It was 2019 the last time that DRWakefield touched down at San Salvador airport. In March 2023, MT and I were back. Jasal and Urrutia’s Estates in El Salvador are two of our longest and strongest producer partners. Despite the global challenges the industry has faced in recent years, both producers have continued to drive forward quality and invest in new equipment at their respective mills. We were excited to see (and taste) this progress firsthand. And eat loads of Pupusas, of course.
The trip began at the Producer Roaster Forum in the stunning Salamanca Exhibition Centre, San Salvador. The show was extremely well attended by producers, exporters, importers, and roasters from across Central and South America. ‘Are We Defining Coffee Quality Incorrectly’ was my talk of the show. A fascinating debate about the limitations of the SCA scoring sheet from the perspective of a producer, roaster, and competition barista. Well worth a listen on YouTube. We then spent the weekend exploring the specialty coffee scene in San Salvador. Hand brews, interesting processes and Pacamara dominated the coffee shop menus. Broadly speaking, cafes showcased an impressive range of exceptional El Salvadorian coffees. What better way to whet the appetite for the week ahead…
Jasal is a family-owned producer and exporter located in the Apaneca-Ilamatapec region of El Salvador. Since Andres Salaverria took over management of the company in 2011, there has been a strong focus on cup quality and innovative processing. There are now a total of 40 farms across the Jasal estate, ranging from 10 hectares – 230 hectares in size. All plots are shade covered, handpicked and mixed variety depending on terroir. Andres greeted us in San Salvador on Monday morning and drove us 2 hours to the Beneficio Las Cruces, our home for the next 3 nights. A huge thank you to Andres and the whole Jasal team for an incredible experience. I am more excited than ever to share the fresh crop when it lands in June and July.
Finca San Francisco, Jasal
Facing out towards the Pacific Ocean, the stunning topography at Finca San Francisco is dominated by Copanchi tree wind breakers to protect the coffee from the strong offshore winds. The farm was purchased in 2004 and has undergone extensive renovations to reach its current state. A core focus at the farm is the plant nursery. Featuring Gesha, Yellow Catuai, Ana Kafe and Pacamara, seed is germinated in bamboo covered sand pits for 45 days before being transferred to small containers. In the field, 20% of the coffee is Hybrid San Francisco variety. This hybrid is a natural mutation between Bourbon and Pacas, first discovered at Finca San Francisco before Jasal purchased the farm.
El Molino, Jasal
El Molino is the largest farm in the Jasal estate. Unlike Finca San Francisco, much of the farm faces away from the ocean and so the topography is more varied. Parts of the farm feature very structured wind breakers, other sections are dominated by scatterings of shade trees. The farm covers 215 ha of land, divided into 11 different plots with an altitude range of 1,300 – 1,700masl. We began the farm tour at the lowest part of the farm, El Padre, that was in full bloom from scattered lower altitude rains. The smell of coffee blossom sat in the air as the bees buzzed around. A special moment.
Los Nogales, Jasal
DRWakefield has had exclusivity with the Los Nogales farm since 2017. It is an incredibly beautiful plot of land, kept in immaculate condition and dominated by steep, sloping vistas. The farm covers 28 hectares, divided into 3 different plots: El Roble, Capulin and Miramar. As you may have guessed from the name, Miramar is at the top of the farm at 1,700masl, with views over the pacific. All coffees from Los Nogales are separated by variety and process to ensure complete traceability and the highest quality. Our exclusivity has also given us the opportunity to play around with exciting and experimental processes. Roasters that buy from Jasal can come up with processing ideas themselves, too…
Beneficio Las Cruces, Jasal
Las Cruces has had a few additions since we last visited, both of which have improved processing and quality standards. The most substancial is a new green colour sorter, added in January 2022. The piece of equipment took 2 weeks to install and required the main wall of the dry mill to be deconstructed to allow the crane access. Covid also saw the installation of two Guardiolas imported from Pinhalense in Brazil. The Guardiolas are used primarily for commercial coffees and follow an initial period of patio drying.
However, the highlight of our stay at the mill was the opportunity to process 60kg of Bourbon Los Nogales cherry ourselves. I could write about this experience for hours, so am leaving the below video to do the talking:
After an amazing stay at Jasal, we were collected up by the 3 Urrutia’s brothers: Rene, Enrique and Gustavo. Urrutita’s Estates date back to 1875 when Juan Urrutia planted the first coffee trees at what is now Finca El Ingenio. They now own three farms, El Ingenio, San Ernesto and Las Canoas, as well as a separate Beneficio for wet and dry milling in nearby Atiquizaya. After an incredible start to the week, team Urrutia’s had a lot to live up to. Unsurprisingly, they delivered. A massive thanks to all the brothers for such a beautiful and personal couple of days.
Beneficio San Antonio, Urrutia’s
When our relationship with Urrutia’s started in 2011, we imported exclusively washed coffees. However, over the past 5 years, the Urrutia’s team have started to explore honey and natural processed coffees with great success. Rene talked us through the development stages in detail. It was brilliant to hear the uncompromising steps taken to achieve the best possible results on the cupping table. This year, DRWakefield will be importing all 3 processes from the San Ernesto farm. The natural is tasting particularly great.
The other major update is the installation of a new roastery at the dry mill. Purchased in 2019, their Diedrich 12kg roasted 3 containers of washed El Sal SHG in 2022. It’s a highly efficient operation and an awesome form of diversification for the brothers.
El Ingenio, Urrutia’s
Finca El Ingenio in Apaneca-Ilamatepec is a truly stunning farm. Of the 140 hectare plot, coffee only grows on 35 hectares of land. The remaining land is forest, with natural hot springs poking through the greenery across the mountainside. After exploring the farm by foot, we ate some impeccably prepared cheese sandwiches on the stone table at 1,700masl. El Ingenio was the first farm in the Urrutia’s family, and as we ate we heard many stories that had been passed down the generations. The farm manager, Sr. Jorge, also informed us that the hot springs transfer rare minerals into the soils of El Ingenio, contributing the unique profile on the cupping table. We agree, the PSS for both the natural and washed coffees were full of red fruit notes.
San Ernesto, Urrutia’s
Our final farm visit of the week was to Finca San Ernesto. Incredibly, this farm is just a 30-minute drive from the capital of San Salvador. It is the first time I have been to a farm so close to a major city. The 140 hectare plot still feels extremely remote when walking round the farm. Unlike El Ingenio, most of the San Ernesto is farmed for coffee. However, shade trees, both large and small, still dominate the topography. San Ernesto is the first farm DRWakefiled imported coffee from back in 2011 when we began working with Urrutia’s. Today, it remains the largest single estate we work with in El Salvador. We finished the trip with an incredible coffee themed meal at the onsite restaurant. The perfect end to the perfect trip.
We are extremely proud of these two brilliant partnerships we have in El Salvador. If you want to get involved, please reach out to your trader for samples. The fresh crop will begin to land in June; you won’t be disappointed.