In February 2013, I headed to Guatemala and El Salvador looking for coffee to buy.
The day after arriving in Guatemala, Genaro from Servex and Fernando from our long-time Direct Trade partner, Finca Santa Ana, picked me up and we began the two-hour drive to the Santa Rosa region, which is east of Guatemala City. I had been to the farm before but it is always nice to visit well-organized farms that also happen to be in beautiful areas. Finca Santa Ana is surrounded by a dense forest that is also a national reserve so views are pretty spectacular. Since his father passed away last year, Fernando has taken over the farm and this is the first season running a harvest from start to finish. Certainly, there is much to learn but since Fernando has literally grown up on this farm he is doing a great job.
After lunch at the farm and a look at incoming cherries, we headed back to Guatemala City for cupping at the Servex mill. We were met there by Gabriella Cordon who is a long-time friend our ours, and Guillermo Juarez who runs his family’s farm Finca El Guatalon, also in the Santa Rosa region. Guatalon was selected as one of last year’s Cup of Excellence coffees with their Pacamara varietal. On this day, we cupped several coffees from their farm with the favorite being their Pacamara that we did buy. We are always excited to work with new farms and establish new Direct Trade relationships so we are looking forward to introducing you to their fine coffee.
We also cupped coffee from a few other farms, in addition to multiple lots from Finca Santa Ana.
A Few Words About Roya.
Many of you are well aware of the Roya epidemic, as we talk about it often. Roya was clearly present in Guatemala. Not only did I see many coffee plants affected with dying leaves, but overall, the quality this year is not as good as it has been in year’s past. As with any agricultural product, some harvests are of better quality than others, but this year, we are noticing softer, less interesting coffees, due in part to Roya. Because coffee shrubs that are affected by Roya have to spend energy replacing leaves, the coffee’s fruit is neglected. Often, a cherry will look ripe but will lack the proper amount of sugars, producing a coffee that is simply not as good as it could be.
The next day, I was off to El Salvador. I landed at 8am and met our friends Steve from Bodhi Leaf and Jeff from Portola at the airport—they had just arrived via red-eye from Los Angeles. Andres from JASAL picked us up as scheduled and we traveled to a hotel to pick up Eton from Temple. Then, we were all off to the JASAL mill in Santa Ana, about an hour and a half drive.
This is the second year working with JASAL and we are very excited to be working with them again. JASAL is the company mill and the Salaverria family owns about 10 farms in the surrounding area. After lunch we toured a couple of their farms and they showed us what they are doing to combat Roya. Fighting Roya is difficult for many farms. The family has re-invested in their farms for decades and they have built the infrastructure to effectively eradicate it from most of their farms. Sadly, many farms in the region cannot afford to combat Roya, as the cost of doing so would be more than their crop is worth.
We cupped some very nice coffees here and bought again their Los Luchadores Pacamara in addition to a washed, organic Bourbon, and a couple of Naturals. The next day, Graciano picked us up. Graciano is from Hi-U and specializes in pulped naturals and naturally processed coffees in Panama, El Salvador, Peru and now Ethiopia. Graciano’s philosophy is grounded in sustainable farming. A washed coffee creates a lot of waste and uses a lot of water. By carefully, processing coffee without using water, there is no water waste and the impact on the environment is minimal.
He took us to his mill where we cupped and he talked about some of the fantastic work he is doing with natural fertilizers and fungicides. Then, back to San Salvador and the Hi-U headquarters to cup some truly special, nano-lots. We made some good buys here and are looking forward to the coffee. As part of our El Salvador tradition, that night we headed to a local Mexican food taqueria where we dined on excellent pork tacos and Coronas!
All the coffee we sourced during this trip is now available.
by Chuck Patton
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters