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El Salvador travel journal 2018

The El Salvadoran travel journal of Jesús De Jesús, Director of Wholesale Operations for Bridgeport Coffee, who visited our relationship farms in January 2018.

Jesús De Jesús, Director of Wholesale Operations for Bridgeport Coffee, and Kevin Melvin of Philadelphia’s Greenstreet Coffee.

Day One: The return

How happy I am to meet old friends again and to revisit all the beautiful people I met on my first Bridgeport Coffee trip last year! Arriving at the hotel and seeing the same faces full of joy and hospitality is extremely rewarding. In San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, I meet my traveling companion for this adventure, Kevin Melvin of Philadelphia’s Greenstreet Coffee. He has an adventurous spirit, and tremendous respect for the preciousness of the coffee bean — the same coffee that every morning fills us with the joyful aromas of life, the fragrance of happiness. So begins my El Salvador Coffee trip in January of 2018.

Day Two: The Volcano

At 7 a.m., the agronomical engineer Anibal Valencia, one of my good friends in El Salvador, picks us up at our hotel. On the way to Santa Ana Volcano, I take the opportunity to discuss local life, the farms, how weather is affecting this harvest, and some of the country’s internal politics (its government, area crime, and other topics of interest).

Arriving at the Volcano we take pictures while Anibal explains the benefit of the topographical situation of the farms near the Santa Ana Volcano, also known as Ilamatepec. The farms Santa Elena, San Carlos and Miravalle — three of Bridgeport Coffee’s most beloved single-origin relationship roasts — surround the volcano.

Soon the time arrives for us to go UP!

The Santa Ana Volcano, also known as Ilamatepec.

At 11 a.m., the excursion to the top of the Santa Ana Volcano begins — a journey of at least two hours, consisting of a descent of approximately 600 steps on land into the forest within the rim of the volcano. Once down, we start climbing the volcano through the jungle of Cerro Verde, a National Park of El Salvador. After 45 minutes we reach the middle road, where we pay the fee to enter the volcano. The route ahead cuts through the brush, through which we can spy the beautiful panoramic views of El Salvador that this road offers.

Now begins the most difficult part of this adventure, the “Path of Stone.” Here the sun is unforgiving and attacks you directly, challenging you to surrender. It is on the Path of Stone that many hikers say, “I cannot go any farther.” It is an extremely rocky road full of obstacles, and where you must decide to continue or not to continue, because you are close but you can see your destination so far away. At that moment, you need to draw upon all the inspiration, strength and desire you can muster to move forward and to reach your great goal. Once made, your decision takes you to a place called the Path of Victory, where finally you can see the top and there is no turning back.

Overlooking the volcano’s lagoon

At that moment you want to run and touch Heaven, that immense and wonderful sky, because you have reached the summit and you want to scream because you have achieved it. You no longer want to sit or rest — you just want to take in and experience the great view of this beautiful country, to see the turquoise blue lagoon in the crater of this powerful volcano, to observe its sulfurous boiling water, and to appreciate the cool and refreshing breeze all around you.

After enjoying El Volcán, it’s time to return along the same road. By the time you have arrived back at home base, your appetite is telling you to dig into those delicious pupusas (the traditional dish of El Salvador) that are handmade by the great pupuseras, Salvadoran women who artfully prepare delicious, thick corn tortillas stuffed with savory fillings like cheese, bacon and other delicacies.

Day Three: Santa Josefita – Ataco

For today’s journey we are accompanied by the agronomist Shi-Jon. In our way to the farm we talk about his experience and years working in the coffee world.

“No talar árboles” means “Do not cut down trees” — at Santa Josefita.

Finca Santa Josefita

At 1,225 meters above sea level is Santa Josefita, the property of the Lima Brothers. “Finca” is the Spanish word for a farm or a rural or agricultural estate. There we find the Bourbon, Caturra Amarillo, Catimor, Pacamara and other coffee varieties the Lima Brothers have cultivated over the years.

In the most recent harvest we worked with two different processes with this coffee, natural and washed. Coffee from this finca was one of our favorites last year, and I am sure that this year will not be the exception.

