Finca de Los Angeles. Our first full day in El Salvador was the one most integral to our coffee buying philosophy. We had been using Finca de Los Angeles in our blends at Mercer, 4th Avenue and the Bookstore but hadn’t been to the farm yet, though Peter Longo, our roaster, had. In Tecapan, we met Lenny, who is an American and married Stephanie, whose family owned the farm for decades until the war in the 1980’s. Her family lost the farm, and only in recent years has she come back to claim it. Stephanie and Lenny are now busy replanting coffee (Paca) where plants had been ripped out to make way for corn and other crops that had been planted by the people who occupied their land during and after the war. They are relying on Evers, their 26 year-old farm manager, to make the place go and we wish Stephanie and Lenny the best of luck in their efforts of rehabilitating their farm and reconnecting with the local community.
Finca Los Mercedes. The next day we went to visit Los Mercedes in Santiago de Maria, and it was picture perfect. It seemed like a model coffee farm where others might come to learn, and that’s what we did. We learned about how they keep bugs off the plants with Coca Cola traps and bamboo and how the Bourbon plant gets tied down so that it can sprout a different branch with the new season. Also, Fury got to poke his head into all of their processing equipment.
Ah, Lichi. We got up before 4 a.m. to take a bus to Chapeltique where we were greeted by Lichi and later his entourage of off-duty cops packing automatic weapons, who took us up the mountain to Lichi’s farm at Los Alpes. Lichi told us there were bandits near his property and possibly on it. The guards were a prudent measure, Lichi said, but we were never quite sure how much protection these guys might offer. (They seemed to have a lot of trouble getting up the mountain.) In any event, they followed us (at least for the most part) through Lichi’s farm where Lichi described how he’d lost a lot of his crop due to a fungus caused by rains just before harvest. Lichi was upset that not only did he lose a large part of his crop but that he was forced to cut down trees to prevent the fungus from spreading to other plants. His farm is on the mend though, and he is looking forward to a banner crop next season. And we want in. We cupped both his Pacamara and his Bourbon Mantzanita (so named for the Mantzanita tree under which they grow) each on a Clever Dripper and a Chemex and all of them tasted great, particularly when paired with some of Lichi’s lively banter.