El Salvador Santa Elena
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Well, folks. It’s November 1. It’s Thursday. We’ve reached the end of our supply from Chicago’s newest coffee-roasting arrival, Halfwit Coffee Roasters. It has been a wild ride and we have sipped some truly excellent coffees, but, like everything else in life, all things must come to an end.

We started off this journey with two naturals—the stellar Ethiopia Gelana Abaya and the equally fabulous Costa Rica El Cedral; yesterday, we slowed down a bit with the exceptional Mexico Coatepec. Now, we travel a little further south in Central America to the region of El Salvador—a region that, for me, has been consistenly “just right.”

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping a cup of Santa Elena El Salvador, from Halfwit Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Santa Elena El Salvador is on the rim of the Izalco Volcano with a stunning view overlooking the Lake Coatepeque, reaching 1650 meters. This farm was almost wiped out by a volcanic eruption 6 years ago that covered the area with ash. After a long recovery the coffee trees, with the mineral rich ash, are now healthier than ever and certified organic.  The farm is 75% Bourbon and Caturra. It also has Pacamara, Orange Bourbon and SL28.  Santa Elena is a multi-generational and traditional farm in El Salvador’s most important region of Santa Ana (Apaneca-Ilamatepec).

El Salvador is known for producing top quality coffee and it’s an important origin for me.

Salvadoran coffee is known mostly for its very sweet and citric heirloom bourbon variety. El Salvador kept this variety due to the Civil War in the 1980’s. When other countries were planting Catimor Hybrids the right and the left were fighting each other. The good infrastructure in the country is key for preserving quality coffee. Wet mills are easily accessible by roads which are in good shape and in close proximity of farms. Its tropical climate is also perfect for growing. Unfortunately this crop (2011/2012) was a terrible crop due to crazy weather patterns (which might explain why I’ve had so many mixed feelings about Salvadoran coffees). In October of 2011 areas were hit with up to 1300 mm of water in only 7 days. This caused the crop to come down 30-50% depending on the micro-region.

The 2012/2013 crop look much more promising though and I’m looking forward to this cup.

the basics:

origin: Santa Ana, El Salvador
farm: Santa Elena Estate
elevation: 1650 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Caturra
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Organic

the coffee:

Every time I brewed this coffee at home, my roommate would emerge from his room and exclaim, “That shit smells incredible!” He’s right—it does.

It has cool scents of jasmine and some wonderful floral aromatics—violet and rose—, each whiff followed closely behind with a poof of cocoa.

Immediately post brew it’s herbal and floral flavors that dominate the cup. It’s spicy sweet with notes of cinnamon, roasted cocoa nibs, and jasmine. Meanwhile, floral aromatics still come wafting out of the cup, tickling the tip of my nose. As it cools off, it gets markedly sweeter; it’s first stop on its way to room temperature is Autumn Central: it’s soft and creamy with a smooth, velvety bed of caramel that coats the palate, ushering in flavors of toffee and candy corn.

When it gets even cooler, nougat and vanilla play up the sweetness while fruity elements come to the forefront: apple, peach, and strawberry wine acidity.

Medium body; creamy body; malic acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

You could say that the Mexico Coatepec from yesterday was Halfwit’s ultimate comfort coffee, but this—the Santa Elena El Salvador—comes in a close second for me. The only thing that holds it back is that it’s a little more complex, a lot more flavorful, and it has a much more defined acidity.

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