Ataco – “The place of high springs”

Ataco handicrafts

Ataco is a colorful municipality full of custom, tradition and culture, with a large number of handicraft shops offering a wide variety of sculptures, ornaments, fabrics, embroidery, and coffee candles. Excellent coffee and regional Salvadoran food delicacies are essential to this beautiful place — a picture-perfect hodgepodge of cobbled streets reflecting the legacy of its former status as a Spanish colony.

Day Four: Las Nubes, San Carlos and Miravalle – La Catación

Las Nubes

The fourth day was overflowing with coffee knowledge. Accompanied by agronomist Don Jorge we first visit Finca Las Nubes of Mr. Ernesto Lima, more than 1500 meters above sea level. Here we find the farm manager shadowed by his son as he prepares a small batch of beans honey processed and drying on raised African beds, creating a mesmerizing caramelized aroma.

San Carlos

From Las Nubes we continue toward San Carlos, where one of my favorite coffees is produced. On the way we meet Mr. Carlos Riera, owner of this farm. Protected by the wind, this farm is located in the eastern slope of the Santa Ana Volcano, the highest volcano in El Salvador, which we had already visited on the second day. At this farm we find Castillo, dwarf Bourbon and other coffee cultivars. We also stopped at Finca Andalucía for a beautiful view of the coffee plantations.

Miravalle

We continue our journey toward Finca Miravalle, one of the most beautiful farms at more than 1740 meters high. This farm belongs to Dr. Jaime Riera, winner of the Cup of Excellence on several occasions. This small farm offers Bourbon, Pacamara, Kenya and Castillo coffee cultivars. In this spectacular and breezy location, when I arrive at the farmhouse the amazing smell of woodfire in the kitchen brings me back to remember the food my mother made when I was a child.

La Catación

Back at the coffee cooperative CUZCACHAPA we await Don Mauricio, one of the best tasters in El Salvador, at a table filled with 29 samples from local farms ready to be tasted. We begin with La Catación — “the tasting” in Spanish. Over the course of La Catación we taste a range of coffees from the mediocre to the excellent, to better educate our palates.

Day Five: Finca Santa Elena – More Catacion – Los Balcanes Micro Mill

Santa Elena

Have you ever been dazzled by a beautiful landscape on a computer screensaver and thought, “I would like to be there”? That is what Santa Elena looks like — a dream, a mystical landscape at a height of 1800 meters. Santa Elena is the largest organic farm in Central America, with Dwarf Bourbon, Geisha, and Red Bourbon coffee cultivars among others. At this extraordinary location you feel you can touch the top of the sky in total silence, while the wind brushes your face.

La Catación

Next day at the tasting table, we meet to taste the coffees that we want to purchase. Among the possibilities are many names already familiar to Bridgeport Coffee customers, including: Miravalle, San Carlos, Las Nubes, Santa Josefita, Andalucía and Santa Elena. An extremely educational and productive experience for us, as the cupping table was again full of great coffees from different farms in El Salvador.

The Micro Mill Valles

Coffee cherries on their way to processing.

At Los Balcanes we are met by Don Esteban, one of the Lima Brothers, and impressed by the Penagos pulper. He gives us the tour of this beautiful place where they process the coffee. The small-batch process at Los Valcanes consists of small quantities of coffee being collected and transferred to this Micro Mill the same day for processing. Options include Natural, Honey, Semi-Wash and Total Wash processes, including work with Cáscara. Everything is totally organic — the Penagos pulper uses minimal water, and all processing by-products (such as honey water and pulp) are collected, environmentally processed, and reused as organic fertilizer.

All in all, El Salvador in 2018 provided a highly rewarding and successful trip for Bridgeport Coffee, both for us and for our customers! We expect to begin roasting and serving these coffees before the end of April for those who visit our three locations and for shoppers at fine groceries throughout the area.

Of related interest:

Santa Josefita 2018

Costa Rica travel journal 2017

El Salvador Origin Trip 2016

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