In Central America El Salvador has the nickname, ‘Pulgarcito’, which means little thumb and is of course a reference to the tiny size of this important coffee producing nation. But if the best things come in small parcels then El Salvador is no exception as packed into this little country there are some of the best farms in the whole of Latin America. Many that are capable of scoring very highly on the cupping table. More than half of the nation’s coffee is Bourbon so there is plenty of sweetness, complexity and high acid coffee being produced. Around 90% of the country’s coffee is shade grown, which maintains the rich biodiversity that thrives in rural El Salvador.
This is a land of volcanoes, many of them active, so the soil is rich and fertile whilst the views are often strikingly beautiful and always dramatic. Volcan Santa Ana is the largest but Izalco, with its typical conical shape, is a national icon. Such conditions are perfect for the production of high quality coffee.
There are good coffees grown throughout El Salvador but at Falcon Speciality we are drawn to those of the Apaneca Mountain Range in the west, since it is these that have such incredible character.
FINCA BOSQUE LYAFinca Bosque Lya achieved world fame in coffee circles when it took first place in the 2004 Cup of Excellence. Of course the competition’s focus is all about cupping but if extra points were awarded for a farm’s beauty then Bosque Lya would be in an even stronger position. This is a 96 hectare farm – 64 of which are under coffee, the balance being left as natural rainforest. However, in many parts of the farm it is difficult to recognise what is pure forest and what isn’t, since so many shade trees are used. There is an abundance of wildlife including birds such as humming birds, orioles and hawks and many migratory species. Mammals include wild cats, armadillos, deer and possum. There are endless beautiful flowers including colourful rare orchids and epiphytes that grow on the branches of the trees. The views from this farm are jaw dropping with the mountains and volcanoes of west El Salvador and Guatemala beyond dominating the picture. The towering El Chingo Volcano takes centre stage in this dramatic scene.
Finca Bosque Lya is situated in the municipality of Santa Ana on the foothills of the Ilamatepec Volcano (or Santa Ana Volcano as it now more commonly known) in the Apaneca Mountain range of western El Salvador. The farm was established in 1932 when Gustavo Vides Valdes named his property in honour of his newly born daughter, Lya. The farm name Bosque Lya translates to – Lya’s forest.
Bourbon is the most prevalent variety – mainly red though but there is a little orange and yellow too – though there are many other varieties grown for experimentation and diversity and these include pacamara, caturra and typica. An altitude growing range of 1,473 to 1,650 metres above sea level brings about coffees of great complexity that are sweet and lively with nuances of berries, tea rose and dark fruit such as plums. There is a little chocolate on the finish too.
Careful selection of ripe red to almost burgundy cherries are harvested between January and March and are transported directly to the El Borbillon Mill close to Santa Ana, where they are pulped and washed before being sun dried on patios. The beans are then stored in ‘pergamino’ (still in parchment) until the time of shipment, a process that helps the development of flavour. They are then dry-milled and packed into GrainPro sacks ready for shipment.
These top-notch coffees from El Salvador give a huge amount of character to espresso blends but they should also be enjoyed as a single origin speciality coffee made in a pour-over or cafetiere. There is just so much going on so even if you’re going to give this coffee a darker roast I would urge you to try it medium, just purely for reasons of sensual pleasure. Look out for ripe red fruit, honey and floral tones including lovely fresh jasmine. There are even hints of sweet pear and apples on a lighter roast. The acidity is fresh and lively. Then once you darken it down new things will start to emerge. Of course some of the sharpness is gone along with some of the gentler floral notes but along comes caramel, stewed plums, creamy milk chocolate and rich cherry notes. In our Central American blind cuppings these top Salvadoran coffees nearly always come out on top!’
Acidity – 7 to 7.5
Low to Medium
Sweetness – 8 to 8.5
Good sweetness throughout the cup
Character – 8 to 8.5
Look for cocoa and jammy notes
Body – 7.5 to 8.5
Depending on the roast.
Balance – 8.0 to 8.5