dry partly on the tree, until the red exterior darkens and wrinkles slightly. You get the feeling with this lot that every single little green bean was inspected under a microscope and chosen for this lot. (The burlap bags we received this in are double-layered, hand inked, with sewn-on batik labeling, inside the coffee is carefully vacuum-packed).

The cup has tons of character; it's no lightweight Central. Dry fragrance has great intensity, dark semi-sweet chocolate, Dutch cocoa hints and fruited layers too; dried peach, plum, banana chips. I get a lot of candy-like scents, and even cotton candy too. The wet aromatic has ample amounts of chocolate, dried strawberry, and at darker roast levels, Monukka Raisin. The cup has character you might find in a more intense type of Kenya, a Kirinyaga-region coffee for example, with winey dark fruited notes, sweet dried fruit (again I think of the Monukka varietal raisin), ripe Bing cherry, and semi-sweet chocolate. The sweetness is amazing. The lightest roast I did cupped like strawberry sherbert, a very bright and super sweet flavor profile. It's a potent cup for a Central, and my FC roast had spice notes in the finish, peppery and zesty. While the long aftertaste has this pungency, as it cools the cup leaves a very "juicy" last impression. As far as Central go, or other high priced coffees, the Aida's Grand Reserve is unique because it has tons of body, and a more intense, bold character in general. Panama Esmeralda Gesha may have the floral notes, but this coffee has the balance and almost aggressive cup character. It's fantastic; this is one of the most intense and complex Centrals I have ever experienced. Roast it as gifts, for after a special dinner, or just keep it for yourself. It's great stuff.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Aida Batlle at her farm on Santa Ana volcano.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process, Pulp Natural
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival, Vac Pack
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17+ PB screen
Varietal: Kenya, Bourbon, Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Complex, sweet, balanced and intense.
Roast: I found the coffee does exceptionally well under a wide range of roasts: C+ to FC+: all levels have good pungency and chocolate, so I would tend toward C+ /FC with no second crack at all. For best aromatics, I like 12-24 hour rest, but for body and balance I like a longer 72 hour rest after roasting.
Compare to: Intense, supremely complex, difficult to compare to any other Central. We are limiting this to 1 Lb. per customer, so we can spread this coffee around to as many roasters as possible.
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El Salvador Cascara Coffee Tea

Coffee, or tea, or both? Cascara is the skin of the coffee cherry. When you wet-process coffee, the skin is difficult to save, and usually becomes part of the compost mix for the farm. But in Arabia and Africa, the skin of the cherry is used to make a very potent tea called Qishr (also spelled Kisher). In fact, making a tea from the dried coffee fruit pre-dates roasting the coffee seed to crush and steep in water, coffee as we know it. And even today, the price of Qishr is higher than the price of coffee in an Arabic market. Aida Batlle, who produces some of our most amazing Central American coffees (Finca Kilimanjaro, Aida's Grand Reserve), started to save and dry the coffee fruit skins from her small dry-processing experiments. Cascara is the name used in Central America for these fruit skins, and a perfect name for the tea made from them as well. If you like fruit-blend herbal teas, especially those with fruited flavors like hibiscus, rose-hips, tamarind, orange peel, mango, apple, you should like Cascara tea a lot. It makes amazing iced tea as well, and with a very moderate amount of honey can be very pleasant. The best way to make Cascara tea is in a French Press, or you can use any method you would use for preparing herbal tea. Brewing like filtered coffee does not work well. Cascara benefits from a long steep time (8 minutes), and you can make it a bit strong, then add water (or pour over ice) to taste. Traditionally, Qishr has additions of cardamom pods and sugar while brewing, and that is another interesting preparation with Cascara as well. Does it have caffeine? Yes, since all parts of the coffee plant do ...but we don't know how much, and it will certainly depend on steep time and the amount used to make each cup.

Cascara has a raisin-prune smell, clean and clearly fruited. It definitely smells like dried hibiscus flower, also used to make Jamaica, the iced sweet tea found in Mexico. As soon as you add water you can smell tamarind as well, the other popular Latin iced tea. As mentioned, the flavors of many dried fruits come out in this tea: hibiscus, tamarind, raisin, plum/prune, dried passion fruit, and mango. I feel that it benefits from a little sweetener; I have used a moderate amount of honey with good results. It's best to experiment with steep times and additives to find the combination that works best for your taste. Possibilities for the use of Cascara tea seem endless; cooking, sauces, baking, beer brewing. It's a tea. But it's coffee. It's unique.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

While not super pretty, Cascara coffee tea makes for a unique fruited cup.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: n/a
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Dry Process
Arrival Date: August 2010 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: n/a
Varietal: Skin from Typica, Bourbon and Kenya
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Super fruited tea!
Roast: You don't need to roast Cascara, brew it as is. But in parts of Ethiopia they do roast it slightly in a pan, which affects the flavors in an interesting way. Experiment!
Compare to: Fruit blend teas, especially with rose hips, hibiscus, and passion fruit skins.
 
 
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El Salvador Siberia Estate Pacamara 2010

Siberia is a farm with a great track record in the Cup of Excellence for their Bourbon coffees, and we offered the Bourbon lot last season. We bought it before as a 23rd place coffee in the Cup of Excellence, and it has been as high as 6th place in previous competitions. As with previous years, I was really, really impressed with a Pacamara cultivar coffee from Siberia in 2010. Some Pacamara coffees can be more herbal and oniony, not something many people want in their coffee. This lot is very sweet, floral and citrusy. This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1450 meters. We really didn't need more El Salvador coffee, nor another Pacamara, but it was too good to pass up!

So sweet, floral, brightly fruited. This coffee can be a little hard to roast, partly due to the large bean size. In air roasters, cut back on the batch a little. It seems to finish fast, so when you hear first crack start, pay close attention and be prepared, or you may miss your roast level target. And for that I recommend City+ roast. The dry fragrance is beautiful, sweet floral roast notes, ripe orange and red fruits, cane sugar. The wet aroma is soooo sweet: light brown sugar, caramel sauce, sweet ripe citrus, delicate flower blossom scents. I get cinnamon toast notes along with the soft floral accents. The cup has juicy red apple flavors, hibiscus floralness, like the tea called "Jamaica" (pronounced Ha-my-ka) in Latin countries. It's sweet, and the aromas persist through the sapid flavors on the palate; it has what they call "after-nose". The body is light, but suits the cup character overall. In the finish there is a root beer sweetness as the cup cools. I liked the darker roasts I did as well, with dark brown sugar flavors and a more pungent spice note. But I admit I did some of those by accident. Keep an eye on this coffee in the roaster! Note: Because of the large bean size of this coffee, I strongly recommend that you measure this out by weight, not by volume, when brewing.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Pacamara flowers about to open, from my last trip to El Salvador.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-20 screen
Varietal: Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Floral and fruit tones, sweetness.
Roast: City+ had all the floral and sweet juicy fruited notes. FC and FC+ have dark brown sugar and more pungent spice flavors. See the roast notes, and keep an eye on this one as you get into first crack. It tends to pass from C+ to FC+ very quickly
Compare to: Pacamaras are a bit exotic, unlike the typical coffees from Salvador. You might even call them mild Gesha-like coffees when they are like this lot, for their fruit and floral hints.
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El Salvador Matalapa -Tablon El Amate

Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the mechanical love of the archaic on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slope ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. This is from a particular part of the farm called a Tablon, (which means literally a board or plank), called Tablon El Amate. The coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet nuts in the light roast, almost like praline and some soft floral notes at City+, and a syrupy caramel sweetness at FC roast. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet orangey citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy malt sweetness (C+ roast). The cup has a buttery body, laced with slight floral and orange blossom accents. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and Full City roasts produce a great bittersweet, full-bodied cup (ideal as part of an espresso blend, SO espresso or as French Press type coffee). Really balanced, classic coffees like this might have very even numerical scores across the board, and not break into 87+ scoring, but they are the kind of coffee you want to drink every morning!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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In the dusk light, the sign at the wet mill, Finca Matalapa
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Pacas and Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, classic cup, great mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above. Great as espresso!
Compare to: Classic Bourbon coffee with syrupy sweetness, great balance, body.
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El Salvador Finca San Gabriel Bourbon

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it "classic", we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield than modern types like Catuai, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neo-typical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolaty and have a creamy mouthfeel. Bourbons should be appreciated for more than their sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components) and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1400 meters, 100% Bourbon. It's from a particular part of the farm, called Tablon Buena Vista. (Tablon means a board or plank, but refers to a block of land on the farm which is separated in harvest and post-harvest processing, an ideal way to isolate quality coffees from within the farm boundaries.

It's a versatile coffee, which works well in espresso and drip type brewing. I did a very light City roast and the cup was aromatically lemony, sweet in the cup flavors (cane sugar), zingy, bright, and mildly floral. I did a City + roast that had creamy nut tones with ripe orange underneath, and a cinnamon accent. I did a FC, and FC+, a light Vienna, and with each the cup had great character, chocolate tonality becoming more intense and bittersweet as the roast darkened, but never becoming flat, ashy or carbony. I highly recommend this lot for espresso, SO Espresso if you can extend the roast, finish slowly, tone down some of the brightness a bit in the final extraction. We love it as an espresso blend base, rather than soft Brazil coffees. It gives a classic espresso bittersweet flavor, and performs so well in the roaster.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Stone road through Finca San Gabriel, the day after a big storm pased through.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2010 Arrival, GrainPro
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic Bourbon balance, mouthfeel, versatility
Roast: City+ to FC to Vienna - highly versatile.. A slow FC++ roast is ideal for espresso
Compare to: Classic Central American character; a balanced Bourbon coffee.
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El Salvador Finca Matalapa 2009

Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the mechanical love of the archaic on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totalling 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. The coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet nuts in the light roast, almost like praline and some soft floral notes at City+, and a syrupy molasses sweetness at FC roast. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy malt sweetness (C+ roast). The cup has a buttery body, laced with slight floral and citrus accents. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and Full City roasts produce a great bittersweet, full-bodied cup (ideal as part of an espresso blend, SO espresso or as French Press type coffee). Really balanced, classic coffees like this might have very even numerical scores across the board, and not break into 87+ scoring, but they are the kind of coffee you want to drink every morning!





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Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Pacas, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, classic cup, great mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above. Great as espresso!
Compare to: Classic Bourbon coffee with syrupy sweetness, great balance, body.
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El Salvador Matalapa -Puerta Zapa Microlot

This is a special microlot from Matalapa that we have "cellared" in our special GrainPro bags until late in the season. Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the mechanical love of the archaic on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totalling 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. This lot has stored very well and cups so fresh, a testament to how well the coffee was processed, and to careful use of the special GrainPro bag liners. Interestingly, Puerta Zapa is a "bloque" of the farm, kept separate in processing, but is actually one of the lowest areas at Matalapa, not the highest! However, it was the lot they were going to enter into CoE on recommendation from George Howell, because of remarkable body and balance. I find it to have a big, rounded mouthfeel, resonant in bittersweetness, and to The dry fragrance has nutty tones in the light roast, toffee and raw sugar. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet, mild fruit in the wet aroma, with syrupy malt sweetness (C+ roast). The cup has a buttery body, and as I already said, a striking balance between sweet and pleasant "coffee bittering" favors. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and Full City roast have a rounded, full-bodied cup (ideal as part of an espresso blend, SO espresso or as French Press type coffee). Really balanced, classic coffees like this might have very even numerical scores across the board, and not break into 87+ scoring, but they are the kind of coffee you want to drink every morning!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Sign at the Matalapa wet mill on the farm, from my last trip there.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival (GrainPro Bags)
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Pacas, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, classic cup, great mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above. Great as espresso!
Compare to: Classic Bourbon coffee with syrupy sweetness, great balance, body.
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El Salvador Cup of Excellence La Montañita Pacamara

La Montanita is a coffee we have bought for years now. Owned by Antonio Rene Aguilar Lemus, it is a fairly small farm of 17.5 Hecatares in total, planted entirely with the large-bean Pacamara cultivar. If you are not familiar with it, Pacamara is a cross between a naturally-occuring hybrid Pacas and the so-called "elephant-bean" cultivar, Maragogype (know for it's low-yield trees with huge bean size). The result is a non-traditional cup character with medium body, bright and lively acidity and unusual flavor profiles. The farm was handed down through the Aguilar family. The Aguilars run their own wet-mill so all steps of the coffee cultivation and processing are under the control of the farm (a true Estate coffee). While the farm is not organic certified, like many coffee farms it could be, the Aguilars do not use herbicides and practices manual weed control. They use organic fertilizers like chicken manure, coffee pulp and they count on nature for insect control. La Montanita is located in the Alotepec Mountain Range and has excellent altitude for coffee (1550 meters) which accounts for the slowly-maturing, dense coffee seeds and better acidity in the cup. But in the case of Pacamara, a lot of the cup character comes from this unusual cultivar. La Montañita placed several times in the Cup of Excellence, including #2 place in 2006. We offered this coffee way back in '04, and last year we bought the coffee as a "National Winner" from the CoE, and this year it made the final auction where we snapped it up. The cup is really outstanding! The dry fragrance from the grounds is unusual, with molasses and caramel syrup, aromatic wood, raisin, dried plum, malt. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics have a lot of spice, cinnamon stick in particular, but there are also lush floral aspects and tropical fruits. For a Pacamara, it has very good body and exceptional balance, a darker flavor profile than expected, with suggestions of Indonesia-like foresty flavors, with clean fruit notes of red apple, blood orange, and plum. It has a very fine acidity, and in lighter roasts a strawberry brightness with sweet rhubarb flavor in the finish. Darker roasts have a scotch malt roast taste. As you can see, this coffee inspires many flavor descriptors! While the flavor profile is affected greatly by roast level, I liked the results all along the roast spectrum, from C+ to FC+.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Images of La Montanita from the Cup of Excellence site.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: El Tunel, La Palma, Chalatenango
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Nov 2009 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 19-20+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold / Multi-layered flavors, fruit, exotic spice, depth
Roast: City+ to Full City+. See the notes above. Be aware that these large Pacamara beans will not agitate as easily in an air roaster, so reduce batch size slightly. Best to roast manually and stop at the verge of 2nd crack.
Compare to: Unusual among the El Salvador coffees, a character driven more by the cultivar (Pacamara) than the origin; fruited, exotic spice notes, sweet, unique.
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El Salvador Los Luchadores Pacamara

Los Luchadores means "the wrestlers" and it is the name of an intense and unusual pulp-natural processed Pacamara. It's a project by Aida Batlle, who also brings us the award-winning Finca Kilimanjaro and her exclusive Grand Reserve each year. The coffee is grown on the Buenos Aires farm in Metapan, El Salvador, owned by Don Samuel Valiente. Only about 4% of Mr. Valiente's farm is planted with Pacamara. The farm is located in the far north of the country, near the border with Guatemala. The idea to take this distinct cultivar and perform the pulp natural process on it, rather than create a fully washed (wet-process) coffee, is rather bold. I suppose that's why it is a Luchador, a heavyweight wrestler. But it's not a unique idea: we offer our special lot of pulp natural Pacamara from Limoncillo farm in Nicaragua as well. But this lot has a distinct cup, non-traditional to be sure. I tested these at some improbably light roast levels - just barely through first crack - as well as roasts that I would think more appropriate for pulp naturals - FC to FC+.

