Happy Monday, all of you coffee geeks! Welcome back to my table, here in the corner of this cafe.

Today is the first day of a series of entries dedicated to the fine folks of Dark Matter Coffee Company. These guys and gals recently returned from a buying trip in El Salvador and Honduras, bringing a lot of new offerings back with them.

Even more exciting, this buying trip marks the first time that some of these farms are being represented in the United States!

That’s right – some of these reviews will be A Table in the Corner of the Cafe exclusives! The coffee we’re sipping today is one such example.

Now, as you all well know, I’m all about small business and emphasizing “the worker.” That’s why, when I write reviews here at the Table, I try to set myself apart from all the other coffee blogs out there by highlighting what happens at the farm level, and offering background on the owners, the farmers, and the coffee itself. To gather all this information together, I spend at least two to three hours per post, scouring the Internet for information and doing as much research as I can to make you as informed as I am. However, like I said, for some of these coffees, this is the first time they’ve been available in the United States, so it’s been difficult gathering information about the farms – most of the farms I’ve had coffee from don’t have websites.

I’ll be working very hard in each entry to find as much information as I can, but some of these posts may be a little background-light and review-heavy. That being said, be sure to check in at the Table often as I’ll be reviewing all of these new offerings in the coming week, posting Dark Matter’s pictures from the farms, and revising and updating old posts with more information about the farms as it becomes available.

Ready for the Table’s first exclusive review of Dark Matter’s trip to El Salvador? Feel free to pull up a chair.

Today’s offering comes to us from the town of Apaneca, located in the Ahuachapan department of wertern El Salvador. It’s a pretty small town, being only inhabited by about 8,500 people. Of that small population, though, there is a very prominent family in the El Salvadorian coffee industry represented: the Menendez family. Finca El Rosario is one of eight farms owned by Albert Menendez and his family in this small region of El Salvador; all of his farms, including El Rosario, consistently rank high in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence year after year – a fact that the family takes great pride in. El Rosario is 40 hectares, and the pacamara and bourbon trees are neatly planted in rows throughout the farm, in a very precisely-designed maze of wind barrier trees.

The Menendez family also owns a mill, Benificio Piedra Grande, which is just south of the El Rosario farm. The family only processes their own cherries at this mill – they don’t buy from other farmers. This position – owning the farm, its crops, and the processing mill – gives them total control of the entire coffee process, making them one of the few coffee producers in El Salvador who fully own their coffee all the way to the point of export. The mill itself is very sophisticated, in that it uses some of the most advanced methods available to process their ripe coffee cherries; furthermore, they approach their craft with the utmost sincerity and precaution, ensuring that their processed crops are free of defects – they even separate each individual lot throughout the process. They triple-wash the cherries, using a demucilizer to remove the mucilage (rather than a fermentation tank), then dry the beans that same night on their drying patios.

the basics:

Origins: Apaneca, Ahuachapan, El Salvador
Farms: Finca El Rosario
Elevation: 1350 meters above sea level
Varietal: Pacamara
Process: washed, sun-dried
Certifications: standard

the coffee:

Pacamara coffee seems to be a product of El Salvador, so I think it’s only fitting that for this series of exclusive reviews, we start with El Rosario’s Pacamara. According to an explanation of varietals, by Stumptown Coffee Roasters:

Pacamara is a hybrid seed varietal of the Pacas and Maragogype seed strains…Bean size of this varietal is very large, like its Maragogype predecessor. Pacamara tends to exhibit better cup quality when produced at higher elevations. The flavor profile can be outstanding demonstrating sweet citric notes, outstanding balance and floral attributes.

The aroma of this coffee, then, seems to be pretty typical of Pacamaras – it’s sweet, full-bodied, brimming with notes of flora, nuts, and sweet citrus. Lilac, peanuts, and tangerine.

The flavor, though – wow. To say that this coffee is vegetal is an understatement – this coffee tastes exactly like a freshly cut green pepper.

While it’s still piping hot, this dominant bell pepper flavor is accompanied by a hint of salted nuttiness – not sweet like a peanut, more toned down like a cashew. It has some really nice herbal qualities to it, like cloves and bergamot, and a spicy, burnt orange peel zing that tingles the back of the tongue. As the cup cools a bit, these side flavors start to come out a little bit more. The thing that surprises me most about this coffee, though, is the mouthfeel and the finish – it’s so sweet, creamy, and lavender-like, and it coats the whole palate. However, it also a pretty noticeable astringency to it – leaving behind a kind of “cotton mouth” feeling that is typical of Earl Grey tea.

Medium body, citrus acidity, astringent and lingering aftertaste.

the bottom line:

The Pacamara, from Albert Menendez’s Finca El Rosario, is quite the coffee. Totally unlike any coffee I’ve ever had before. I’ve had coffees that are vegetal – but this is vegetal. I’ve had coffees that tasted grassy, or even like radish, but this… It was like I had gone to the farmer’s market and bit into a crisp, freshly picked green pepper – so incredibly unique. Don’t hear me wrong – I’m not saying that it was unpleasant or anything like; I quite liked it. I’ve just never tasted anything like it before. If you’re looking for a coffee that’s going to provide your taste buds with an entirely different experience, look no further – Dark Matter Coffee Company‘s Finca El Rosario Pacamara has got what you need.

Next up on our tour of El Salvador is just a few miles away – Finca El Cashal Ahuachapan. Come back soon for a taste!

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