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First part of the trip was cantered around the Las Lajas Estate & micro mill, a farm we have worked with since 2008 and have enjoyed their honey processed coffees every year since. Oscar and Fransisca make and their family in their own words ‘live coffee’ as their house is maybe all of 10m from the mill & drying beds!
Well known for a couple of years now for processing exceptional honey and natural coffees, the key is in fastidious attention to detail and not being afraid of experimentation. As Oscar said on one of our long talks; “It is the responsibility of the barista and the producer to innovate in coffee”. As the roaster in the middle, I think we hold the key to marrying the innovation at both ends of the coffee chain – a big responsibility!
As much as Oscar and Francisca were open with us and really forthcoming with information on the technical details involving the processing, I don’t think it’s mine to share here as they have developed some pretty unique processes – but safe to say of the numbers involved in the processing of the naturals in particular were amazing – the sugar content reading in particular, but the length of time the coffee was kept in certain states – it clearly works – the evidence is in the cup!
We’re joining with Las Lajas and showcasing some of their great processing work for some new Grumpy Mule coffees including the popular Perla Negra; and a brand new nicely balanced semi-washed (the first ever from Las Lajas) which we all enjoyed at the cupping table – keep a look out for these within the next month! We’ll also have an a superb single varietal Cascara (a dried fruit tea-like infusion) available too.
After a trip around the coffee scene in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, we travelled to possibly my favourite tasting origin – El Salvador! I’ve always had a thing for the sweet and complex coffees that great producers in El Salvador bring so it was particularly important to visit and see how the country as a whole and the individual farmers are dealing with the leaf rust issues that have plagued the country in the last couple of years.
First the bad news. The leaf rust is a massive issue that the industry on a larger scale really doesn’t have a handle on. We saw swathes of leafless, fruitless plants on what looked like abandoned farms. Talking with our hosts, it is absolutely clear that farming care & agronomy make a massively difference to how resilient the plants are.
However, there is good news…. We met great farmers and individuals who want to produce great coffee despite the conditions they face. They are investing in their farms, plant stock and the future of El Salvadorian coffee and I admire them greatly.
It is folk like our gracious host Alejandro Martinez, like Eduardo Alvarez Sr & Jr, like Mauricio Escalon & our long-time friend Christian Schaps who are approaching the issue in different technical ways, but with absolutely the same mind-set of producing great coffee with the long term in mind.
Of particular interest were the mill visits to El Manzano, El Borbollon and Cafescal. At the latter two, we found coffees on the cupping table that we will have in our Roast to order rangethis summer, La Reforma El Borbollon Microlot & La Esperanza selection. Both are very typical high sweetness El Salvadorian coffees, but particularly the La Reforma has some fantastic tropical fruit flavours too – the approval samples disappeared pretty quickly back at the roastery!
Look out for these coffees on the new web shop, lots of tasty on the way!