This article was republished with the permission of Dan Dean, Staff Writer for Observer & Eccentric Newspapers. Jeff Taylor’s journey to find exceptional coffee has taken him across the globe and along the way he has met some exceptional people, none more so than his wife, Maritza. “I met Maritza at a coffee competition in Ecuador… Continue Reading
Our 2015 trip to El Salvador was bound to be unique, different and better in many ways than any of the other 20+ trips I’ve made through Central America. On this particular trip there would be tears shed and piercing screams. Men would be on their knees making indistinguishable sounds. Women would stop in their tracks and offer to help. Our patience would be tested regularly and more than a few diapers would be changed on the floor of a coffee laboratory.
This year Maritza and I were traveling with our 11 month old son, Phoenix, and introducing him to our Central American family. It wasn’t like we had a choice – “Don’t even bother coming back if you don’t bring the baby!” cautioned our producer friends and Direct Trade partners. Our baby was born into a coffee family larger and more inclusive than I could have ever imagined when I entered this industry in 1993. If you follow my Instagram account, @ptsjeff, you’re probably already familiar with Phoenix.
On this particular trip we visited the farm of two of our longest standing Direct Trade partners, Sergio and Isabel Ticas. We were excited to visit Finca Los Planes and preview the beautiful coffees we’ll be bringing in from El Salvador in the very near future.
FINCA LOS PLANES
Finca Los Planes is an iconic farm located in the Chalatenango region of El Salvador. We’ve been partnering with Sergio and Isabel Ticas since 2006. They are some of our earliest Direct Trade Partners. Our friendship and partnership has truly surpassed more than we could have ever imagined when we started our Direct Trade Program.
Sergio embodies the spirit of all El Salvadorian coffee farmers with his work ethic and commitment to his family and the people who work on his farm. Most of them are neighbors of the farm and are treated like family. He pays them well, more than twice the average wage of farm workers in other parts of El Salvador. In return they work hard for him and are very loyal, learning more each year about what it takes to produce an outstanding micro-lot of specialty coffee.
It’s always a pleasure to visit his farm because we don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching his workers how to pick, sort, or care for the coffee during the processing. They already understand the connection between quality work and quality pay to help support their families.
That said, some things are out of a farmers control. Weather, climate change, disease, and natural disasters are all things that can affect agricultural products. In recent years, much of Central America has been hit hard by a coffee plant fungus called roya. Roya is a fungus that attaches to the leaves of older plants and destroys them. As the leaves die and fall from the tree, so goes the tree itself. Roya is a true killer of coffee quality and production.
Sergio’s farm was hit hard in recent years as many of the Bourbon variety trees were aging, making them prime targets of this fungus. While he has tried to avoid this looming disaster, he has managed to produce some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted from his farm. This is testament to his knowledge and commitment of his team of workers.
As Maritza and I cupped through tables of wonderful coffee, just behind us Sergio was sitting with Phoenix making cooing sounds and caring for him. Whether he was keeping Phoenix busy so we could concentrate or he just got lost in the moment of playing with a new baby, it was adorable and reminded us once again why we love to work with such a wonderful man and his family. We are proud to once again bring their coffee to you. We’re confident you are going to love it as much as we do.
THE COFFEE LINEUP
Annually one of our favorite micro-lots from Finca Los Planes is El Matazano, Pacamara variety. It’s a coffee produced at the highest elevation (over 1600 meters) on his farm which is located very near the border of Honduras. As we worked our way through the cupping table while visiting the mill at Cuzcachapa Cooperative, this cup stood out. In the end, this was the clear winner of all the coffees presented to us. The coffee is meticulously cared for to produce a creamy cup that gently unfolds into a rich flavor of butterscotch. Notes of sweet pecan and gentle orange citrus fade into a bright, clean finish. If you are looking to experiment with a variety you are unfamiliar with, El Matazano is a good one to try.