I was surprised at the sweet, clean fruit aromas from the light levels. It wasn't pulpy fruit; the dry fragrance has fig, plum and a hint of lychee. The FC roast was very chocolaty, but laced with darkly fruited scents. The wet aroma was dynamic and sweet (caramel and marshmallow) at the light roast levels as well, very sweet, spiced with cinnamon and a trace of mace, and intense fruit (mango and baked peaches). As far as the cup, both City + and Full City+ hit the spot. Baked peaches, apricot, mango, and strawberry ... this cup has wonderful fruit notes in the light roast, with a caramel backdrop. Chocolate bittersweet develops toward FC+ roast level and the fruit is muted, but forms a different flavor profile equally as compelling; lush milk chocolate flavor, a bit of anise seed flavor to the finish, Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate. And as it cools I start to think about chocolate-dipped strawberry. Acidity is fairly mild; it's more about the fruited notes, and body (which improves quite a bit after several days rest). I would try one roast of each of these levels, and possibly even make a mélange of the two. As usual, I would say the light roast, with unrestrained sweet fruits, is where I end up with this coffee.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Los Luchadores burlap bag graphics!
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Metapan, N. El Salvador
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: September 2009 Arrival (Grain Pro)
Appearance: .2 defect per 300 grams, 19+ screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Unique peach, apricot, mango, strawberry,and tropical fruits, very sweet in the light roasts, chocolate later on.
Roast: City + roast had the best jammy fruit character, and we also enjoyed FC to FC+ for it's chocolate-laced fruit notes
Compare to: A non-traditional cup. Intensely fruity, very sweet.
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El Salvador Mauritania Cascara (Coffee Tea)

This is coffee and, well, it is not coffee. This is the dried skins of the coffee fruit, husked off as the last step in making dry process coffee. It is used many places for tea, but in Central America there is little to no dry-process tradition. So mills that did small amounts of dry process coffee, usually the "segundos" or "repala", the last coffee left on the trees, simply used the skins for compost. That might be a good idea for repala because it is indiscrimiately strip-picked from the trees, and is made up of over-ripe cherries, under-ripe, bug-infested, and everything else too (including dirt and sticks). But here we have a special lot that was prepared from dry-process coffee that was carefully picked for ripeness, in the middle of the harvest. It was dried on raised beds (not on a patio or tarp on the ground), and saved when it came to peeling the skin and husk away from the green coffee bean. This cascara is like our Yemeni Qishr, the name for the beverage in Yemen, Ethiopia and the middle east where it is very popular. But it is less intact than our Yemeni lot, and has a more dynamic fruited cup flavor when you prepare it as tea. We highly recommend this as ICED TEA for summer refreshment. It is best prepared in a large French Press. Or you can steep in directly in hot water, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer or a clean coffee filtercone with a paper coffee filter. We recommend steep times of 6-10 minutes, and roughly one standard coffee scoop per 10 ounces hot water. We also like to prepare it with cardomom, whole pods, infused the full time along with the coffee husk. I add one teaspoon sugar per 10 ounces. If you make it a little strong, it is perfect for pouring over ice. I feel this is too fruity as hot tea, but perfect as iced tea ... very refreshing. We are still uncertain how much caffeine there is in the coffee husk, but judging from effects, there definitely does seem to be some!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

Harvest at Finca Mauritania.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: n/a
Arrival Date: 08-09 crop
Appearance: n/a
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: A fruity, exotic tea, similar to hibiscus.
Roast: It's not roasted! It's dried tea! In Ethiopia they do pan-roast the husks so this cane be tried in a skillet, as an experiment.
Compare to: Jamaica, the red hibiscus-flower cold tea served at Latin food places...
 
 
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El Salvador Cup of Excellence -Villa Espana Bourbon

Villa España is a coffee plantation that has been in the same family for five generations, founded by Manuel Ariz of Galicia, Spain It is located near the town of Concepción de Ataco in Ahuachapán, El Salvador at 1350 meters. It's not one of the higher farms to make the ranks of the Cup of Excellence, but as with our Finca Matalapa coffees, we have found certain lots sourced from this altitude to have great balance and versatility. This lot comes from two plots on the farm called “El Matazano” and “El Muerto” which were selected because they have shown over the years to produce the best cup. The dry fragrance has a malt sweet scent with a strong vanilla accent and a touch of cocoa powder. The wet aroma has a honey and toffee character, with slight nuttiness. On the break, there is an interesting sweet-savory scent. The cup has a very attractive flavor profile, mildly floral with the slightest touch of jasmine, citrus brightness (lime, orange), brown sugar panela, honey, bee pollen. The body is silky smooth, a nice counterpoint to the brightness in the cup. Malty milk chocolate emerges as the cup cools. It's a classic Bourbon cultivar coffee all the way, one perhaps overshadowed on the cupping table by flashy coffees, but far more drinkable then fruit-forward or citrusy coffees. It roasts well with nearly any "degree of roast" you chose for it, a very versatile coffee. although at FC+ or into 2nd crack you will experience a flavor shift towards pungent chocolate-type flavors. And incidentally ...there's something else special about this lot. Our "buying group" that bought it in the CoE auction (Sweet Maria's, Ritual Coffee, Tony's Coffee) has donated 100% of the profits to the former head of the El Salvador coffee association, Ricardo Espitia, who suffered a major stroke last January. The family needs urgent financial help with his therapy, and we know the sum (a bit over $10,000) will go a long way toward his recovery. Ricardo has done more to promote and improve the quality of El Salvador specialty coffee, and every time I taste a beautiful cup from this origin, I owe him a debt of gratitude. This is just a little payback...



