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The 2013 El Salvador Trip - Day 1

from Mike Perry and Tara Samuelson

We have two blog entries from Mike Perry and Tara Samuelson's experience in El Salvador. Check out what went on as well as the wonderful images they took.

Mike Perry's Blog Entry

Left JASAL and with the Ortiz family in San Salvador. Got off plane at 7:30 am and cupping by 9:30 am. Cupped 6 tables and over 50 different micro lots and experiments. Great cupping and coffee but the Roya (or coffee rust disease) was the topic of discussion. Expectations this year are down 20% (worse for specialty) with next year projected down 40%. Luckily this years quality not affected but major concerns by all for the future.

Heading to private performance by El Salvador Barista Champion William to judge and give tips, last time I did this Alejandro Mendez won the World Barista Championship in Colombia. More beans and rice for dinner on a dirt floor with all the people from Las Mercedes and Viva Espresso. Tomorrow cupping at Consejo of all Las Mercedes lots, followed by teaching a class on What a Coffee Buyer looks for followed by Heather and Tara teaching on home brewing. Thursday is two classes on espresso and milk by Heather and Tara. Was supposed to limit to 8 people per session but they signed up 19 to each class. I come home that night, Heather and Tara teach more classes with proceeds going to Women in Coffee. They have sold enough spots to buy 60 water filtration systems for 30 schools and reaching over 12,000 children....WooHoo!

Tara Samuelson's Blog Entry

Seeking a senior internship as a Woman’s Studies major at UCR, and simply working at a women’s center or doing research on a gender related topic wasn’t striking me as particularly meaningful. As a former environmental study major, I was looking for an internship that addressed women’s concerns as well as environmental issues. Luckily, I didn’t end up looking very far. I found that Fincas, or coffee plantations, combined my two interests (as well as my love for coffee) all in one place. A few negotiations and paperwork later, I was signed up for an internship to take place in a coffee growing community. This is how my internship in El Salvador began:

Day 1

Arriving at 7:30 A.M. central time, Mike Perry and I are sleepily picked up by Jose Antonio Jr. and Andrés, the sons of Salvadorian finca owner – Jose Antonio Jasal. It is a two hour drive from the airport to the “beneficio,” or coffee processing mill, that is located on the west side of the country in the Santa Ana Mountain range. This ride serves as the perfect time to absorb the beautiful country side. We drive along dirt streets and windy highways lined with bright and animated signs advertising a tropical fruit or hand-made papusas. Women are walking, holding hands with their children and balancing “canastas” on their heads. I take note of the somewhat -desert -somewhat- tropical rainforest topography. Tall and thin trees with vast canopies shadow the red rocks which serve as advertising spots for corporate brands. Up a long and mountainous road, we arrive at “Las Cruces” mill. The Spanish style house we are staying in is 112 years old. Wooden columns and checker board floors, this house with much history is rumored to have housed Che Guevara on his tour of Latin America.

No rest for the weary as we go straight to cupping, also known as “cantanción.” Throughout the day we go through five rounds of cupping, each round consisting of four to ten different types of coffees

To say the least, sleepy is no longer a word to describe us. In between, we grab lunch at the Montaña de Alaska Hotel. It was surrounded by fincas and miles of lush tropical scenery. Most importantly, I notice defined lines in the mountainsides created by trees. It’s explained that these trees serve as wind breakers, protecting the precious coffee trees from the frequent winds of El Salvador

Back down the mountain we go and I ask about the surrounding demographic. I see people with dirt floors and dogs walking about. Clothes actually hang on a line and people ride on the back trucks as they weave rapidly to avoid the casually meandering cow in this apparently “rural” land. Back to cupping and then a tour of the processing plant which I somehow didn't notice was right behind me. We start by looking at newly imported cherries. These cherries are all different colors- red, yellow, green

For specialty coffee, we seek beans that are most ripe and only resemble a deep burgundy color. Andrés, Jose Antonio, and Mike proceed to give me a full tour of the mill and how it transforms newly picked cherries into ready-to-be-roasted green beans. I have learned the process before through power points and pictures, but viewing the actual transformation created a physical understanding of it. After being picked, these cherries are taken to a machine that removes the seed from the cherry

Once this step is complete, the newly naked beans are moved to tanks down below for further washing, or put through an electronic de-mucilage machine to remove the sticky lining of the seed. At the base of the cylinder shaped machine, mucilage in the form of a murky brown, honey-like liquid slowly pours out (#168,172) Undergoing this step or not determines whether the bean is “washed” or “semi-washed.” From the tile tanks beneath, an elevator pick up the bathed beans and disperses them into a container resembling a hopper. As this giant canister is manually released, the beans fall in and are transported by a little cart that takes them to the drying beds. The drying beds include actual wire beds, ceramic floors or concrete

Here they dry anywhere from a week to up to a month. This dried product, which is considered a green bean with parchment or “en cascara,” is transported back into the mill for more separating and processing. As I walk through the mill, rows and rows of coffee bags line the walls

Stored in burlap bags, the beans rest in parchment for six to eight weeks. After a long rest, the beans are removed from their parchment and sorted once again by color, weight, and size. The final sorting can have as many as four steps. Some sorting are done by machines, and some by human hands, but all in efforts to inspect each bean and removing impurities

Lastly, the ready-to-be roasted beans are placed in bags all throughout the plant until ordered. All this occurs at night, since during the day the beans are being harvested. Just after having finished this incredibly informative tour, another shipment of beans comes in. Looking like tart cranberries, this monocolor lot is exactly the type we seek at Klatch

The process begins all over again…

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The 2013 El Salvador Trip - Day 1
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