I just got back (well, a week ago) from visiting the Menendez Family farms in El Salvador! We have been buying coffee from their farms for the past five years, and they just keep getting better. The amount of detail and care they put into their operation continues to amaze me. It is evident in the cleanliness of the farms, how orderly the mill is, and in their dedication to separating out micro-lot coffees. These are people who truly love what they do.
They are also very dedicated to sustainability and there is virtually no waste from their production. The trimmings from the farms are used as mulch to keep weeds down between plants, and to fuel the guardiolas (mechanical coffee dryers).The pulp from the coffee fruit is composted and used in an organic fertilizer on the farms. Some cherry is also dried and sold as Cascara, which is brewed like a tea.
I learned more than imaginable in the three days that I was down there. Walking the farms with Don Miguel, hearing him talk about their history, their reasons for planting certain varieties, and so many other things make me realize how much more there is to know about coffee. And that's what keeps us excited about what we do!
I was last in El Salvador in 2014 and the difference in the overall health of the farms is striking. 2014 was a rough year for coffee producers in Central America due to a fungus called Coffee Leaf Rust, which kills the leaves on the plant making it produce less fruit. Don Miguel has worked hard to combat rust and they have regained 80% of their production. The other 20% is currently going through repairs/replanting so things are looking good! They have fared well, but that is not the case for a lot of farmers in the country. That can be another post entirely though. The above photos show healthy trees in El Rosario, and rust affected trees in a neighboring farm.
We cupped loads of coffee and I'm super excited about the lots we have coming this year. It's a hard choice to make when there is so much good coffee, but the standouts to me were from El Rosario and Las Delicias. No surprise there! We will be getting our fresh crop this spring and we can't wait to share it with you!
The feeling of walking through a coffee farm, seeing the care that is put into each individual tree, and eating ripe coffee cherries off of the same plants we buy coffee from is like none other. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to visit the Menendez family and their farms again, and can't wait to do it again!
- By Daniel Gunter