Sergio’s Secret Garden
In addition to El Matazano, we will have a small offering of the always popular Sergio’s Secret Garden, a coffee grown near their cabin on the farm. This is Sergio’s personal project, a Yellow Caturra variety that is always sweet and clean. An aroma of vanilla gives way to the flavor of brown sugar and blood orange sweetness.
El Pimiento is another offering that holds a very special place in our hearts. It has a sweet sugar aroma with floral hints and juicy acidity. This cup has a round body and syrupy mouthfeel with a flavor of milk caramel and pear sweetness. Honey and starfruit are present in the finish. This coffee is grown on a small plot of land that Sergio designated to be worked and produced entirely by the women on the farm.
One of Sergio’s key helpers is Saida Magali Hernandez, known as “Nena.” Nena has learned so much over the years that Sergio’s mother in-law, Monika, donated the money to populate a small plot of land with coffee and designated it for development with Nena leading the way. Women grow this coffee as their special project; there is no help from the men on this plot, as they don’t need it. The quality speaks for itself and we are excited to offer this lot.
These women are experimenting with a growing technique known as Agobio Parra, a return to a forgotten technique used in El Salvador (once upon a time this technique was the norm). Monika and Nena wanted to experiment with the Agobio process as a way to produce more coffee from the same trees. This technique bends the trunk of the tree into an arch with the top branches tethered to a stake in the ground. As growing season progresses, sprouts shoot towards the sky. From one tree you now have several extra shoots producing coffee cherry.
As the trees produce more cherries, farmers are able to harvest more coffee from one tree. The risk from this method is that over production can lower quality, which in turn lowers the price. When properly managed, fertilized, and pruned, this technique can and has worked well. We believe the samples we received this year show a quality cup can come from this method. We think you’ll enjoy El Pimiento as much for the way it was produced as for the women that cared for it throughout the last year. It’s a very special project and we are honored to support them.
We are happy to announce our newest Direct Trade partnership with Juan Yurja in Bolivia. When we were first introduced to this farm in 2011, it was an interesting coincedence. There was a micro-lot that had been originally prepared for the Bolivia Cup of Excellence, and the competition had been cancelled last year. We were in… Continue Reading
Our two most recent Direct Trade arrivals feature the Peaberry of a Caturra Variety, grown around 2000 meters . The first roast date for these micro-lots will be on Monday, March 5th. Colombia Finca Villa Loyola Caturra Peaberry has a very complex and full bodied profile. Peaberries have a more concentrated flavor, making this coffee… Continue Reading
As the year comes to a close, we want to look back at the highlights that made 2011 great! 2011 brought much success in our sourcing efforts, and we were able to get our hands on many Award Winning coffees. Whether it be the Best of Panama, Cup of Excellence, or even something from the… Continue Reading
The holidays are rapidly approaching, and we have a few shipping updates to pass on to you for sharing great coffee with your family and friends. Thanksgiving is a time to feast, enjoy the gift of family and give thanks for all that we are grateful for. We are thankful for the time and effort… Continue Reading
Shipping costs have been on the rise recently due to an increase in gas prices and inflation in our economy. FedEx has been a competitive outlet for us, and we want to extend their shipping options to you. FedEx 2-Day and FedEx Overnight Rates are very competitive. The FedEx Ground option has an added benefit for Residential Customers. … Continue Reading
We are very excited to offer the two best coffees from Panama in 2011. In fact these two coffees were vying for the top spot in the SCAP Best of Panama competition. It was a close finish in the competition, and they were only separated by a 1/2 point. Jeff and Maritza Taylor were both… Continue Reading
Memorial Day marks the beginning of Summer Vacation for many students across the country, and is a timeless tradition for honoring our loved ones, and the fallen soldiers who gave their lives to protect our freedom. To pay tribute to our loved ones, we will be extending a free shipping promotion through the holiday weekend.… Continue Reading
With all of the excitement surrounding the 2011 Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee auction, we felt that it is time to announce the final roast of our 2010 Mario San Jose auction lot. After tasting each lot, we knew that there were two coffees that we had to have: Mario Carnaval and Mario San Jose. Both… Continue Reading