El Salvador – Finca San José (Apaneca)
Farm: Finca San José
Varietal(s): Pacas & Sarchimor
Processing: Dry pulped, fermented & washed; dried on raised beds (parihuelas)
Altitude: 1,250 metres above sea level
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec, Ahuachapán
Country: El Salvador
Rolando Ramirez Moreno and his family have long been in the coffee business: he is the third generation to farm coffee in the green hills of El Salvador’s Apaneca-Illamatepec region. In 2005/6, Rolando (operating under the company name of Cayro, S.A. de C.V.) decided to deepen his commitment to El Salvador’s coffee culture even further.
Like so many coffee farms in the region – indeed in El Salvador – Finca San José had been virtually abandoned for many years. Years of coffee price volatility combined with the appearance of coffee leaf rust in the region has made farming coffee a losing proposition in many producers’ eyes. San José was an old farm that had changed hands on many occasions, with very little love being spent despite its ideal location. Rolando, however, saw the farm’s potential!As part of his wider growth plan, he acquired the farm and immediately set about renovating 50 hectares of the farm’spoorly maintained coffee trees. The farm kept its original name – but everything else changed.
Today, the farm is managed with precision and care and with the utmost attention to detail. Integral management is carried out throughout the year with a group of 10 permanent staff and 95 temporary staff. Rolando, of course, oversees all the work. Four annual fertilisations are conducted, always with reference to soil and foliar analysis, always taking care not to over-fertilise and to prevent groundwater contamination.
Environmental stewardship is of the utmost importance to the farm. Coffee at San Jose (as at all Cayro’s farms) is 100%shade grown to preserve wildlife and to help mitigate the effects of global warming. The farm has also recentlylaunched an extensive program of ‘micro-terracing’ in order to prevent soil erosion - a very important step in this steep countryside. Water conservation is also of great concern, and the farm takes steps to preserve local aquifers.
Equally, great care is taken with the harvest. Coffee is selectively hand harvested, with only the ripest cherries beingpicked. Once enough coffee has been collected, it is delivered to the ‘La Labor’ Wet Mill in San Antonio or Cayro’sown in Ahuachapán – about 30 minutes from the farm. (As a side note, the latter lies only 2 km away from the only geothermic electric plant in El Salvador, which is located in the middle of a bunch of geysers!)
Coffee is always pulped on the same day as it is picked. It is first floated to remove any damaged or underripe cherries. This water is then conserved to be used again. The coffee is then dry pulped and fermented for approximately 15 hours, after which it is fully washed. After it is completely clean of any remaining mucilage, it is moved to be dried
on raised beds under shade for around 21 days. The coffee is moved regularly to ensure even drying.
Rolando is passionate about learning and experimentation, which has led Cayro mill to experiment with new processes and practices. As of 2017, the farm is experimenting with extended and anaerobic fermentation. He is also looking at the possibility of establishing a drying greenhouse, so the drying process is more uniform.
Although the farm is already very advanced with regards to agricultural practice, Rolando still has great plans for the future and always maintains an innovative outlook. He plans to renovate 10% of the farm annually, replanting with high quality varietals that are also rust resistant – always looking towards improving the face of El Salvador’s coffee!
Notes: Chocolate, raisin, biscuit