Greetings once again fellow coffee enthusiasts. Welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe, where we are continuing our exclusive looks at some coffees that Dark Matter Coffee Company brought back with them from their recent buying trip to El Salvador.
Yesterday, we got to sip a very unique coffee from Albert Menendez’s Finca El Rosario, way up in the Ahuachapan Mountains of central El Salvador. Today, we’re going to travel to another part of those mountains, to Finca El Cashal.
Ready to do some climbing? Feel free to pull up a chair.
Today’s coffee comes to us from another farm in the Ahuachapan region, just outside Santa Ana, called Finca El Cashal – named for a variety of trees that grow throughout the farm. El Cashal is owned by a dynamic woman and a fourth generation coffee grower named Maria Alicia Castillo and her husband, José Ruben Magaña Romero. The farm, which is located between two lagoons – Las Ninfas and Laguna Verde – has been around for nearly 70 years, but has only recently blossomed into a coffee-producer to be reckoned with, consistently ranking high in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence year after year. When it first got going, back in the 1940’s, it was scarcely planted but Maria’s father-in-law, José Ruben Magaña Guerrero, together with the farm manager transformed the bramble patch into a beautiful coffee garden.
The terrain of El Cashal is great for coffee-growing. The farm resides in a volcanic bowl, at very high elevations (some of the highest in the region), and coffee grows on the surrounding slopes. Typically, hillsides are great places to grow coffee, as they tend to catch lots of intense light at certain parts of the day. This intense sun creates a lot of photosynthesis, which is the plant making sugar to feed itself, and these sugars help cherries become flavorful.
At one time, Ruben delivered his coffee cherries to the local cooperative for processing. However, since then, with an interest in improving quality, he has purchased a high-grade wet pulper and installed it on his farm. Now, much like what we saw with Albert Menendez yesterday, Ruben is able to make the most of his production by controlling the processing himself.
Origins: Ahuachapan, El Salvador
Farms: Finca El Cashal
Elevation: 1460-1600 meters above sea level (strictly high-grown)
Varietals: Bourbon, Catuai, Caturra
Process: washed, patio-dried
Certifications: Direct Trade
The aroma of this coffee is so warm and inviting. A creamy and soothing mixture of caramel, cocoa, and hazelnut. Together, these three scents create an aroma that is actually reminiscent of peanut butter and Nutella.
While the coffee is still hot, the flavor is a little bit different. There’s still a really nice nuttiness – pistachio and almond -, but the more dominant flavor is an understated fruitiness – black currant, apple, raspberry, strawberry, pear; it’s all there. As the cup cools, the fruitiness takes on a more piquant tinge with flavors of citrus and lime-like acidity. The thing, though, that I am loving most about this coffee is the finish – it’s very crisp, very clean, leaving behind a sparkle on the palate; but with each sip, there’s a bit of a zesty herb – like jasmine, perhaps – that creeps back up and tickles the back of the tongue.
Full-bodied; lime acidity; herbal finish.
the bottom line:
This coffee from Finca El Cashal, much like the folks of Dark Matter Coffee Company, who brought it to us, has a huge personality. It has a very pleasing, and inviting aroma, but that’s just a front to lure you into the texture bomb that is this coffee. Big, bold body, creamy texture and mouthfeel that melts and splashes all over your mouth, coating the palate, as soon as it touches the tongue. It has some really nice notes of black currant, apple, strawberry, and pistachio, but, with this coffee, I think it’s much less about the individual flavors, and much more about the coffee as a complete unit – the flavors, the aroma, that great body, the acidity, the zest, all the bits and pieces that make this coffee what it is.
While it’s a great coffee for people like me to examine, it’s a much better coffee for people to experience.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.