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Images of Villa Espana from the Cup of Excellence site.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: El Tunel, La Palma, Chalatenango
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Nov 2009 Arrival (Vac Pack)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon varietal
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Classic Bourbon flavor profile, balance
Roast: City+ to Full City+. This coffee works with nearly any roast you lay on it.
Compare to: Classic Bourbon-cultivar cup with body to balance out the moderate citrus brightness. It is great as SO espresso too!
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El Salvador Matalapa "El Mirador"

In the craze to get coffees from higher elevations, I would like to present something to the contrary. This is a microlot from a swatch of coffee plantings at the LOWEST elevation of Finca Matalapa, from 1250 meters. By focusing on elevation, I think people have forgotten all the other factors that go into making a great coffee. There are terrible coffees from 1800 meters, there are wonderful coffees from 1200 meters. (I am not going to argue for great lots from 750 meters ... there are limits!) What I find in Mirador is a sweet, thick, full body cup that is one of the better SO espresso lots we have on our offering list. It comes from a classic estate coffee. Matalapa has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the love of archaic machinery on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. The coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has praline-toffee and floral notes at City+, and a syrupy molasses sweetness at FC roast. You can find mild citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy caramel-malt notes and hints of walnut. The cup has a creamy mouthfeel, malty sweetness, but also a streak of bright orange flavor running through it. There's an almondy nutty tone in roast levels from City-City+, turning to a soft milk chocolate at FC roast. It is so balanced, between the brighter tones of the cup and the tenor-level flavors that are mostly sweetness and bittering notes from caramelization and browning reactions in the roast. When I tasted this coffee at the farm, I thought it was the sweetest microlot of the bunch, and that still holds true back here at my cupping lab at the SM warehouse. Matalapa El Mirador Espresso: One of our main points with separating this microlot was for Single Origin espresso. The SO espresso is dense, with a silky mouthfeel, citric brightness, cacao, slightly winey fruited acidity, and a wonderful, long-lasting bittersweet chocolate aftertaste.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Coffee cherry on the shrub, at Matalapa.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad District
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival (GrainPro)
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Pacas, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Creamy body, balance, nut-chocolate roast tone
Roast: This can take a wide, wide range of roasts, from City through light Vienna! I enjoyed the creamy nut tones of City+ for brewed coffee, and the milk chocolate of FC+ with a few snaps of 2nd crack for espresso
Compare to: Classic, balanced Central cup with nice body. Like a Bourbon, even though it is mostly the Pacas sub-type.
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El Salvador Peaberry "Aida's Grand Reserve" 2009

There's some debate about what coffee is the most exclusive, rarest, most outstanding in the cup ... a debate I always find particularly elitist and boring. There is no single "excellent coffee" out there, it's not a peak you scale with one dramatic spire, and one perfect little cup of coffee waiting for you on top. If you market coffee packaged in a wine bottle, grown on a trellis, or scavenged from rodent excrement, it doesn't make it good or even rare. It's just a bunch of hoopla. Further, if you try to distinguish a set of truly excellent coffees, carefully processed, with dynamic cup character, you still end up with no single winner, since excellence in coffee means suiting the polymorphus aspects of the human senses. Luckily, great coffees are as diverse as our senses used to appreciate them. So given all my sidestepping and hesitations, if someone really turned the screws on me, and made me confess what coffee has the most time, care, passion invested in it, and reflects this in the cup, it would be Aida's Grand Reserve. Aida is Aida Batlle, who has several small farms of great distinction on the Santa Ana Volcano. (You can read about Aida in our Kilimanjaro review). Like no other small-lot coffee I have tasted (or even heard about), Aida's Grand Reserve is the product of careful propagation, harvesting, picking, processing, and blending. Yes, blending, just as a master vintner might blend from particular parts of an estate to achieve a special reserve, Aida has selected pickings from her 3 small farms, Finca Kilimanjaro, Los Alpes and Mauritania, cupped and blended them to form the Grand Reserve. This involves traditional wet processing, as well as a very difficult "raisin coffee" component, in which the coffee cherry is allowed to dry partly on the tree, until the red exterior darkens and wrinkles slightly. You get the feeling with this lot that every single little green bean was inspected under a microscope and chosen for this lot. (The burlap bags we received this in are double-layered, hand inked, with sewn-on batik labeling, inside the coffee is carefully vacuum-packed). The cup has ton's of character; it's no lightweight Central. Dry fragrance has great intensity, dark semi-sweet chocolate, Dutch cocoa hints and fruited layers too, dried plum. I get a lot of candy-like scents, and even cotton candy too. The wet aromatic has ample amounts of chocolate, strawberry sherbert, and, at darker roasts, Monukka Raisin. The cup has character you might find in a more brooding type of Kenya, a Kirinyaga-region coffee for example, with pungency, winy dark fruited notes, sweet dried fruit (again I think of the Monukka varietal raisin), dark ripe Bing cherry, and semi-sweet chocolate. As I said before, this is a heavyweight cup for a Central, with brooding deep body, and long, long aftertaste marked by pungent spice tones and black pepper. While the long aftertaste has this pungency, as it cools the cup leaves a very "juicy" last impression. As far as Central go, or other high priced coffees, the Aida's Grand Reserve is unique because it has tons of body, and a more intense, bold character in general. Panama Esmeralda Gesha may have the high notes, but this coffee has the balance and almost aggressive cup character. It's fantastic stuff. So I'll just cave in completely: here we have the rarest, most exotic, and most excellent coffee since man put coffee bean to fire and soaked in water! Okay, seriously, this is one of the most intense and complex Centrals I have ever experienced. Roast it as gifts, for after a special dinner, or just keep it for yourself. It's great stuff.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Aida Batlle at her farm on Santa Ana volcano.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process, Pulp Natural
Arrival Date: Aug 2009 Arrival, Vac Pack
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17+ PB screen
Varietal: Kenya, Bourbon, Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Extremely complex, balanced and intense.
Roast: I found the coffee does exceptionally well under a wide range of roasts: C+ to FC+: all levels have good pungency and chocolate, so I would tend toward C+ /FC with no second crack at all. For best aromatics, I like 12-24 hour rest, but for body and balance I like a longer 72 hour rest after roasting.
Compare to: Intense, supremely complex, difficult to compare to any other Central. We are limiting this to 1 Lb. per customer, so we can spread this coffee around to as many roasters as possible.
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El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro 2009

Kilimanjaro farm is located on the highlands of the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, 40 minutes away from the city of Santa Ana. The Batlle family purchased the farm in 1983, and are the third generation of a coffee family. Aida Batlle (the daughter) takes care of this coffee plantation which is nearly 40 years old, and located in one of the oldest coffee-growing areas in the country. She is a "hands-on" coffee grower, seen often at the farm and monitoring all the aspects of the harvest. This coffee was the 1st place winner in the first Cup of Excellence held in El Salvador, 2003. To win the 1st place award, they pay the workers well, with salaries double the usual rates, but also demand very high standards in picking and processing. The neat thing about Aida is, after winning, she has decided to take the small production from this 30-hectare farm and distribute it among just a few buyers. We get very little. And we all pay a healthy price for the coffee to support the farm's improvement. It's win-win for everyone. And this coffee is worth the effort - it's a fantastic, dynamic Central American coffee. The farm is on the Santa Ana volcanic slopes, and is planted with 80% Kenya cultivar, 15% Bourbon and 5% Pacas. There are definite hints of the Kenya character in this cup. Altitude is 1450 meters (4750 feet) and there are diverse shade trees on the farm including Pepeto Peludo, Copalchí, Cypress, Avocado and Peach. The cup has an intense dry fragrance; strong caramel sweetness, dark fruits and berry notes. The wet aromatics have an almost minty liveliness to them, with honey and butter as well. There's a very sweet cinnamon spice in the cup at the lighter roast level, pairing well with orange tea notes. At the lighter roasts there is jasmine flower, peppermint, a crisp brightness, with fresh raspberry and currant fruits, Meyer lemon, and black tea. The fruits have a winey tonality to them. The body is medium, and pairs well with a malty-sweet roast taste at City+ roast. The finish has fresh tea with lemon and mint. The volatile aromas on the cup are just fantastic. It is the best of what really high grown Central coffees can be ...it's what many other coffees wish they could be. After you cup a lot of Centrals, you key in on the qualities that this cup has in abundance and amplitude. And Aida's Kilimanjaro coffee shows that diligence, faith and investment in a farm can really pay off.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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The sign at the lower entrance to Finca Kilimanjaro, from my trip there this year.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon and Kenyan (95%), 5% Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Bright, dynamic cup.
Roast: City+ to Full City: takes a wide range of roasts. If the lighter roasts are too bright for you, try FC roast. It will still have a bright tone to the cup.
Compare to: One of the nicest, classic, bright Central American coffees I have cupped, but with a decidedly African cup character.
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El Salvador Siberia Estate Pacamara 2009

