Project Direct in El Salvador
The Ahuachapán Region
Two hours east of the capital of San Salvador along the border with Guatemala lays the coffee growing region of Ahuachapán. Home to the mountainous terrain of the Cordillera Costera, the Apaneca-Ilamatepeq mountains, the Rio Paz, and plentiful geothermal steam vents, Ahuachapán is a prime location for growing high-altitude Arabica coffees. El Salvador also has abundant volcanoes, both active and inactive, that bring a unique fertility to the region's soil and climate.
Project Direct El Salvador comes directly from three farms - Las Delicias, El Rosario, and Buena Vista – owned by the Menéndez family. The family has grown coffee for over four generations near the Cerro las Ranas (Mountain of Frogs), and these coffees are their prized products. The farms border untouched rainforest, where the coffee grows in harmony with wildlife. Plots of land from each of the family's eight coffee farms are reserved for ecosystem conservation, and all of the farms work in harmony with the surrounding environment to produce and environmentally sustainable as well as extremely high quality coffee.
Miguel Menéndez Senior is a perfect example of how being passionate about coffee can affect a whole family Miguel Senior manages the eight farms owned by the family, and works with his three children, Miguel Junior, Guillermo, and Maria, to export all of his coffee to the Pacific Northwest. Miguel has a deep attention to detail that is unparalleled on other farms. He makes daily walks through his farms during harvest time to ensure that all of the cherries are picked at their perfect ripeness level, and he is constantly improving upon techniques to increase the quality and quantity of his coffee. Miguel proudly states that "Everything I do on the farm and at the mill is for cup quality!" His attention to details makes him an exquisite micro-lot producer, as he is always able to identify exactly where a coffee on his farm came from, right down to the specific tree!
The main focus of the Menendez family is maintaining the high level of quality for which they are known. At their central mill, Beneficio Piedra Grande, extreme steps are taken to ensure that coffee is properly processed at every step. This process begins by ensuring that only the ripest coffee cherries are picked for processing. The pickers here are paid more than the average price to entice them to only pick the ripe cherries, and the results were astonishing. Huge piles of cherries are sorted through by the pickers to remove any green or partial green cherries before they are bagged to be driven to the mill later the afternoon.
The mill is immaculately organized, and every lot is kept separate throughout the whole process. Coffee passes through two stages of de-pulping, the first intended to separate out only ripe, mature cherries, and the second to process lower quality coffees in a separate pulper. Instead of fermentation tanks, the Menendez use a desmucilaginadora to remove the mucilage manually and then the coffee is passed through three stages of washing before it is set out to dry on large, volcanically heated patios that very same night.
The Menendez family produces and exports all of their own coffee, and they are sure to pay attention to details at each and every step of the process. Everything that is done at the farm and milling level is ultimately to achieve the highest cup quality possible.
- Cup score: 85
- Variety: Bourbon
- Aroma: Grapefruit and dark chocolate
- Flavor: Milk chocolate, herbal tea, lemon, green apple, sweet bell pepper
- Sweetness: Honey, agave
- Body: Rich and smooth
- Cup score: 88
- Variety: Pacamara
- Aroma: Fruity and floral. Light chocolate notes.
- Flavor: Heavy peach and nectarine flavors
- Sweetness: Smooth milk chocolate
- Body: Juicy
- Cup score: 88
- Variety: Pacamara
- Aroma: Intense fruit, berries
- Flavor: Sweet, blackberry, peach, chocolate
- Sweetness: Dark fruit
- Body: Thick, juicy