Rum Baba - El Salvador
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The Finca Los Bellotos farm near Santa Anna in the Coatepeque region of El Salvador
Red Bourbon, Pacas & Bernardina
1650 - 1800 masl
Filter / Espresso
Notes of Maple Syrup, Pecan and Red Berries
Finca Los Bellotos belongs to CAFÉ PACAS - a family run business that has worked in coffee for 5 generations. Despite the family’s long history farming in El Salvador, the farm itself is relatively new to them. In 2009, the family decided to continue the expansion of coffee land that they were cultivating and managed to find Finca Los Bellotos. Because of its location, Los Bellotos is naturally secluded from other farms. This allows its coffee to be very unique. In fact, Los Bellotos has thrown some big surprises to Café Pacas, including the discovery of a new coffee variety, which has been given the name ‘Bernardina’.
Finca Los Bellotos got its name because of the Belloto trees that grow wild around the farm. These trees provide a very dense shade for the coffee trees, making the temperature of the farm very cool and pleasant (which incidentally contributes to slow maturation of the cherries). Belloto trees are not particularly common in El Salvador, so because of their beauty and rarity, the farm was named after them.
Finca Los Bellotos is currently undergoing an intensive renovation of its coffee and shade trees. In 2014, Los Bellotos planted 10,000 new coffee trees and 400 trees for shade, and the work continues! The Pacas family is focusing on re-planting the whole farm using high quality varieties such as Red Bourbon, Pacas, Pacamara and Bernardina. As with all of their farms, they will further enhance the farm’s production through innovative processing methods.
During March and April, the farm carries out pruning and maintenance of the trees. It is important to prune the shade trees so that the coffee trees receive sufficient light and the new fruits can grow and develop properly. Because after harvest many of the branches of the trees are damaged, it is also important to do some maintenance work on them. After this the first fertilisers are applied and as soon as the rainy season starts new coffee trees are sown. Fertilisation on the farm is carried out after a careful leaf and soil analysis is conducted.
The farm provides jobs for 50 people year round, all of whom have families that depend on this farm for their livelihoods. As a company, Café Pacas is committed to providing them with good working conditions, decent wages, training, etc. – everything to make their quality of life as high as the quality of the coffee that they farm.
The environmental impact of the farm is also very important. The diversity of shade and coffee trees provide a home for different types of animals and plants. Café Pacas continuously works towards soil and water conservation in all their activities at the farm.
The coffee cherries are handpicked only when fully ripe. They are then ‘semi-washed’ - after the coffee is pulped with clean fresh water, it is left to ferment for 4 to 6 hours; they are then rinsed and delivered to dry on the farm’s brick patios with approximately 30% of the mucilage still on the bean. When 12° humidity is reached the coffee is then stored at the farm’s parchment warehouse for 30 days, giving the beans an adequate “reposo” (rest) before final milling and export. The Pacas family has also invested in an in-house cupping lab, which allows them to monitor the quality of each and every lot they produce.
What's the Bernadina variety?
The Pacas family purchased a farm called Finca Los Bellotos at the end of 2012. They liked the location and the farm was already well maintained with strong Bourbon and Pacas plantations. When they first saw the farm, they fell in love with the land, the views, the people. The farm itself is located on the western part of a volcano called “Cerro Verde”. Elevation ranges between 1,400 and 1,600 masl. Facing the Izalco Volcano, it is protected from wind by this massive giant neighbour, and the evening always brings a vast amount of fog, which cools the air and contributes to slow maturation of the cherry trees.
When the family first started their work on the farm, Ruperto, the farm manager, mentioned that he had noticed these peculiar trees growing in the farm. He said that when he tasted their fruit and that their flavour was incredibly distinct. Repeatedly he had mentioned this to the previous owner of the farm, but the owner dismissed his comments and never instructed the pickers to separate those cherries from the rest.
The Pacas family already had some experience in identifying unique volunteer varieties, and they were intrigued. They wanted to taste for ourselves those “peculiar” cherries that Ruperto was describing. And he was right! When the cherries were tried, everyone was amazed by their sweetness. There were notes of peach, papaya and mango in the pulp.
They immediately marked all the “different” trees that they could find in the farm. Finca Los Bellotos has a total of 6 tablones: La Calandria, El Gorrioncillo, El Limon, Ninia Chica, Teshcal and El Capulin. These special trees were scattered all over, but mostly in Tablon El Limón. In total, they identified 46 special trees.
In 2013 they picked and processed this unique coffee from Finca Los Bellotos. December 16, 2013 was the night they first received the cherries at Beneficio Vivagua (the farm’s wet mill). The amount of cherries was tiny – only ½ a bag! So small, in fact, that they had to use a manual depulper to remove the cherry skin from the parchment. While doing that, the smell of fruit coming off the freshly pulped cherries was overwhelming. Everyone, including the truck driver, came over to find out what that smell was. The family treated the pulped coffee very carefully, fermenting it perfectly and drying it on raised beds. In the words of Maria Pacas, “We knew it was special.” They just didn’t know what it was.
After 8 days on the beds, the parchment reached the appropriate moisture level and was stored in parchment. A few days later, they milled and cupped a sample. The results were amazing! Its attributes were well defined and unlike anything else on the farm at that time. It was sweet, elegant, peachy, citric, with notes of mandarin, ginger and lemon tea. Thank god they had saved some of the seed for the nursery.
Up to then, they still did not know what variety it was. Part of the coffee was used to give as a special present to clients who visited from all over the world. They roasted it and cupped it at their labs. Some said it was a geisha, but the Pacas were not sure.
Then, one of their clients, who is a geisha buyer, asked if he could visit the farm and see the trees. When he looked at them, he said: “These trees don’t look like geisha to me”. At that point, they decided that a DNA test was in order. They contacted a specialist lab in Italy called Analytica. When the results came back, it said that the sample they had received did not correspond to any documented coffee variety. This meant that a new variety had been discovered in Finca Los Bellotos!
The family of course had the task of naming this new finding. They couldn’t go with THEIR family name: that’s already taken! They decided that the only way to go was to honour the person who had pointed out the trees in the first place. Farm Manager, Ruperto Bernardino Merche, had realised the plant was special from the start. This is why this exceptional variety bears the name “Bernardina”, in his honour.