More than 18 years ago, our friends, Sergio & Isabel Ticas began production on Finca Los Planes in the mountainous region of Chalatenango, El Salvador. Coming from Chalantenango, Sergio was not expected to produce a remarkable coffee. And yet, here stood Sergio at the Awards Ceremony collecting his plaque for 2nd place. This award, and his remarkable coffee, has helped catapult this “no name” region of El Salvador into a star in the coffee-growing world. We met Segio and Isabel following their 2nd place finish in the 2006 El Salvador Cup of Excellence. Jeff and Sergio quickly became good friends. During that first visit, we were immensly impressed by Sergio’s use of the money from the Cup of Excellence competition, to improve the beneficio on the farm, therby improving the processing of future harvests. This showed us their commitment and dedication to quality and constant improvement.
“On that visit, I met a man who has a passion for the land, the people he works with and the coffee he produces!”
~ Jeff Taylor
We developed a quick friendship that has become stronger each year. We’ve carried Finca Los Planes as a Direct Trade coffee for several years now, and each year we have worked with Sergio to bring you new and different coffees from his farm, along with the normal favorites. Our relationship with Finca Los Planes has developed into a standard setting model for our Direct Trade program. We are proud to be partners with Finca Los Planes on many projects to help out their community and improve the farm.
Since 2007, PT’s and Finca Los Planes have placed a high priority on supporting the surrounding community. The neighbors to the farm are also the pickers and day laborers. Supporting them with medicines for the clinic and uniforms for the football team have created a solid foundation of trust between the farm and the community. Everyone in the community has a vested interest in a successful harvest each year.
It is supposed to be hot and dry this time of year, instead we were greeted with a steady mist, or light rain, when we arrived at Finca Los Planes in Chaletenango region of El Salvador. That was a concern because this is the dry season (late February) and harvest can be damaged by the rains.
The farm Los Planes, owned by Sergio Ticas, is located near the pueblo of Citala, in the region of Chaletenango and adjacent to the community of Los Planes high in the mountains along the Honduras border with El Salvador.
After making ourselves comfortable, in the cabin Sergio had constructed to host guests to his farm, we took a short tour to see if the rains had caused any damage to the beautiful Pacamara variety and Bourbon variety coffee we have been buying from him since 2006. And also to see the new water recovery and reuse system Sergio had constructed over the past year. In remote areas like this, it’s really important to protect the water supply and purify the water before putting it back into the streams or rivers.
This is not a big farm so we were met by “Manuelito,” farm manager, to begin the tour. Manuelito charges up the mountainsides covered with coffee like he has been doing it all his life. But thats because he has been doing it all his life. He worked for Sergio’s father first and now for Sergio as he took over the farm. He’s the farm manager now and cares for the farm as if it’s his own.
As we walked through the fields of coffee trees you can see clearly, as you look closely at the coffee cherry, that there is indeed damage and Sergio looks plenty worried about his crop. Because of the high altitude, roughly 5,300 feet, when it rains it sometimes turns to ice, or hail. This causes tremendous damage to the crop. And it was clear, that had happened.
So with Maritza Taylor (QC specialist), David Amos (Sales Mngr), Jason Johnson (QC team), Sergio and Isabel Ticas, Manuelito and myself, we photographed, sorted and worked with the pickers to ensure harvest was carefully managed and damaged cherries were sorted from the rest of the harvest. Next we identified a small area, a unique micro-climate of the farm, in the new region of the farm that was ready for it’s first harvest and had little or no damage. This had potential, especially in this difficult year.
This section Sergio referred to as “Cerro Los Tamales” because many years ago, some criminals stole cattle from the farm. But their camp site, which is now part of the farm, was riddled with tamale wrappers the next morning. So this section of the farm became famously known in the area as “Cerro Los Tamales.”
With Sergio, we decided to selectively pick the cherries in this section and treat it with extra care. So much so, that we personally selected the best pickers and even the young lady we knew to take charge of the project. The final result we would call – “Cerro Las Tamales Micro-Lot” and we’d pay additional price for this section to ensure we got great coffee.
The final surprise Sergio had in store for us this year was “El Secreto Jardin de Jefe” or in english, The Boss’s Secret Garden!
It was located just below the cabin and was indeed almost out of site in the trees. But Sergio planted some beautiful Yellow Caturra and Yellow Bourbon coffee several years ago in this section. It’s a smallish plot of land that’s very well defined and should produce and outstanding “secret crop.” This year, we’d get our first small lot from this section.