Farm: Finca El Manzanal
Varietal: Typica, Bourbon, Catimor & Caturra
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds and clay patios
Altitude: 1,200 metres above sea level
Owner: Agricor S.A. de C.V. (Jose Enrique Gutierrez)
Town / City: Concepción de Ataco, Ahuachapan
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec, Ahuachapán
Finca El Manzanal - El Salvador
Finca El Manzanal is one of a group of farms making up the larger property ‘Agricor S.A. de C.V,’ all of which are owned and managed by fourth generation coffee producer, Jose Enrique Gutierrez. Sr. Gutierrez applies his experience and extensive knowledge to running the farm, located in the beautiful colonial town of Ataco in El Salvador’s Apaneca-Ilamatepeq Mountain Range. He also co-owns the renowned Finca La Providencia with Fernando Alfaro, owner of Finca (and Beneficio) El Carmen.
Finca El Manzanal’s 5 hectares are situated in rich soils ranging across hillsides at 1,200 meters above sea level. Working in harmony with the environment, mixing traditional practices and experimenting with new methods of agriculture has led the farm to optimize yields while taking advantage of the region’s ideal conditions for producing high quality coffee. The different lots in the farm feature Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Pacas, and Catimor varieties, and since purchasing the farm 5 years ago, Sr. Gutierrez and his son, who increasingly is becoming involved in the farm’s activities, have embarked upon an aggressive renovation plan, which includes expanding the Typica plantation by .5 hectares in 2016. Shade is provided by native tree species, and some of the farm’s shade trees have provided shelter to the diverse fauna of the region for 75 years!
Sr. Gutierrez’s production methods are painstaking and are aimed at achieving optimal quality balanced with increased productivity. Nurseries producing the new seedlings used to re-plant the farm’s coffee plantations are produced using seeds sourced entirely from the strongest trees on Sr. Gutierrez’s own properties. Investment in soil fertility is conducted based on soil analysis and with the aim of meeting the unique needs of each tree. Normally, three rounds of soil fertilisation are applied every year and four rounds of foliar fertilisation take place. Soil pests and diseases (such as nematodes) are controlled using primarily non-harmful biological controls, and the farm uses only the most essential (and minimal) chemical insecticides. Coffee leaf rust presents one of the largest issues for the farm’s largely organic methods, and while an eco-friendly product still hasn’t been found to treat it, Sr. Gutierrez and his son have begun using a fungus called Lecanisilium Lecani, with mixed results. Another development has been combating the fungus by fertilising with Silica, which makes the leaf thicker therefore more resistant to attacks from rust, which attacks the leaves of the coffee plant.
Like cultivation activities, the harvest is completed with strict attention to detail and concern for quality every step of the way. Only the ripest cherries are picked, and these are handsorted again after picking to remove any discoloured or damaged cherries before they are delivered to the wet mill at nearby Finca El Carmen, some 20 minutes away. El Carmen has the capacity to process coffees using the natural, honey and fully washed methods. This lot has been depulped and then fermented for between 6 to 12 hours before being fully washed and delivered to dry on African (raised) beds and clay patios, where they are constantly turned until they achieve an optimal humidity of 11%. The stringent processing practices have led the farm to achieve a well-balanced cup.
Finca El Manzanal, together with the rest of the farms composing the Agricor group, provides employment for 75 people year-round and an additional 150 people during the harvest.