El Salvador made up the second half of my first trip to Central America this year, After a great four days in Costa Rica with Piero, Cafe Imports' Green Buyer, he and I headed up to El Salvador to meet up with Christian and Katie, coming in from their trip to Guatemala.
The first two days we spent cupping selections and touring farms with Rudolfo Batlle in Santa Ana. Rodolfo's family has been grown coffees high on this mountain since the 1920's. He now also oversees the micro-lot program for Beneficio Rio Zorco. After cupping their offerings and touring Finca Las Nubes and a few small farms operated by members of the Buenos Aries community we decided to purchase the Las Nubes Kenya process micro-lot. We are looking forward to this sparklingly clear coffee to arrive very soon.
Following our time in Santa Ana we took day trip to meet with members of two cooperatives in the Chalatenango region. This region is known for producing many of the highest ranking coffees in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence. The lack of infrastructure in this area makes it much more difficult to find the great coffees available in this region and then properly process and export them. In fact, Piero's trip here was the first time these coops sold directly to an importer. It was an honor to be part of that group and it offered us first, direct access to some amazing single producer micro-lots out of this region.
Like most of Central America, El Salvador has been struck exceptionally hard by the coffee rust fungus. While we were there the estimates were that total production would be down as much as seventy percent over last year, making it the lowest yield in over one hundred years. Government agencies are pushing farmers to replace their trees with varietals that are much sturdier and disease resistant, but produce a much lower cup quality. Quality driven buyers are fighting exceptionally hard to encourage farmers to keep their traditional varietal and use natural means to fight the fungus.
I left El Salvador feeling very conflicted. The damage from coffee rust and the uncertain political future facing this country is very unsettling. However, Rio Zorco continues to produce exceptional coffee and Chalatenango offers new possibilities. The future for this country is uncertain, but there is hope to see a great outcome in the end.
- Tony Querio, Head Roaster & Green Buyer
Top: The trail through the farms of Buenos Aries, Las Nubes soaking tank at Beneficio Rio Zorco
Middle: Outdoor offices at Beneficio Rio Zorco, Parchment bags resting at Rio Zoco
Bottom: Old Bourbon root stock in Buenos Aries, Rio Zorco stencils