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2012 Sourcing Trip Part 1: El Salvador Las Mercedes

by Mike Perry, CEO and Green Coffee Buyer

Day 1

After flying into San Salvador on the red eye from LAX, I was picked up by Lucia and Robert Ortiz of Finca Las Mercedes. We headed south and about 3 hours later we were walking the farm and meeting the workers. First up was the new nursery, home to over 50,000 (yes fifty-thousand) new baby trees where Pacamara and Bourbon varietals dominate. The trees will be used both to replace unproductive trees and to add more Pacamara.

Finca Las Mercedes, new nursery

Las Mercedes is actually made up of three farms and several micro-lots. First we walked, lote La Montana not too far from the mill where workers were picking and sorting the days harvest. This is the lot used by 2011 World Barista Champion Alejandro Mendez to win the National Championship in El Salvador (more on meeting him later). Lucia and Don Roberto are very concerned with quality and at the farm level, it starts with careful picking and sorting of ripe cherries only. The under ripe and over ripe cherries are sorted out, processed separately and sold to other buyers than Klatch. Next to La Montana is lote Primavera where Klatch Coffee's Pacamara grows, this is the same Pacamara use in our All Out Attack Blend.

Finca Las Mercedes

In the afternoon we walked the rest of the farms including the top of the next peak where lote Pepinal 1 (1st place COE in 2006 and still highest scoring El Salvador coffee) is grown. This is also where Ryan Andrews (son-in-law) surprised our own Heather Perry by jumping out of a coffee tree and proposed to her. Its also to no surprise this section of Pepinal 1 was also the most fertile and fruit abundant (for those who have not heard Heather is pregnant with her first child). That is why Lucia lovingly refers to this section of the farm as "Heather’s Hill."

Las Mercedes Mill

After returning to the house and eating, we toured the mill and patios, watched the coffee being collected at the mill, and chatted with the workers. I am always amazed at how beautiful the cherries are and how clean Lucia keeps the mill. Nonetheless, it was a long first day.

Day 2

Second day started early as we watched the workers head back up the mountain and we headed to the medical clinic built by Finca Las Mercedes and sponsored by Klatch Coffee. If you were not aware, a part of our Direct Trade agreement with Las Mercedes includes a percentage of the fees we pay goes to a community funds that are use for the medical clinic and other social community programs. This year that includes fumigation of homes in the community to protect them from disease, visits by the nurses and doctors to local schools to educate the students and monitor their health, as well as the operation of the clinic and prescription drugs all free of charge. The budget and costs are actually very large and Don Roberto personally finances the costs beyond the support of purchasing Las Mercedes coffee.

Coffee cupping at Consejo in El Salvador

We next drove the three hours back to San Salvador to cup with our friends at the Consejo. The Consejo is El Salvador’s coffee association designed to help and support the growers. They also cup every single coffee container before it leaves the country. The purpose of our visit was to cup the early lots of coffee from Lucia and Las Mercedes. Highlights from the table included (based on blind cupping) the Pepinal 1 first pickings (as we would expect), an experimental honey process that Lucia is producing for Klatch, plus the earlier mentioned lote La Montana, which received 90+ points from Q graders. Based on our cupping we are very excited about this year.

Mike Perry from Klatch Coffee with Viva Espresso owners, 2011 World Bartista Champion Alejandro Mendez, and Las Mercedes owners Lucia and Roberto in El Salvador

Before ending I have to mention the espresso we enjoyed after dinner. While walking to Viva Espresso we passed 2011 World Barista Champion Alejandro Mendez who insisted on returning to work to join us for coffee and espresso. I was made a great espresso from the current (not new being harvested) La Montana, which was blended with a bean from another farm in El Salvador. Liko, the owner and roastmaster of Viva Espresso told me the La Montana added the sweetness I was enjoying. I am very excited to experiment more when I return to the roastery.

So much more to say and much I left out but I must move one. Next up, my visit to Jasal in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador where we get our Orange Bourbon and San Juan Bosco.

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