Siberia is a farm with a great track record in the Cup of Excellence for their Bourbon coffees, and we offered the Bourbon lot last season. We bought it before as a 23rd place coffee in the Cup of Excellence, and it has been as high as 6th place in previous competitions. This year I was really, really impressed with a Pacamara coffee from Siberia; I didn't know they even grew Pacamara! This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1450 meters. We really didn't need more El Salvador coffee, nor another Pacamara, but it was too good to pass up! So sweet, floral, brightly fruited. This coffee can be a little hard to roast, partly due to the large bean size. In air roasters, cut back on the batch a little. It seems to finish fast, so when you hear first crack start, pay close attention and be prepared, or you may miss your roast level target. And for that I recommend City+ to Full City ... the dry fragrance is beautiful, sweet floral roast notes, red fruits, cane sugar. The wet aroma is sooo sweet: light brown sugar, caramelized. I get cinnamon toast notes, and soft floral accents. The cup has juicy red apple flavors, hibiscus floralness, like the tea called "Jamaica" (pronounced Ha-my-ka) in Latin countries. It's sweet, and the aromas persist through the sapid flavors on the palate; it has what they call "after-nose". I liked the darker roasts I did as well, with dark brown sugar flavors and a more pungent spice note. But I admit I did some of those by accident. Keep an eye on this coffee in the roaster!

Note: Because of the large bean size of this coffee, I strongly recommend that you measure this out by weight, not by volume, when brewing.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Pacamara flowers about to open, from my last trip to El Salvador.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18-20 screen
Varietal: Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Floral and fruit tones, sweetness.
Roast: City+ had all the floral and sweet juicy fruited notes. FC and FC+ have dark brown sugar and more pungent spice flavors. See the roast notes, and keep an eye on this one as you get into first crack. It tends to pass from C+ to FC+ very quickly
Compare to: Pacamaras are a bit exotic, unlike the typical coffees from Salvador. You might even call them mild Gesha-like coffees for their fruit and floral hints.
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El Salvador Finca Matalapa Peaberry 2009

Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling and preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the love of archaic machinery on the part of her husband that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slop ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon-type coffees, though because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. The coffee has great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet citrus, praline and floral notes at City+, and a syrupy molasses sweetness at FC roast. You can find the same sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy malty notes. The cup is vividly bright, with bracing orange acidity, laced with slight floral bits. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic, lemony with a cinnamon note. Light roasts have a correspondingly light body, but it fits the high-toned, refreshing flavor profile overall. I preferred this roast level for brewed coffee; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a wide range of roasts and Full City roasts produce a great bittersweet cup at darker levels. It's the brighter, livelier version of the Matalapa flat bean coffee, and excellent brewed in a vacuum pot, dripper or Technivorm.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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This exact lot of peaberry, stored in parchment for the "reposo" (resting stage) at Matalapa mill, a couple months ago.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad District
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 16 PB Screen
Varietal: Pacas, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright cup, mild citrus, sweet
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above
Compare to: Classic peaberry coffee with orange and cinnamon highlights, and bracing acidity. A competition-winning espresso and #10 in the 2008 El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
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El Salvador Matalapa Estate Peaberry

Here's the scoop on Bourbon coffees (pronounced Burr-Bone). Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yeild, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolate and have a creamy mouthfeel. In a competition like Cup of Excellence, these characteristics might seem mundane next to the exotic flavors of the Pacamara cultivar, but Bourbon should be appreciate for more than it's sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components), and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. We had a flat bean lot earlier this season, and with that same coffee the Intelligentsia barista won the US Barista Competition. Clearly, this has more uses than just drip brewing. It's not an extremely high acid Salvador, perhaps because of the 1200 meter elevation of Matalapa. It's a 4th generation coffee estate owned by Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz. It totals 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon coffees, great balance and sweet accent notes. This peaberry exclusive (we bought it all) arrived with a great cup! The dry fragrance has sweet nuts, almost like praline and some soft floral notes. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with malt sweetness (C+ roast). The cup has a buttery body, laced with floral and citrus accents. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level, the finish is flawless, high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and FC+ or darker produce a great bittersweet, full-bodied cup (ideal as part of an espresso blend or as French Press type coffee).





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Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP Peaberry
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Late June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .0 d/300gr, 16 PB Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon PEABERRY
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, dense mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above
Compare to: Classic peaberry Bourbon coffee with orange and cinnamon highlights. Great espresso potential too; a competition-winning espresso and #10 in the 2008 El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
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El Salvador La Montañita Pacamara

La Montanita is a small farm, only 17.5 Hecatares in total, planted entirely with the large-bean Pacamara cultivar. If you are not familiar with it, Pacamara is a cross between a naturally-occuring hybrid Pacas and the so-called "elephant-bean" cultivar, Maragogype (know for it's low-yield trees with huge bean size). The result is a non-traditional cup character with medium body, bright and lively acidity and unusual flavor profiles. The farm was handed down through the Aguilar family. The Aguilars run their own wet-mill so all steps of the coffee cultivation and processing are under the control of the farm (a true Estate coffee). While the farm is not organic certified, like many coffee farms it could be, the Aguilars do not use herbicides and practices manual weed control. They uss organic fertilizers like chicken manure, coffee pulp and they count on nature for insect control. La Montanita is located in the Alotepec Mountain Range and has excellent altitude for coffee (1460 meters, 4790 feet) which accounts for the slowly-maturing, dense coffee seeds and better acidity in the cup. But in the case of Pacamara, a lot of the cup character comes from this unusual cultivar. La Montañita placed several times in the Cup of Excellence, including #2 place in 2006. We actually offered this coffee way back in '04, when we bought the CoE lot. This year we bought the coffee as a "National Winner" from the CoE because for a reason I can't figure out, it didn't make the auction. The cup is really outstanding! The dry fragrance from the grounds is unusual, with molasses syrup, aromatic wood, raisin, dried plum. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics have a lot of spice, cinnamon stick in particular, but there are also lush tropical floral notes. For a Pacamara, it has very good body and exceptional balance, a darker flavor profile than expected, with suggestions of Indonesia-like foresty flavors. Still, it has a very fine acidity, with strawberry-like brightness, and sweet rhubarb flavor in the finish.





