Finca Santa Julia, in Santa Ana, El Salvador, is run by Alfredo Alvarez Valdes. His farm is a three time Cup of Excellence award winner.
Mariposa brought in this direct traded coffee through Topéca in neighboring Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a matter of fact, Alfredo Alvarez Valdes is a cousin of Topéca’s owners.
Topéca was established as a means to work directly with the producer and the consumer as a middle man.With continuing investment in equipment and employee training, Topéca is now one of the few companies in the world that controls its coffee beans from the time they are planted in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador to the time they are roasted. This process—which they dubbed “Seed-to-Cup”—allows Topéca to control the quality of its coffee with an obsessive level of attention.
This is something that Mariposa has been wanting to do for a long time because building relationships is important to them. For a small company, they try to practice the most direct route possible when it comes to sourcing their coffees. While it may not be feasible for them to take several origin trips per year, working with a family-run company that has direct ties with producers in El Salvador is a good option too.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of El Salvador Finca Santa Julia, from Mariposa Coffee Roastery in Norman, Oklahoma. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Santa Ana, El Salvador
farm: Finca Santa Julia
producer: Alfredo Alvarez Valdes
elevation: 1200 – 1500 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance
The aroma fragrantly wafting off the Finca Santa Julia coffee is classically Santa Ana, El Salvadora. It’s sweet and refined; not delicate, but certainly not overwhelming. Caramel and sugar interweave with bright red fruits and gentle rose hip aromatics to create an all-too pleasant scent.
Taking the first few sips of this coffee and my taste buds are introduced to flavors of sweet, savory creme de leche and salted caramel that roll over the tongue and are followed by silky rose petals and a dusting of almonds in the finish. Meanwhile, underneath these flavors, I’m also getting notes of juicy apple, pear, and bing cherry.
As the cup cools, it erupts into a flavor explosion. This coffee just transformed from a traditional El Salvadoran profile to a Jackson Pollock painting as it is throwing everything it has at my taste buds all at once. It went from “classic” and “clean” to “intense,” “busy,” and “just kinda all over the place.” All of the flavors up front remain intact; on top of those there are now really wild notes of strawberry, raspberry, and tart grapefruit (that becomes really dominant as the cup gets more and more acidic as it cools). Tropical fruits aren’t the only thing this coffee has going for it, though—it’s also really spicy, nutty, herbal, floral, and even a little vegetal. Ginger, white sugar, cloves, and coriander all nip at the tip and sides of the tongue while the middle and back are inundated with pistachio, almond, white tea, green pepper, strawberry rhubarb pie, and just the tiniest hint of a papery taste.
Wow. That’s a whole lot of flavor. Like a big fruit cake—with even more stuff baked into it than usual.
Medium body; silky mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The El Salvador Finca Santa Julia, from Mariposa Coffee Roastery, I have to say, is a uniquely flavored and, honestly, it’s kind of an unusual cup of coffee. Look—I review a LOT of coffees; I cup even more coffees than that. However, even still, a coffee will end up at the Table that makes me do a double take. This was one of those coffees.
At moments this coffee is bright and lively and tart, at others it is sweet and savory and creamy, and in some places it’s spicy and herbal and even a little vegetal. Throughout the cup my taste buds were presented with bright tropical fruits like grapefruit and raspberry, sweet creme de leche and salted caramel, cloves and ginger and even strawberry rhubarb pie; it even got a little papery towards the end. Then the bottom of the cup comes along and all of these flavors dogpile on top of another and clumsily spill onto the palate in a hodgepodge menagerie of tastes.
This coffee will defy you to put a finger on it or pigeonhole it. It’s wild, unbridled, untamed, and unpredictable. Unfortunately, that means that it’s also unorganized. The Finca Santa Julia is a well-roasted coffee with a lot of really good, strong flavors, but there’s just a bit too much happening all at once for me.
But, hey, that’s a Pacamara for you! Pacamara is a weird variety that creates a lot of unusual flavor combinations in the cup. This particular cup fell victim to the varietal and its wily ways.
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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.