It would seem logical that the smallest Central American coffee-growing country would produce microlots, but historically, much of the coffee was blended and sold to mills, without much lot differentiation and separation. The rise of specialty coffee in El Salvador has inspired many producers to start to identify and isolate individual varieties, and to experiment with sorting and processing, as a way of attracting buyers and getting higher prices, but access to those resources can still be difficult for smaller growers.
For the past few years, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani—who is from El Salvador, and whose mother has a long history in coffee there—has embarked on a project designed to identify, reward, and bring to market the exceptional results of the hard, innovative work that producers are increasingly interested in doing here.
Focusing on the region of Chalatenango, Piero has partnered with a cupper and a local mill to buy small, select microlots from producers—some separated by variety, some by process, and some by both. We are buying the coffee in parchment and doing the ruling and final sorting and bagging ourselves, which allows for more quality control as well as the ability to package some of these very special small lots in custom 35-kilo Pequeños bags, to create more widespread access to these coffees to roasters.
Finca Don Jaime is named for its owner, Jaime Guevara, who grows about 3,000 trees per manzana on 6 manzanas of land. (That's around 18,000 total trees, a combination of Pacamara, Pacas, SL-28, and Gesha varieties.) Jaime has worked in coffee for 15 years, after asking his father how to grow and produce it. Don Jaime told his father, "Dad, when you die, I am going t oplant a coffee tree on top of you"—and he means it as a compliment!
Don Jaime processes his coffee as both Washed and Honey: The Washed lots are picked and depulped, then fermented for 18–20 hours before being washed laid on raised beds and dried for 16 days, during which time it's rotated every hour. The Honeys are dried for around 28 or 29 days, and are also rotated hourly until they are done.
The production on Finca Don Jaime is about 1600 quintales, though the farm struggles with coffee-leaf rust. (It gives Jaime Guevara nightmares.) Despite the issues with disease, Don Jaime says that growing coffee "is my life, it's exactly what I want to do." He loves to be at his farm, and while he has had many jobs in his life, coffee is what makes him happiest.
We are proud to offer these micro-microlots, and can’t wait for you and your customers to experience the delicious stuff that comes in these small packages.
For more information about coffee production in El Salvador, visit our El Salvador Origin Page.