Why I love Las Mercedes and what that means to you!
I could tell you about the history of Las Mercedes...since 1886....133 years and counting.
I could tell you about the challenges of working in a region where they have to pay the gangs ‘Protection Money’ to allow the workers to come and actually harvest the crop and use the roads.
I could tell you about the quality, winning 1st place in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
I could tell you about the terroir (elevation, soil, rainfall, etc.) that makes this coffee special.
I could tell you about the social programs, including how your purchase provides for Free medical care with Doctor, nurses and free prescription drugs.
I could tell you about economics, how your purchase allows Las Mercedes to pay workers more than required so workers can meet their personal needs.
I could tell you about all the environmental practices of recycling water, collecting rain water, natural shade trees and much more.
I could tell you about Lucia Ortiz, past El Salvador Woman in Coffee President, and how your purchase supports all she has done for woman in coffee.
But, I want to tell you about experimentation and innovation, and how it benefits you in your cup.
Lucia Ortiz and the team at Las Mercedes have always done things the right way when it comes to growing and processing coffee. The proof as they say is in the cup, and that cup was the El Salvador Cup of Excellence where their Pepinal 1 lot won 1st place. That experimentation started with picking only ripe cherries from the trees, advancing to using a brix meter to check when the sugar is just right, and now also sorting by hand before processing.
Next clean recycled water is used to wash the cherries from dirt and occasional ash due to volcano eruptions before processing via the washed, honey or natural methods. The wet milling process features a water saving and efficient mucilage aqua pulper which eliminates the need for fermentation, where the beans used to set for 24-48 hours in tanks before washing off the remaining mucilage and moving to drying. But experiments and cupping have taught the team that some coffees, like the Pacamara varietal, work better with Old School Fermentation rather than the newer aqua pulper. The resulting cup is a sweeter and better tasting Pacamara.
The current harvest washed Pacamara, like the one we have now is really good with both sweet and savory flavors without the earthy onion that some other Pacamara coffee beans can have. And let’s not forget about the drying.
Las Mercedes built their patios with clay tiles rather than concrete as the tiles absorb the moisture evenly for better and more consistent drying. New a couple years ago, drying beds like those used in Africa were added with great results. This year Lucia is experimenting with drying under different color canopy’s, something I saw in Colombia, I am excited to see those results.
But the new experiment I want to talk about is with honey processing. Typically, coffee is processed one of three ways: Washed (removing all the fruit), Semi-washed or honey (where the skin is removed but some of the mucilage or fruit is left on), and natural (where the cherry is left whole to dry like a raison with the fruit and skin removed later). For the honey the pulper leaves on some of the fruit, using just enough water as a vehicle to move the beans down to wheel barrels or buckets and then to drying. This year Lucia and the team at Las Mercedes moved the beans manually and with gravity, eliminating the need for and use of water.
Why should you care how the beans are moved? Is less water in processing better for the environment and more sustainable? Yes, but that is not the main reason. The main reason is because the little bit of fruit and juice the water removed is not left on the beans resulting in a wonderfully sweet cup, extremely clean, great honey body, and fruit notes of red berries and stone fruit. It was my favorite bean and highest rated coffee while cupping with Lucia last week. Our current offering has similar notes without as much of the red fruit. I cannot wait till summer when our new crop of Las Mercedes will arrive. Try our current Yellow Icatu Honey* processed from Las Mercedes, enjoy those wonderful flavors, then compare to what Lucia is doing next. Or try our newest varietal from Las Mercedes the Maracaturra, it was an experiment a few years back and this is the first harvest and exclusive to Klatch. The Maracaturra is a cross between the giant Maragogype varietal and the Caturra varietal. We just released this week.**