At a Glance: single origin (El Salvador); light body; bright, juicy, caramel, apple; high acidity; semi-washed

Hello once again, coffee friends. Welcome back to the table, here in the corner of this cafe. Before we get started, I want to make you aware of a few changes that happened here at the Table the other day. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a new menu feature at the top of the page called “Coffee 101” – here, you will find articles, graphics, and useful links that will help to set up a very basic understanding of coffee and coffee tasting. Baristas, coffee professionals, and coffee bloggers especially are all too guilty of assuming that everybody and their mother knows the difference between caturra, catimor, and typica varietals; we assume that the Everyman has just as much of an understanding of grind settings and brew methods of pull techniques as anyone competing for the World Barista Championship. But not everyone does.

Hell, I’ve been working working with coffee for six years and I still can’t comprehend half of what most coffee bloggers write about.

So, please, make use of the resources that I’ve provided there. I’ll be adding more as time goes on. You can also expect to see some content changes, maybe even some polls and games and contests – who knows what else.

With all that bugaboo out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. The other day, The Wormhole got a couple bags of Handsome Coffee Roasters‘ Santa Sofia, El Salvador for their guest roaster pour-over bar. After seeing the photo of it that they posted on their Facebook page, I made it a point to hurry over there first chance I got to check it out – not just because I love Handsome, but because a lot of fuss has been made over the past couple months about the Santa Sofia farm in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Coffee bloggers, like Sad Giraffe, and professional cuppers just love this coffee. I wanted to taste for myself, and I took the liberty to grab a cup for you, as well.

Feel free to pull up a chair.

Finca Santa Sofia is a farm located in the Palo de Campana, Santa Ana region of El Salvador. The farm is owned by Exportadora Pacas Martinez, a family company that got its start in 1991. The Santa Sofia farm, on the other hand, has been in operation and producing coffee since 1890. When the Martinez family took it over, they transformed it into an incredibly successful, high-quality operation. Santa Sofia has even been a finalist in the Cup of Excellence Award for the past several years in a row.

The coffee uses Inga trees to shade their Bourbon coffee, which grows at elevations of up to almost 1500 meters above sea level in supremely rich volcanic soil – the farm is walled by three massive active volcanoes (Ilamatepic, Izalco, and the Santa Ana Volcano, which is the highest point in the region). The picked cherries then undergo a natural pulping process.

The aroma of this coffee has some really bright notes to it – you can definitely detect that the flavor is going to be fruity and probably pretty acidic. There’s also a really nice touch of almonds in the scent, sitting atop a very thin layer of smokiness. Maybe more like a wisp of smokiness.

I was immediately struck by how bright this coffee is. Notes of grape and citrus sparkle on the palate, while a smooth, creamy caramel coats the tongue. There’s a fairly high amount of acidity, but it’s super sweet – and juicy. Like biting into a fresh honeycrisp apple. This, mixed with the caramel notes of course, makes for a very delightful coffee experience throughout the cup’s lifespan. As the cup cools, it becomes even more lively and zesty with notes of strawberry, plum, lime, and clementines dancing across the palate.

Really nice finish; each sip leaving behind a fairly acidic aftertaste, but then dissolving into a soothing caramel/honey sweetness.

The Bottom Line

Handsome Coffee Roasters’ Santa Sofia, El Salvador is a truly wonderful cup of coffee – a really great coffee experience. It’s a bright, light-bodied cup with a very pleasing grape acidity that finishes with a honey sweetness. Notes of caramel and sweet, juicy honeycrisp apple dominate the flavor throughout, resting atop a bed of citrus zestiness and a thin layer of earthiness, making it decently rounded for such a bright coffee. This coffee would probably be really great over ice, making it a perfect summertime coffee; it certainly coupled well with the unseasonably warm weather Chicago has been having lately.

So, the bottom line on Santa Sofia, El Salvador? Pretty damn handsome cuppa coffee.

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