As well as the usual goals I set myself for developing and growing Crankhouse Coffee at the beginning of the year I added two 'wants':
1. Go on my first 'origin' trip.
2. Invest in my coffee education with professional courses.
Not a massive list I agree, but I hadn't anticipated fulfilling these wants so quickly in the year.
This Sunday I fly to El Salvador on my first visit to see how coffee is really grown, harvested, and processed and the myriad of intricate steps that happen along the way before it even gets put into the Grainpro/Jute sacks I'm used to receiving at the roastery. My education to date has been from printed and electronic media and discussions with my peers. There's a wealth of information out there and I'm sure I've only touched the surface of what those that have been before me have been good enough to share. I think we'd all agree there's no substitute for the real thing and I must say I'm looking forward to it immensely. I'm joining a trip organised by Andy Tucker from Clifton Coffee who has been in immersed in the UK speciality coffee scene for many years and has at least one previous origin trip under his belt.
Just to give you a little taster of what a weeks trip will involve I've listed the itinerary below:
Map courtesy of the folk at Cafe Imports
The main growing regions are highlighted and we'll be visiting three of the premier areas in the 5 days. As a country El Salvador is the smallest in Central America and is known predominantly for the Bourbon and Pacamara varietals. Take note of the latter.. we'll be coming back to that later.
Day 1: Travel from San Salvador to the Cuzcuchapa Coop and Mill in the Chalchuapa region in the Santa Ana municipality. The coop is supplied by 700 small farms from the district and we'll be cupping and tasting as many offerings from these farms as our palates allow.
Day 2. Based on the cuppings from Day 1, we'll make some farm visits and meet and greet the farm owners and workers, see how the farms are managed , the quality of the trees and the surrounding lands and get a feel for the love and passion that has gone in to the growing and harvesting of their coffee cherries.
Day 3. Potentially more small farms in the Chalchuapa region supplying the Cuzcuchapa Coop or a visit to a neighbouring region. This might be a day to allow the palates to rest up a little before the oncoming treats.
Day 4. Visiting one of the El Sal big-guns Gilberto Baraona at Los Pirineos (note spelling typo on the map label !). This is in the Cordillera Tecapa Chinameca region, which is as far east as the speciality coffee growing region spreads in this small country. Apparently the wet mill (Beneficio) and dry-mill are some of the highest quality anywhere and of course this reflects in the cup. As well as naturally processed red bourbon micro-lots we'll hopefully get to taste some of the many experimental lots under development including their Red Pacamara. It's a small farm but I'm anticipating that the coffees we taste are going to be something special.
Day 5: Visiting Federico Pacas in Santa Ana who owns Finca Santa Petrona and Cafe Tuxpal Beneficio and export company. Santa Petrona is situated on the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano and has placed highly in many Cup of Excellence competitions. Again this farm is experimenting with natural processing as well as their washed Pacamaras and Bourbons.
Sounds like a lot to get through in five days and I'm sure it'll be hectic and incredibly informative and enlightening. I'll hopefully taste some amazing coffees, learn a heap of stuff and have little bit of fun along the way :-)
I'll report back with pics and more on the way around.