In late February I had the pleasure of traveling to El Salvador on our first ever Coffee Sourcing Trip. Spending most of my time in Santa Ana at Cuatro M, one of the cleanest and efficient coffee mills in all of El Salvador. Cuatro M is run by Emilio Lopez Diaz along with a wonderful supportive staff. Emilio’s family has been producing coffee for 6 generations.
I knew that finding the right coffees would be challenging as upwards of 60% of coffee farms in El Salvador have been affected to varying degrees by Roya, the coffee disease, during the last harvest. Despite the challenge, we set out to find two families that were just as committed to sustainable quality as we are and Emilio made that happen.
Emilio introduced me to Roberto and Rodrigo Dumont whose family owned farm dates back to 1888. In 1995, the farm was divided into 3 parts for each remaining family member. The Dumont family owns Malacara B, one of the 3 divided portions of land.
Malacara B sits at 1500 meters and consists of Red, Yellow and Orange Bourbon coffee varieties. There are roughly 125,000 coffee trees and 10,000 native shade trees on the 50-hectare farm. The Inga trees have large leaves that provide shade as the coffee grows, allowing for a slow maturating of the coffee cherries.
The farm is also diversified farm that includes other crops such as avocado, prunes, raspberries and peaches that are sold at local markets. Both soil and plant are analyzed then given only what nutrients they are lacking thru eco-friendly fertilizers.
Five families live on the farm which gives guaranteed employment of 20 year-round positions and around 100 more during the harvest. The coffee pickers are paid 50% above minimum wage. A school, health clinic and soccer field are also available for use by the workers and their children.
Emilio then introduced me to Mayita Mendez, daughter of Maria and Hermann Mendez who own Finca El Guaje. I had already tasted their coffee on the cupping table at Cuatro M and it was just what I was looking for. Then, Mayita invited me to come see the farm located in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range, about an hour from the mill.
Finca El Guaje is located in the Ojo de Agua village, City of Juayua, State of Sonsonate. The farm occupies 120 Hectares, 74 of which are dedicated to growing Bourbon and a few other hybrid coffee varieties. The rest of the farm is dedicated to rainforest preservation. Their land is a long strip that runs south to north over the Cerro de El Aguila, an inactive volcano. It begins at 1200 meters and ends at 2000 meters, the crater of the volcano. There are also fine woods in the lower part of the property, at the top there is a rainforest filled with untouched flora and fauna.
When I arrived at El Guaje the harvest had already ended so there weren’t many people around. We met with the farm Manager who graciously gave me the grand tour, such a beautiful and peaceful place. The farm is pretty remote so the Mendez family just finished building some housing big enough for manager’s family to come stay for extended periods of time. I also met the community organizer of the nearby village. Maria had hired him to build a few farm improvements for her. I definitely got the sense that the Mendez family strongly supports and advocates for the nearby village.
Finca El Guaje supports a clinic for the village. There is a new school in the upper valley built by the SQ foundation and is staffed by the farm.
It’s truly a beautiful thing to meet people who care so much about the coffee, the land and the people. We hope to purchase even more coffee from both the Mendez and Dumont families next year and also hope to partner with them in their community efforts.
Co-Owner, Green Buyer