Located near the Santiago de Maria region of El Salvador, high in the mountains of Cerro El Tigre, lies the Finca Las Mercedes family of farms.
Finca Las Mercedes has been passed down through five generations of the Ortiz family. Throughout their 125 year history, they have obtained a reputation as one of the elite producers in El Salvador. Lucia Ortiz manages the marketing and relationships for the farm. PT’s Coffee has been working closely with her to make sure we can remain a strong partner for years to come. PT’s has sold coffee from three farms within the family of farms, Las Mercedes, La Avila, and El Rubi—today’s sample hails from La Avila.
Finca Las Mercedes has everything that PT’s looks for in a Direct Trade farm. All of the processing is done directly on the farm. They go to great lengths to ensure that their coffee is as pure and clean as possible. After the coffee is harvested, it is brought to ceramic tiled tanks to be screened for defects, before being processed. They adhere to strict guidelines about which cherries are accepted, because cherries with questionable ripeness have an adverse effect on the quality of the cup. The Las Mercedes mill uses the wet process, although other farms within the family of farms use a variety of processing techniques including the semi-washed or honey process, and recently they experimented with using a “Double-Soak” process similar to a process used in Kenya (that’s how today’s coffee was processed).
Their dedication to sustainable practices, both environmentally and socially is commendable. Finca Las Mercedes continually gives back to their community, constructing and supplying a school, providing food for a nursing home and supporting the local soccer team. PT’s Coffee has pitched in with their efforts to help the community by providing medicines for the local clinic and soccer balls for the local team. The local clinic currently serves more than 10 communities that surround Las Mercedes.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the El Salvador La Avila, from PT’s Coffee Roasting Company in Topeka, Kansas, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Santiago de Maria, Usulután, El Salvador
farm/factory: La Avila (Finca Las Mercedes)
producer: Lucia Abrego de Ortiz
elevation: 1400 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma coming off of the El Salvador La Avila is filled with sweet scents of cocoa powder and cherry, but there’s a touch of mustiness to it, too, with notes of oolong tea and just the slightest hints of oak. Very slight.
This aroma opens up into a full-bodied coffee that has a thick, chewy texture which—particularly when coupled with its flavors of chocolate, malt, barley, vanilla, brown sugar, and almond—is reminiscent of oatmeal stout or porter.
As it cools off, the intensity backs off and its body slims down quite a bit. Lots of lively, but delicate and silky, fruit flavors come forward and, just like that, this is a much different cup of coffee (though there is still a bit of chocolate malt, hazelnut, and almond in the finish of every sip): maraschino cherry is the prominent feature, but there are also notes of banana, apricot, and beautiful, sharp green grape acidity.
Full body; chewy mouthfeel; grape acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
PT’s Coffee has been on my radar for quite a while now. They’re widely considered one of the best roasters in the country—certainly one of the most popular. Their El Salvador La Avila was a great introduction to the company.
El Salvadoran coffees are classic—medium altitudes producing a nice balance of high- and low-end notes, sweet and delicious. As a coffee reviewer, “classic profiles” don’t necessarily pique my interest the way they used to. So when an interesting and dynamic coffee like this one comes along—particularly when it’s from El Salvador—it grabs my attention.
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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.