Trader: Nordic Approach
Origin: El Salvador
Region: Santa Ana > Apaneca Ilamatepeque
Altitude: 1500 masl
Origin type: Farm
Farm size: 294 ha
Variety: Bourbon, Red Catuai
La Independencia is a tablon (block) in side the greater San Francisco farm. Located at 1580 meters the block has been performing well over many years. It consists of 23 hectares in an area well known for sweet, delicate and classic El Salvadorian coffees. The cultivars grown is a mix of Bourbon and red Catuai. The producer is innovative in ways of processing and farming. They separate everything by days of picking and do different processes, fermentation and drying techniques depending on capacity and potential of the lot. In this case it is mechanically demucilaged before it is soaked under clean water over night and then carefully dried on patio. They manage the drying times by building up layers and resting the coffees in piles.
They are not hard to roast either and manage a good range of roast degrees.
Origin: Finca San Francisco by Jose Antonio Salaverria & Sons
This is a a larger farm of 294 hectares in total. They are dividing the bigger farms in to Tablones (blocks). They separate out some of them for improved processing and preparation. The tablones ranges in altitudes from 1200 masl up to 1700 masl. We have been buying several of the ones in the higher altitudes like Tablon San Ramon, Tablon San Antonio, Tablon Las Ranas, Tablon La Independencia, Tablon El Pedregal, Tablon Loma Linda and Tablon La Cabana.
The Jasal group – Las Cruces
This farm is part of a project with an El Salvadorian producer, Jose Antonio Salaverria and he’s two sons Andres Salaverria and Jose Antonio Salaverria the younger. They are now the 6th generation of coffee producers. The ancestors started with coffee in Huachapan. Jose Antonio Senior was offered a house from he’s father in 1970, but told him he wanted a instead. And he was given Finca Los Nogales, that’s still in the family and one of the farms we are buying from the group.
The coffees from the different farms are all processed at their central mill, Las Cruces. They bought Beneficio Las Cruses in 1990 and have done a lot of improvements since then. A lot of their success is based on their passion for coffee. They have been hard working and realistic, patient and focused on quality to make it sustainable. They have also managed to build a great team. Jose Antonio consider the workers and the team as the biggest asset.
They have three different main areas of coffee production around the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. They have always been producing high quality at a larger scale, but previously the coffee was mainly separated into a few brand names based on the three main areas, such as Santa Rita, San Francisco and El Molino. El Molino is an old mill with surrounding farms and was bought 80 years ago by the family. The farms at El Molino is about 100 years old. They have had the San Francisco complex from about 2002. Santa Rita from 2005.
But their three coffee growing areas actually consist of a great number of initial farms and new farms they have inherited or bought over the last decades. When we started a quality program with them in 2011 they started to do way more lot separation.
They basically started to separated out several small farms and blocks with the better altitude, quality potential and growing conditions. The farms we we work with and buy are mainly from 1400 to 1750 meters above sea level. This is regarded as a good altitude in El Salvador. In this area it’s hard to grow coffees above this level.
This is part of a long-term project. We are pre-contracting most of the coffees based on three year contracts. We are not only doing the separation by farms and blocks (tablones), but are also trying to optimize quality by changing the process to prepare a different and value added product. It’s basically done by changing the preparation from the coffees are picked by blocks and enters the pulper, through fermentation and soaking as well as the drying methods.
They also have a number of different varietals at their farms, and are currently doing a lot of experiments. The majority is still a mix of the old traditional Bourbon Elite, and something they call Hibrido San Fransisco wich is a mix of Bourbon Elite and Pacas.
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!
The coffees are for the most part processed based on trials and adjustments we made at the wet mill. They are using eco 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 most of our purchased 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, seems like shelf life can be increased and the acidity profile more distinct. The cups tend to be more closed in the beginning, but they normally opens up a lot after some months after picking. We tend to like these more, even if partially the regular process and honey dried/pulped naturals are preferred by others. The coffees are then dried on clay patio up to 15 days or on drying beds in sun or under shade. We have also done loads of trials with everything from different fermentation methods, naturals and honeys the last years, both dried on patio, African beds, in shade and sun, and will follow up next year.
We are slowly increasing the purchase of 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 on African beds decreases the flavor of ferment and pulp, and contributes to a cleaner and more complex profile. We want to improve it, and we have done some experiments with shade dried naturals on raised beds the resent years. The coffees came out really delicate, with hardly any pulpiness at all.
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 as Catuai, Caturra and Catimors. They have recently established blocks and gardens experimenting with new and excotic cultivars. We have tasted some amazing ones and are looking forward to the production of that stuff.
Agronomy and plant treatment
Leaf rust has been one of the major challenges for farmers in El Salvador the last years. Many producers are now giving up and are abandoning their farms. The Salaverrias have worked the last 8 years to regenerate the soil through usage of Huisil (organic compost/fertilizer) as a soil regenerator.
Jose Antonio Senior 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, chicken dung, bones and plants. It smells terrible during production. But after dried and made in to pellets it’s fine, and it really works! We have actually tasted some trials with 100% organic fertilizer (Huisil) and it also seems to improve the flavors. Problem is that with the aggressive leaf rust attacks it’s a gamble. And they can loose a lot of their production if they don’t use the traditional fertilizers in the mix.
According to Jose Antonio junior, that is managing the agronomy side, it’s about making the plants healthy, strong and recistant. This is what they currently do:
Using 50% huisil in all farms as well as nitrogen to develop new growth and potassium for the bean to grow and develop. They also use a combination of boron, sink, sulfer and magnesium.In June/July they need a complete mix to get the plant handle the development of beans, and to stay strong. They apply two complex mixes and one pure nitrogen.
They also apply 5 – 6 foliers. Systemic fungeside, thriatol something…. that are absorbed by branches and make them more immune against deseases. It can be combined with copper folier depending on the leaf rust. Copper creates a layer to prevent for leaf rust, but doesn’t kill the rust thats already there. This can also be mixed with fertilzing compounds. In some cases they also add melasses as polysaccarides to help the plant with energy and foliers to be efficient.
For pruning they experiment with different pruning and stumping methods. It can vary in different altitudes and with different cultivars.Still, for many of the farms with Bourbons they have mainly gone back to the old “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. And it looks great!
Sustainability and social responsability
60 % of production is Rain Forest Certified. They do it to maintain the environment and ensure social responsibility.
Give significant bonuses to farm managers based on the performance of the coffees and premiums they get.
Have as much permanent staff as possible that allows them to maintain a lojal work force. 50 – 60 people lives on their farms.
Better salaries for the pickers. They try to implement an environmental work athmosphere and good work ethics.
By creating good systems they help workers to be efficient so they can leave earlier. And that way be more comfortable.
Create work safety education
Provide housing for casual workers in San Francisco.
Health care for workers – doctors visiting the farms.
Paying the local clinics for medical care of their workers.
They also built two medical clinics in Atacco and are supporting them financially and donated land to two other clinics for the government.
Donated a site for the school in San Francisco and are building a soccer field.
The grandfather donated the site to the hospital in Ahuachapan
The tradition and culture of the family is generally to do a lot of charity for the local communities.
General flavor profile
Overall these coffees taste like great classic Salvadors. 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. Just good and very easy-to-like coffees. Really balanced, pleasant and solid.