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Pacamara cultivar, a cross between Pacas and Maragogype
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: El Tunel, La Palma, Chalatenango
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: November 2008 Arrival (Vac bag
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 19-20+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold / Unique flavor profile for this origin
Roast: Full City/ Full City+. See the notes above. City roast is a bit odd with this coffee, almost like green onions, so it requires just a bit more time in terms of "degree of roast". Also be aware that these large Pacamara beans will not agitate as easily in an air roaster, so reduce batch size slightly. Best to roast manually and stop at the verge of 2nd crack.
Compare to: Unusual among the El Salvador coffees, a character driven more by the cultivar (Pacamara) than the origin.
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El Salvador Pulp Natural Finca Mauritania

Finca Mauritania is owned and managed by Aida Battle, who also brings us the award-winning Finca Kilimanjaro and her exclusive Grand Reserve each year. This is a special pulp natural process version of Mauritania. This means that the coffee cherry has its skin removed but the fruity mucilage is allowed to remain on the parchment layer. It is not broken down by fermentation as with a traditional wet process coffee. The result is a bit more body, lower acidity, and a shift in the flavor profile. Aida's Mauritania has been offered by our friends at Counter Culture for years, and they have had a long working relationship with this special coffee, investing so much time (and funds) to get the Finca Mauritania Organic certified. Sweet Maria's is just a grateful hitch hiker, and we are really happy to tag along for the ride. This farm is is on the Northern slope of the Santa Ana volcano, between 1400 meters and 1600 meters, and is planted in pure Bourbon cultivar. At my preferred roast (Full City) dry fragrance is caramelly, mildly fruited, and has a lot of milk chocolate. The wet aroma follows the same suit, but has more heightened chocolate pungency, and cinnamon spice on the break. The cup has such a balanced body, with Once again) chocolate, creamy and balanced. It has more of a semi-sweet flavor in the cup. Lighter roast has spiced tea flavors, peach danish, cinnamon (again), a touch of ginger, and fruited finish. The body seems creamy, and well-matched to the cup flavors. We had great results blending our lighter C+ roast with the FC roast, and FC+ produced a very nice espresso as well.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Harvesting coffee and re-sorting at Finca Mauritania
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano, Apaneca-Ilamatepec
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: Late September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced cup with fine body, fruit, milk chocolate.
Roast: Full City yielded the best results. We also enjoyed a "melange" of City+ and Full City roast alot, 50-50 blend.
Compare to: Classic Central American balance, with more body, intensity and moderate acidity than it's wet-process counterpart. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador Siberia Estate Bourbon 2008

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield than modern types like Catuai, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolaty and have a creamy mouthfeel. Bourbons should be appreciated for more than their sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components) and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. This coffee is from one of the best, most prolific coffee areas in Santa Ana, grown at 1450 meters, 100% Bourbon. We bought it before as a 23rd place coffee in the Cup of Excellence, and it has been as high as 6th place in previous competitions. It's a versatile coffee, which works well in espresso and drip type brewing. I did a very light City roast and the cup was lemony, sweet, zingy, mildly floral. I did a City + roast that had creamy nut tones with ripe orange underneath, and a cinnamon accent. I did a FC, and FC+, a light Vienna, and with each the cup had great character, chocolate tonality becoming more intense and bittersweet as the roast darkened, but never becoming flat, ashy or carbony. I highly recommend this lot for espresso, Single Origin Espresso if you can extend the roast, finish slowly, tone down some of the brightness a bit in the final extraction. We love it as an espresso blend base, rather than soft Brazil coffees. It gives a classic espresso bittersweet flavor, and performs so well in the roaster.





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Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Chalchuapa, Santa Ana Department
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: December 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild to Medium intensity / Classic Bourbon balance, mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC to Vienna - highly versatile.. A slow FC++ roast is ideal for espresso
Compare to: Classic, balanced Bourbon coffee.
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El Salvador Matalapa Estate Bourbon

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yeild, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolate and have a creamy mouthfeel. In a competition like Cup of Excellence, these characteristics might seem mundane next to the exotic flavors of the Pacamara cultivar, but Bourbon should be appreciate for more than it's sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components), and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. I was surprised to come back from a week of cupping in Guatemala and find that the Matalapa Estate had arrived on the 1st of March. It's earlier than other farms in El Salvador, and perhaps it is because of the micro-climate in the area and the 1200 meter elevation of Matalapa. It's a 4th generation coffee estate owned by Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz. It totals 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. The cup has the character I aspire to find in El Salvador Bourbon coffees, great balance and sweet accent notes. The dry fragrance has sweet nuts, almost like praline and some soft floral notes at City+, and a syrupy molasses sweetness at FC roast. The cup is very approachable, and you can seek out some sweet, mild citrus in the wet aroma, with syrupy malt sweetness (C+ roast). The cup has a buttery body, laced with floral and citrus accents. As it cools my lighter roasts (City+) became more and more bright and dynamic. I preferred this roast level; the finish is high-toned and sweet. But this coffee works with a huge range of roasts and FC+ or darker produce a great bittersweet, full-bodied cup (ideal as part of an espresso blend or as French Press type coffee).





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Red boubon coffee on the tree in El Salvador
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB/EP
Region: Matalapa, La Libertad
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: December 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balanced, dense mouthfeel
Roast: City+ to FC+ to Vienna - see notes above.
Compare to: Classic Bourbon coffee with syrupy sweetness, great balance, body.
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El Salvador Santa Rita Full Natural

This lot is an odd mix of non-traditional processing and old-world cultivar. Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. But here is something very UN-traditional. This is a full natural coffee ... another way of saying "dry-processed." We had this lot prepared just for us: a Bourbon coffee has been dry processed, as done in Ethiopia and Brazil. Whole coffee cherry is picked from the tree and immediately dried, without peeling the skin, fermentation of the fruity mucilage, as they do in traditional Central America wet-processing. When you sun-dry coffee fruit right off the tree, all the skin and fruit of the coffee is intact, and it dries like a raisin. The mucilage turns to a sweet, chewy, dehydrated form, encoating the green seed protected by its parchment layer. Once fully dried, it is left to rest for some days, then in one step the skin, dried fruit flesh, parchment layer and all are torn from the green seed. The result is something between an Ethiopia coffee and a Central coffee, quite strange but, in this case, quite excellent. The result is lower acidity, tons of body, and a very different flavor profile than any other El Salvador coffee. It's also unlike other dry-processed coffees because it still has brightness that others lack. In the light roasts, it has increased body and chocolate roast notes, with good "coffee cherry fruit brightness". Darker roasts are extremely chocolaty., and the immediate cupping comparison we had was Ethiopia Idido Misty Valley. There are apricot and coffee cherry fruited tones, over drying chocolate body. It has a unique bittersweet quality.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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View of a volcano on the way to Santa Rita
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Rita
Processing: Dry-process (Aka, Natural)
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Heavy body, brightness, chocolate
Roast: City+ to FC+ to French. This is great coffee at a wide range of roasts!
Compare to: Unique flavor due to dry processing (aka natural). The darker roasts are very good in espresso! This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing tranparency program.
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El Salvador Los Luchadores Pacamara

