This is a project we initiated with a producer I have known for years, Jose Antonio Salaverria. His two sons, Andres and Jose Antonio Jr., are also heavily involved. He has three different areas of coffee production around the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. The coffees are all processed at a centralized mill, Las Cruces. He has always been producing high quality at a larger scale, with good volumes. The coffees have been separated into a few brand names based on the three main areas, such as Santa Rita, San Francisco and El Molino. These areas actually consist of a great number of farms he has inherited or taken over through the years.
We are now about to separate out 10 farms (blocks) over the next years, selected based on their potential. So far we have coffees on their way from San Felipe, Guadalupe, San Francisco (the original), El Cipresal, La Ilusion and a natural processes, Buena Vista. There will be others to come e.g. La Joya and Los Nogales. Except from a few larger ones, the lot sizes are between 25 – 50 bags. The farms we have chosen are from 1350 to 1750 meters above sea level.
We have at least a three year agreement on the project, knowing the coffees will be available only for us. Our idea is to connect roasters to the farms with exclusivity on the specific farms in their market. It’s also possible to have exclusive rights for the whole outturn if the volume fits your needs.
The most impressive thing with coffees from Salaverria is the overall quality of picking: deep blood red and uniform color. Considering the volumes they are doing in total it is pretty amazing!
All the coffees are processed based on trials and adjustments we made at the wet mill this season. At Las Cruces they have aqua pulpers called Jotagallo that are doing about 80% mechanical demucilaging. Their standard procedure is to take the parchment from the pulpers directly to the patio for drying. We have decided to soak all the coffees over night for 10 hours after pulping as we believe it will make the coffee even more elegant. We feel the cup is brighter and cleaner, even if partially honey dried/pulped naturals are preferred by others. The coffees are still super sweet, rich in berry flavors with a subtle but distinct acidity profile.
The coffees are then dried on clay patio up to 15 days. We have also done trials on drying at African beds, in shade and sun, and will follow up next year.
We are hoping to do some naturals as well. They have a long tradition of producing naturals that are coming out better than many others from Central America. They have pretty good weather conditions, a dry climate and it’s not too hot. They dry most of their naturals on patios at higher altitudes than Las Cruces. We believe slower drying decreases the flavor of ferment and pulp, and contributes to a cleaner and more complex profile. Still, we want to improve, and we did some experiments with shade dried naturals on raised beds this year. The coffees came out really delicate, with hardly any pulpiness at all. We hope to continue this next year, but it’s a costly process as it takes about 30 days to dry it properly.
Varietals and plant treatment
Most of these coffees are of what the Salaverrias call the San Francisco variety—that’s a hybrid of Pacas and the old Bourbon Elite, developed at the farm. Some of the blocks do contain old Bourbon trees, Bourbon Elite, and a mix of Bourbon and Pacas. Occasionally you can find Pacamaras as well.
They use a mix of chemical fertilizer and a new organic fertilizer called Huisil. Jose Antonio is one of the founders of the Huisil factory, where they produce fertilizer based on organic waste. 40% is coffee pulp, the rest is from fish, meat, bones and plants.
For pruning they have gone back to the “parra” method where they bend down the mother stems and allow up to four new shoots develop in to smaller trees on each stem. One old tree can cover a couple of square meters and they become very productive if you do it right.
Overall this is a classic Salvador, sweet with dark cherry flavors, red berries, soft and rich with good mouthfeel and intensity. They work very well as espresso, but are also nice and easy to drink as a lighter brew. Great coffees for some, and either way it’s hard to find anything negative to say about them. Really balanced, pleasant and solid.
They are not hard to roast either and manage a good range of roast degrees.