At a Glance: single origin (El Salvador); full body; chocolate, nutty, butterscotch; low acidity; washed; organic

Hey there, coffee lovers and friends. Welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. Sorry it’s been so long since you last heard from me—I spent all of last week and weekend in bed with the flu and am just now fully recovered. It was such an awful experience; and the worst part of it was that it took such a toll on my palate that I couldn’t even taste any of the coffee I was drinking. Can you imagine a worse fate than that? At any rate, I’m well enough to come back to the table now and I’m glad you’ve taken time out of your busy lives to join me.

Feel free to pull up a chair.

In about an hour or so, I’ll be over at Counter Culture Coffee’s Chicago training center for a lecture given by their coffee buyer and sustainability manager, Kim Elena Bullock, so I figured this would be a great opportunity to review their latest roast from El Salvador—Finca Mauritania. It’s also fitting for this review—the first review of November—that Finca Mauritania is Counter Culture’s featured coffee for the month of November.

Finca Mauritania is one of the world’s most legendary coffee farms, located on the slopes of the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. The Batlles, the proprietors of the farm, have been producing coffee for generations; currently, the farm is being run by the fifth generation of Batlles—a lovely woman named Aida, who has been managing operations since 2003. This family is so revered in the coffee industry, in fact, that her great-great grandfather is credited as being the man to bring the Bourbon varietal to El Salvador. All the years of coffee running through this family’s veins ever since then became apparent that first year she took over the farm when her coffee won first place in El Salvador’s inaugural Cup of Excellence event.

In addition to Finca Mauritania, Aida is also the manager of a couple other farms—Finca Kilimanjaro, Los Alpes, and Finca Tanzania. All of these farms were named by her father, a man who clearly had a love for mountains and Africa. Mauritania is a West African country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, the Sahara Desert, and Algeria.

Aida Batlle, manager of Finca Mauritania in El Salvador

Her farm is situated at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, and she grows her coffee in rich, volcanic soil. These two elements alone combine to create a nearly perfect cup of coffee. It helps, of course, that Aida pours her soul into each harvest, obsessing over all the little nuances of coffee growing, harvesting, and processing. She is known the world over and is highly regarded for her workmanship and the amazing quality of her coffees. When I ventured over to the training center a few weeks ago for their Innovating Coffee Quality seminar, their coffee buyer and quality manager, Tim Hill, absolutely raved about Aida both as a coffee pioneer and as a person.

So, of course, it goes without saying that with all the hype about Finca Mauritania and the Batlles, I’ve been really excited for some time to give their coffee a try.

I tried this coffee two ways—with just a basic home brewer, and as a pour-over. With this whole “third-wave coffee” fad in full swing, everyone in the coffee industry and their mother will tell you that single cup brewing is the only way to go. However, it is my humble opinion that, if the coffee you’re drinking is good, it will be good no matter how you brew it. This opinion of mine really held true for the Finca Mauritania; even though I preferred drinking a mug that came from my Hario V60, a mug of it from my Cuisinart brewer tasted just as great.

The aroma was heavenly—a decadent chocolate, with a twinge of nuttiness; hazelnut or almond, maybe a bit of both. I was particularly fond of the light smokiness, that gave this coffee the “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” vibe.

These flavors carried over into the flavor profile as well. The chocolate notes became even more decadent and more well-defined—it was like a Godiva dark chocolate bar; it had that same milky, chocolaty, bittersweetness that goes so well with red wines. The nuttiness was also more defined—definitely hazelnut. That, mixed with the dark chocolate, was almost too much. Also nestled in the flavor, particularly immediately post-brew, was a delightful toffee or butterscotch nuance and a slight hint of caramel.

As the coffee cooled, a bit of smokiness came out of the mug—not an overbearing amount, but enough to be reminiscent of a warm, roastiness. As the coffee reached room temperature, it took on a much different flavor profile, though. The nuttiness stuck around, but took on something more of an almond or pistachio flavor, then the chocolate and butterscotch dissipated and were replaced by a tropical fruitiness that I couldn’t quite pin down. It was one of the juicier fruits… Perhaps plum?

Finca Mauritania has pretty low acidity and a nice, clean finish to leave the drinker with a slight aftertaste that just hovers over the back of the palate. All in all, a great cup of coffee.

The Bottom Line

Counter Culture Coffee’s Finca Mauritania of El Salvador really lived up to all of the hype surrounding the Batlle family and their farm. This certified organic roast provided a really wonderful, full-bodied cup of coffee with flavors reminiscent of dark chocolate, hazelnut, butterscotch, and even notes of tropical fruit. Its dynamic flavor is truly exemplary of a top-notch Bourbon. Finca Mauritania would best be served as a dessert, or after-dinner coffee—it coupled quite nicely with the toffee cookies I got from Defloured—a Chicago-based bakery specializing in gluten-free pastries and snacks.

This coffee is Counter Culture’s featured coffee during the month of November, so head over to their website to check it out for yourself!

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