Early each year our coffee buying team travels to El Salvador to meet with our coffee-producing partners. Central American coffee farmers harvest between November and March, and by timing our visits towards the end of this period we are able to taste and evaluate coffees just as they are coming off the drying patios, allowing us to select the best lots of the harvest. These visits also empower us to develop lasting relationships with the men and women growing, harvesting, and processing the coffees we have come to love and depend upon.
One of our strongest relationships in any coffee producing country is with Emilio Lopez Diaz and his family’s Cuatro M Coffees of Santa Ana, El Salvador. We have purchased coffee from Cuatro M since 2010, growing our relationship each year. Coffees from the Diaz family’s farm and mill have become staples of our menu representing our largest purchase of the year, including the base for our flagship blend El Toro Espresso Blend.
In addition to coffees from Ayutapece and El Manzano, Emilio’s family’s two farms, Cuatro M also gives us access to several other farm’s harvests. In past years we’ve purchased from other farms in the Apaneca-Ilamatapec Mountains that were processed at Cuatro M’s Beneficio El Manzano, including Finca Talnamica and Finca Santa Julia. This year Emilio and his team brought us a coffee from a different region of El Salvador, Finca Matalapa in La Libertad near the capitol San Salvador.
Finca Matalapa is owned by Emilio’s maternal aunt and uncle, Vickey Dalton-Diaz and Francisco Diaz. This farm has been in Vickey’s family since the late 1800s when it was founded by her great-grandmother Fidelia Lima. Today it covers 120 hectares, including 14 acres of tropical forest reserve and over 40 species of tress planted throughout the farm to provide shade for the coffee plants. The farm ranges between roughly 1350 and 1450 meters above sea level, and while this is significantly lower in elevation than coffee farms in other areas of El Salvador, the regular cool ocean breeze of La Libertad mimics the effects of higher altitudes.
The lot we purchased came from the tablon (farm section) known as El Mirador. This tablon is planted with Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, and Pacas mix that is common throughout the country. The Pacas is a dwarf variation of the classic Red Bourbon that was developed in El Salvador in the 20th century that is particularly well suited to its strong winds and prolonged dry season, while the Yellow Bourbon is a natural mutation of the Red, only with fruit that ripens to a yellow color.
Unlike other coffees we have purchased through Cuatro M this lot wasn’t milled at Beneficio El Manzano. Francisco manages their own mill, Beneficio El Paraiso, where all the coffees fro Matalapa are processed. There they undergo wet processing typical of Central American coffees. The seed or bean is squeezed from the fruit and the coffee is soaked in fermentation tanks overnight to break down the pectin rich mucilage layer. Then the coffees head to concrete patios or Beneficio El Paraiso’s latest innovation, African style raised drying beds. Vickey and Francisco have increased the number of raised beds at the mill over the last several years, building them partially from trees downed during El Salvador’s tempestuous rainy periods.
This is the first year that Cuatro M has been involved in exporting Matalapa’s coffee. Emilio and Cuatro M have garnered a reputation for being able to connect roasters here in the United States with some of the best coffee producers in El Salvador. It only made sense for Emilio to help his maternal uncle and aunt connect with new roasters throughout the world. Cuatro M does this by partnering with us roasters as well as coffee importers who help with the logistics of actually bringing the coffee in to the US. To import our coffees from Cuatro M we partner with Sustainable Harvest, a Portland based importer.
All the hard work of the Diaz family is evident in the cup. Fresh El Salvadoran coffees bring a delightful brightness and acidity to the table alongside deep rounded sweetness. This particular lot has a pleasant green apple and pineapple like acidity, notes of smooth, sweet milk chocolate, honeydew melon, and caramelized sugar. Perfect for paper filter, french press, or just about any other brewing method. It is currently available in our café, our online store, and with select wholesale partners. Look for it on the shelves of local grocery stores later this summer.