Los Luchadores means "the wrestlers" and it is the name of an intense and unusual pulp-natural processed Pacamara. It's a project by Aida Batlle, who also brings us the award-winning Finca Kilimanjaro and her exclusive Grand Reserve each year. The coffee is grown on the Buenos Aires farm in Metapan, El Salvador, owned by Don Samuel Valiente. Only about 4% of Mr. Valiente's farm is planted with Pacamara. The farm is located in the far north of the country, near the border with Guatemala. The idea to take this distinct cultivar and perform the pulp natural process on it, rather than create a fully washed (wet-process) coffee, is rather bold. I suppose that's why it is a Luchador, a heavyweight wrestler. But it's not a unique idea: we offer our special lot of pulp natural Pacamara from Limoncillo farm in Nicaragua as well. But this lot has a distinct cup, non-traditional to be sure. I tested these at some improbably light roast levels - just barely through first crack - as well as roasts that I would think more appropriate for pulp naturals - FC to FC+. I was surprised at the sweet, clean fruit aromas from the light levels. It wasn't pulpy fruit; the dry fragrance had passion fruit and lychee, whereas the FC roast was very chocolaty. The wet aroma was dynamic and sweet at the light roast levels as well, but things changed when it came to the cup flavors. (And of course, they are more important since we drink this stuff, not just smell it!) The light roasts were interesting, but had a grainy roast flavor that was a bit harsh. But all that delicious fruit was well represented in my Full City roast, as well as a full, lush milk chocolate flavor. Baked peaches, a bit of mango and papaya were present as a sweet counterpoint to the chocolate bittersweet. There's a great anise seed flavor to the finish as well. The body is dense, slightly gritty, but reminiscent of an Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate in that way. Alkaloid chocolate bittering lingers in the long aftertaste. As it cools, I start to think about chocolate-dipped strawberry ... not a bad flavor analogy for a coffee like this!



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Los Luchadores burlap bag graphics!
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Metapan, N. El Salvador
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: September 2008 Arrival (Vac ba
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: 100% Pacamara Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Unique tropical fruits, chocolate bittersweets, anise.
Roast: While the aromatics from light roasts are superior, the best cup flavors emerge at Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: Exotic flavor profile for a Central America coffee, perhaps more like a hybrid between a typical Pacamara and a natural dry-process Ethiopia. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro 2008

This coffee was the 1st place winner in the first Cup of Excellence held in El Salvador, 2003. Kilimanjaro farm is located on the highlands of the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, 40 minutes away from the city of Santa Ana. The Batlle family purchased the farm in 1983, and are the third generation of a coffee family. Aida Batlle (the daughter) takes care of this coffee plantation which is nearly 40 years old, and located in one of the oldest coffee-growing areas in the country. She is a "hands-on" coffee grower, seen daily at the farm and monitoring all the aspects of the harvest. To win the 1st place award, they incentivised the workers with salaries double the usual rates, but also demanded very high standards in picking and processing. The neat thing about Aida is, after winning, she has decided to take the small production from this 30 hectare farm and distribute it among just a few buyers. we get very little. And we all pay a healthy price for the coffee to support the farms improvement. It's win-win for everyone. And this coffee is worth the effort - it's a fantastic, dynamic Central American coffee. The farm is on the Santa Ana volcanic slopes, and is planted with 95% Bourbon and Kenyan cultivars, with the remaining trees being Pacas. Altitude is 1450 meters (4750 feet) and there are diverse shade trees on the farm including Pepeto Peludo, Copalchí, Cypress, Avocado and Peach. When I cup this coffee, the dynamic brightness, lively, tingly, can only be compared to fresh crushed mint leaves. It's not the best description in terms of flavor, but it is perfect in terms of effect. At the lighter roasts there is jasmine flower, peppermint, a crisp brightness, with fresh raspberry fruits, meyer lemon, and black tea. The fruits have a winey tonality to them. The body is medium, and pairs well with a light malt roast taste at City+ roast. The finish has fresh tea with lemon and mint. The volatile aromas on the cup are just fantastic. It is the best of what really high grown, traditional cultivar Central coffees can be - it's what many other coffees wish they could be. After you cup a lot of Centrals, you key in on the qualities that this cup has in abundance and amplitude. And Aida's Kilimanjaro coffee shows that diligence, faith and investment in a farm can really pay off. My warning is to buy it soon; this is a very small lot, and to allow many to try this exemplary coffee, we impose a 2 Lb limit per person. This coffee arrived a bit ago, and I was stashing it (a few of you caught on, when you saw that Stumptown was selling there allotment of this great coffee). Since it is vacuum packed, and we have so many nice Salvadors, I held off the offering for a little while.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Bourbon coffee under shade trees (from my trip last season)
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Bourbon and Kenyan (95%), 5% Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Bright, dynamic cup.
Roast: City+ to Full City: takes a wide range of roasts. If the lighter roasts are too bright for you, try a couple snaps into 2nd crack. It will still have a bright tone to the cup.
Compare to: One of the nicest, classic, bright Central American coffees I have cupped, but with a decidedly African cup character.
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El Salvador Peaberry "Aida's Grand Reserve" 2008

Notes: There's some debate about what coffee is the most exclusive, rarest, most outstanding in the cup ... a debate I always find particularly elitist and boring. There is no single "excellent coffee" out there, it's not a peak you scale with one dramatic spire, and one perfect little cup of coffee waiting for you on top. If you market coffee packaged in a wine bottle, grown on a trellis, or scavenged from rodent excrement, it doesn't make it good or even rare. It's just a bunch of hoopla. Further, if you try to distinguish a set of truly excellent coffees, carefully processed, with dynamic cup character, you still end up with no single winner, since excellence in coffee means suiting the polymorphus aspects of the human senses. Luckily, great coffees are as diverse as our senses used to appreciate them. So given all my sidestepping and hesitations, if someone really turned the screws on me, and made me confess what coffee has the most time, care, passion invested in it, and reflects this in the cup, it would be Aida's Grand Reserve. Aida is Aida Batlle, who has several small farms of great distinction on the Santa Ana Volcano. (You can read about Aida in our Kilimanjaro review). Like no other small-lot coffee I have tasted (or even heard about), Aida's Grand Reserve is the product of careful propagation, harvesting, picking, processing, and blending. Yes, blending, just as a master vintner might blend from particular parts of an estate to achieve a special reserve, Aida has selected pickings from her 3 small farms, Finca Kilimanjaro, Los Alpes and Mauritania, cupped and blended them to form the Grand Reserve. This involves traditional wet processing, as well as a very difficult "raisin coffee" component, in which the coffee cherry is allowed to dry partly on the tree, until the red exterior darkens and wrinkles slightly. You get the feeling with this lot that every single little green bean was inspected under a microscope and chosen for this lot. (The burlap bags we received this in are double-layered, hand inked, with sewn-on batiked labeling!) This is the first time we have been able to offer this Aida's Grand Reserve, but if you google it you will see how little is available, and how glowing the reviews have been in the previous years. The cup has ton's of character; it's no lightweight Central. Dry fragrance has great intensity, dark semi-sweet chocolate, Dutch cocoa hints and fruited layers too, dried plum. The wet aromatic has ample amounts of chocolate and raisin (Monukka Raisin). The cup has character you might find in a more brooding type of Kenya, a Kirinyaga-region coffee for example, with pungency, winy dark fruited notes, sweet dried fruit (again I think of the Monukka varietal raisin), dark ripe Bing cherry, and semi-sweet chocolate. As I said before, this is a heavyweight cup for a Central, with brooding deep body, and long, long aftertaste marked by pungent spice tones and black pepper. While the long aftertaste has this pungency, as it cools the cup leaves a very "juicy" last impression. As far as Central go, or other high priced coffees, the Aida's Grand Reserve is unique because it has tons of body, and a more intense, bold character in general. Panama Esmeralda Gesha may have the high notes, but this coffee has the balance and almost aggressive cup character. It's fantastic stuff. So I'll just cave in completely: here we have the rarest, most exotic, and most excellent coffee since man put coffee bean to fire and soaked in water! Okay, seriously, this is one of the most intense and complex Centrals I have ever experienced. Roast it as gifts, for after a special dinner, or just keep it for yourself. It's amazing stuff.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Harvesting Bourbon coffee (from my '07 El Salv trip)
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB, Peaberry
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano
Processing: Wet Process, Pulp Natural
Arrival Date: Oct 2008 Arrival, Vac Packed
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17+ PB screen
Varietal: Kenya, Bourbon, Pacas
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Extremely complex, balanced and intense.
Roast: I found the coffee does exceptionally well under a wide range of roasts: C+ to FC+: all levels have good pungency and chocolate, so I would tend toward C+ /FC with no second crack at all.
Compare to: Intense, supremely complex, difficult to compare to any other Central. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador - Orange Bourbon Cultivar

