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Sourcing Trips | 18 Jul 23

A Visit to El Salvador: Part One

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  • El Carmen Mill:

    If I were to describe Fernando Alfaro from El Carmen Estate in the western mountain region of El Salvador in one word, I would use “methodical.”

    The El Carmen mill is located 1,300 meters above sea level. The higher elevation makes for cooler temperatures during the day allowing for slower drying of coffee seeds and cherries. Slower drying results in longer fermentation which positively increases the intensity of the flavor of the roasted product.

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  • The El Carmen Mill works with 35 producing partners with farms ranging from 15 hectares up to 70 hectares with an average size of 40 hectares. Each lot is separately processed and dried on 1 of 10 different patios before being stored in GrainPro bags in an environment-controlled warehouse for milling.

    The El Carmen mill processes Red Bourbon, Orange Bourbon, Pacamara, Gesha, Castillo, Pacas, Sarchimor, Tabi, Sidra, and SL-28. 60% of which are anaerobic natural processed, and the other 40% washed, traditional natural, or honey processed.

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  • Traditionally growing Bourbon, El Carmen and surrounding producers have been making a shift towards more resistant varieties such as Castillo, Sarchimor, and Marsellesa. To keep up with production, farmers are only able to replace small lots of coffee trees each year.

    Due to changes in the political landscape over the past few years coupled with family sponsors in wealthier countries, the availability of workers has decreased, resulting in lower yields. Subsequently, pricing has gone up for a lose-lose situation for both the producer and the buyer.

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  • Finca España:

    Finca España is currently under the direction of Fernando and his mother-in-law, Edith Eleonora Lemus de Diaz Nuila (Nora). España was established by Nora’s great-grandfather, Rodrigo Herrera in 1860. Passing down the generations, Nora was the first to strive for excellence and quality and committed to only producing specialty grade coffee. With Fernando’s help in the past few years, the trees on her farm have become more fertile and the soil more sustainable, and coffee has been seeing newer processing methods that have overall increased the revenue from Finca España.

    On my visit to España, almost all the trees had begun to bud flowers and were waiting in anticipation for rain. Having been 12 days since the last rain (which was only 2cm), Fernando needed the buds to bloom, before they dried out and withered away, potentially decimating the upcoming harvest.

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  • On the bright side, España had been seeing tremendous new tree growth, a sign that their innovative practices were working.

    Thank you, Fernando Alfaro, for showing us around El Carmen Estate! Until next time!

    Mercanta North America is purchasing an anaerobic natural processed lot from Finca La Espana containing the Bourbon, Castillo, and Pacas varieties for the 22-23’ harvest.

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