Bita

Central America Sourcing Trip

Part 2: El Salvador

After a quick cupping at Servex with our friends at La Providencia and Finca Guatelon on my last day in Guatemala, I jumped on a bus to El Salvador. Upon my arrival I was warmly received by Lucia and Roberto of Las Mercedes and a generous pour of Blue Label!

After a brief visit with Lucia and Roberto, Sergio and Isabel Ticas of Finca Los Planes, another long-time PT’s partner, picked me up to take me to their farm in Chalatenango, located in northern El Salvador very close to Honduras. As we entered the region, it became clear they too were suffering from an overly-dry season which is effecting the yield for this year’s harvest. Los Planes sits on the mountain Cordillera Alotepeque Metapán overlooking Ocotepeque, Honduras. The area is extremely tranquil; rarely have I felt as serene as I did during my two day stay at the farm. Sergio is driven by quality and it shows in the harvest. Like El Socorro, the day’s picking marked the start of the peak season. The cherries were beautiful and plentiful. Prior to this day, the farm averaged about 28 buckets of cherries per day. This day, 98 buckets were delivered to the mill, a sign the cherries are at prime ripeness and sweetness.

Upon our return to San Salvador, I headed to Las Mercedes with Lucia and her son, Andres. Las Mercedes is located in the Usulután in the Southern part of El Salvador, closer to Nicaragua.

Las Mercedes was founded in 1886, making it one of the oldest farms in El Salvador still run by 6th generation of the founding family. A Cup of Excellence winner in 2006, Las Mercedes not only produces great coffees, but has become a positive force for social change within their community. In 2008, they established a clinic on the farm that serves twelve surrounding communities with free medicine and medical support. PT’s Coffee is proud to have supported this clinic over the years. Since 2008, they have averaged about 1500 patients per year and continue to expand the care they provide.

As with most of Central America, 2017 will be a down year for many farms in El Salvador. In addition to the natural cycle of an up year followed by a down year, Lucia has worked tirelessly to refurbish her best growing areas. While they are looking at a down year of about 40%, Lucia has prepared for the next up cycle by planting thousands of new young shrub and removing very old trees that were no longer producing or were vulnerable to disease.

Lucia has replanted huge swaths of prime growing areas with new varietals and dedicated more space to species that thrive here, like the Kenya varietal SL-28. Currently she is not producing enough SL-28 to separate it out as a unique lot, but in about three years SL-28 will be a distinct offering from Las Mercedes.

Onward to Finca Loma La Gloria! The first order of business with producer Anny Pimentel was to present the results of our fundraising efforts to their recipients. For the last couple seasons we have used proceeds from the sale of Anny’s coffee to support an eco-stove program for her employees. This year we changed things up a bit.

Rembert Sosa is the principal at the public school Centro Escolar San Jeronimo in El Boqueron, very close to Finca Loma La Gloria. Sr. Sosa has spent the last five years trying to get a baking program going for his high school students; both to teach students a skill and to use the fresh bread as a fundraiser for the school. Unfortunately, public schools in El Salvador are tragically underfunded and he has not been able to find the money needed for an oven. Through our fundraising efforts with Anny’s coffee, we raised enough money to buy a commercial stove for the project and two large eco-stoves for the school. In addition, we bought three more eco-stoves for Anny’s employees! Rembert has finally started the baking program and it is quickly becoming the most popular program in school.

This is our third season working directly with Anny and I can say with all honesty this is the best thus far. Improving at the farm level is not easy. With so many moving parts and employees to manage, much can go wrong. Experimenting and adding protocols might improve the quality of the coffee, but are often too difficult and risky for farms to undertake. Finca Loma La Gloria is the exception.

With Francisco’s help, the farm is breaking ground and moving in directions of which bigger farms should take note. Major adjustments in regard to how they dry, rest, blend, and harvest coffees has improved the coffee clarity, sweetness, and complexity. We are excited to roast our exclusive Pacamara from Finca Loma La Gloria later this year.

Earlier Articles

PT’s Coffee Estate Series

Each year we have the pleasure of bringing some of the highest caliber specialty coffees through our roasting facility. We believe in the connection between the quality of any one coffee and the producers and farmers who work long hours to actualize it. Just like your favorite type of produce, quality is tied to seasonality… Continue Reading

Trip Report – Finca Los Planes – El Salvador

Our 2015 trip to El Salvador was bound to be unique, different and better in many ways than any of the other 20+ trips I’ve made through Central America. On this particular trip there would be tears shed and piercing screams. Men would be on their knees making indistinguishable sounds. Women would stop in their… Continue Reading

This story begins with one very tiny KIA Sportage, five coffee professionals, a cooler full of cold brewed Pacamara Natural, and a trunk packed with specialty coffee from our Colombian Direct Trade partners. Last weekend members of the PT’s crew hit the road heading east with one goal in mind – to share our love… Continue Reading

And the winner is …

Well here it is, you guys – the third installment of the PT’s Challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with the challenge, check out the original blog post by clicking here. Let’s get down to business and explore this week’s featured coffee, brew method, and the winning recipe! Featured Coffee: Sidama Guji Our Sidama Guji started its… Continue Reading

Exceptional coffee starts at the farm

PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. is honored and delighted to announce that we are hosting specialty coffee producer Armando Benavides of Finca Santa Maria, a Direct Trade partner from Colombia. Benavides will be at our two retail cafés on Monday, April 6th, where he will discuss Colombian coffee production and the pursuit of his dream-turned-reality: growing… Continue Reading

Round 2. Ready, FIGHT!

  One by one, the names of eight fierce competitors filled the vacant spots on the PT’s Challenge bracket. Competitors spent time getting to know the featured coffee and brew method. The outcome of this hard work: one kick-ass cup of coffee and a new champion. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: this week’s… Continue Reading

PT’s Challenge – Round One

We have a winner! The first PT’s Challenge went down this week at our roasting facility and we’re proud to announce Lara Prahm as champion. Featured Coffee: Palo Alto.  Our featured coffee this week comes from Finca El Socorro in Guatemala. Owner Juan Diego de la Cerda goes above and beyond to consistently produce high quality… Continue Reading

A little competition never hurt anyone…

Of the many things in life worthy of great love, coffee is near the top of the list. You love coffee. We love coffee. For many who don’t work in the coffee industry, it can be hard to find the time to explore all the different coffees and brew methods. Here’s the thing – you shouldn’t… Continue Reading

Trip Report – Los Planes – El Salvador

It is supposed to be hot and dry this time of year, instead we were greeted with a steady mist, or light rain, when we arrived at Finca Los Planes in Chaletenango region of El Salvador. That was a concern because this is the dry season (late February) and harvest can be damaged by the rains. The farm… Continue Reading