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon (pronounced Bore-Bone), especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolatey and have a creamy mouthfeel. Most of this cultivar have fruit that ripen to a red color, hence Red Bourbon, and there is some Yellow Bourbon too. This coffee is a spontaneous mutation that ripens to an orange color, hence the name Orange Bourbon. It is from a farm I visited last year called El Molino de Santa Rita, and when I heard of this orange coffee I had to go out and find it. Since I was flying out that day, this meant a very early morning for me, and despite bleary eyes, we found the trees in full ripeness and they were indeed very orange! More interesting is the cup, which is very balanced, with moderate acidity and excellent sweetness. At Full City roast there is an excellent bittersweet heft to this cup, dense and compact body, and an orangey sweetness (yes, what a coincidence!) This orange combines with a soft chocolate note for a very pleasing effect, and I am off now to fire ups some shots in the espresso machine to see how this great, balanced cup plays out in that arena.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Ripe Orange Bourbon coffee cherry, my first encounter with this type, from my trip in early '06
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Rita
Processing: Wet-process
Arrival Date: September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Orange Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Extremely balanced and sweet .
Roast: City+ to FC+, works well under a wide range of roasts. I think this coffee makes great single-origin espresso too at FC+ roast level.
Compare to: Classic Bourbon coffee with orange sweetness. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador Cup of Excellence - Finca Malacara

Malacara is a farm I have admired for their fine Cup of Excellence lots in the past 3 years. And I must admit I like the name a lot: Bad Face. The farm is at 1550 meters near the town of Cantón La Montañita on the Santa Ana volcano. The farm has been in one family, handed down and divided since the early 1900's, and the average age of the trees is 49 years old! the coffee is grown under a shade canopy of trees, mainly made up of Ingas and mountain trees such as cedar, walnut, gravileo and avocado among others. Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon coffees, especially those from El Salvador, are neotypical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolaty and have a creamy mouthfeel. In a competition like Cup of Excellence, these characteristics might seem mundane next to the exotic flavors of the Pacamara cultivar, but Bourbon should be appreciate for more than it's sturdiness, versatility (they make great espresso blend components), and the way they take a wide range of roasts. Each has unique accent notes too. This lot was one of my favorite Bourbon lots in the competition. The dry fragrance has strong nut and toffee roasty scents, but behind that there are soft floral tones, and suggestions of starfruit. The wet aromatics are a little citrusy and spicy with a bit of anise and sassafras. In the cup, the coffee is extremely sweet and bright. I immediately found bright strawberry flavors and sweet mandarin-orange citrus brightness. As it cools, the sweetness become more caramelly, and the sharper notes from the aromatics soften a lot. It has a very clean finish, articulate. It's simply outstanding, high-grown Bourbon coffee, a real flawless gem.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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View of shade trees and coffee shrubs at Finca Malacara
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Ana, Cantón La Montañita
Processing: Wet-process
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 2 d/300gr, 19+ Screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Very sweet, citrusy, bright, and clean.
Roast: City+ to FC
Compare to: Classic Bourbon structure with sweet citrus and strawberry. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador Finca Mauritania

Finca Mauritania is owned and managed by Aida Batlle, who also brings us the award-winning Finca Kilimanjaro and her exclusive Grand Reserve each year. Aida's Mauritania has been offered by our friends at Counter Culture for years, and they have had a long working relationship with this special coffee, investing so much time (and funds) to get the Finca Mauritania Organic certified. Sweet Maria's is just a grateful hitch hiker, and we are really happy to tag along for the ride. For me, Mauritania is such a classic Central flavor profile, balanced if not somewhat restrained. But if you pay attention to this cup through all temperature ranges, from hot to cool, there is so much to discover. This farm is is on the Northern slope of the Santa Ana volcano, between 1400 meters and 1600 meters, and is planted in pure Bourbon cultivar. At my preferred roast (City+) dry fragrance is caramelly sweetly fruited, with peach-apricot preserves, and a touch of rose hips and candied orange peel. The wet aroma follows the same suit, but has more heightened, jammy sweetness, and cinnamon spice on the break. The cup has such a balanced body, with spiced tea flavors, peach danish, cinnamon (again), a touch of ginger, and a very clean finish. I get slight cherry notes in the aftertaste, and a little confectionery sweetness. The body seems creamy, and well-matched to the cup flavors.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Harvesting coffee and re-sorting at Finca Mauritania
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Potrero Grande Arriba, Santa Ana Volcano, Apaneca-Ilamatepec
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: Late September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: 100% Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Delicate yet nuanced, classic Central character
Roast: As with a lot of clean, wet-processed Centrals, this is most "nuanced" at City+ roast, and with a couple days of rest.
Compare to: Classic Central American balance, with a unique "mild complexity". This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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El Salvador - Yellow Bourbon Cultivar

Bourbon coffee is a classic cultivar, named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) where it was originally cultivated. When we call it classic, we mean not just the fact that it is a lower-yield, heirloom plant, and that it has a very dense seed that roasts well, but also the cup character. Bourbon (pronounced Bore-Bone), especially those from El Salvador, are neo-typical Central American coffees. They are bright, aromatic, balanced, semisweet or bittersweet, chocolatey and have a creamy mouthfeel. Most of this cultivar have fruit that ripen to a red color, hence Red Bourbon, Orange Bourbon (rare), and then there is Yellow Bourbon too. Yellow Bourbon tends to be more fragile on the tree and in harvest, so in many areas (with Brazil as an exception) you do not see much Yellow Bourbon. We have special Yellow Bourbon from Guatemala (Finca Retana in Antigua) and then there is this lot of El Salvador. It is from a farm I visited last year called El Molino de Santa Rita. The cup has a toasty sweetness in the fragrance, and the wet aroma has clean fruited notes, with a touch of lemon in the lighter roasts. The cup flavors are bright and crisp at City to City+, and have honeydew melon hints at Full City roast. I like the complexity that emerges at FC roast where bittersweet notes mingle with refined, sweet fruit, and extend well into the aftertaste. Toasty sweetness is present from the start to finish in the aromatics and cup here. It has a great balance overall, making it a quintessential classic Central American flavor profile.



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Yellow Bourbon harvested at El Molinho de Santa Rita.
Country: El Salvador
Grade: SHB
Region: Santa Rita
Processing: Wet-process
Arrival Date: September 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: 100% Yellow Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Balance and toasty sweetness
Roast: City+ to FC+, works well under a wide range of roasts. I liked the added complexity at FC roast.
Compare to: Classic Bourbon flavor profile, a great Central American type coffee. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.
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