Farm: El Borbollon
Varietal: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed and sundried on clay patios
Altitude: 1,400 to 1,500 meters above sea level
Town / City: Apaneca-Ataco
Overall: Dark cherry, white sugar, layered, baked cherry, balanced
Portezuelo - El Salvador
This Portezuelo lot is a 100% shade grown Red Bourbon, handpicked at perfect ripeness, naturally fermented, washed and then sun dried on clay patios at the pristine El Borbollon mill.
The Portezuelo blend is comprised of the production of various fincas located within the region of Apanenaca-Ataco in the Ahuachapán department of El Salvador. Carefully selected coffees from these farms are then cupped and carefully blended at El Borbollon Mill by head cupper and Q-grader, Chelé. The name, Portezuelo, means ‘pass through the mountains’ and has been given to this coffee as a representation of what the high altitudes of this privileged coffee growing region has to offer.
El Borbollon was founded in 1985 by the Alvarez family, who have specialised in specialty coffee for generations.
The Alvarez Diaz brothers, who own El Borbollon mill, are the fourth generation to farm coffee in this exceptional region. The family owns and manages their own prize-winning farms as well as providing milling services for farms from the surrounding area.
El Borbollon mill is managed by Eduardo Alvarez, whose father (also Eduardo) bequeathed to him a passion for growing coffee and inspired him to always strive for the highest quality. Under Eduardo’s direction, the mill has increasingly accessed speciality markets and has provided key technical assistance and guidance to the farms with which they work. In fact, Eduardo’s hard work and advocacy has enabled many of these farms to place in Cup of Excellence competitions. Of the 15 high altitude farms with which El Borbollon works, 10 have won places in Cup of Excellence competitions. 4 of these, including La Reforma, have won the COE Presidential Award for achieving scores in excess of 90 points.
Eduardo manages activities at the mill to complement the natural potential of the coffees that he and other farms in the region produce. All their coffees are pulped without water and then fermented for 16 – 20 hours until peak fermentation is achieved. The coffee is then washed in clean, fresh water to remove all traces of mucilage. The parchment coffee is moved to the mill’s expansive clay patios, where it is slowly sundried and regularly turned by hand.
Clay patios are traditional in this region, and Eduardo prefers them to the more modern concrete patios as clay is endothermic (absorbs heat) and, thus, very good at regulating temperature. Coffees dried this way dry very slowly (a minimum 9 to 10 days) and evenly. Eduardo’s experience has shown that the longer the drying time, the better the cup, and the mill has even been experimenting with increasing drying time further through partial sun drying for small lots, where the coffee is placed on an area of the patios that only receives 4 to 5 hours a day of sunlight.
This meticulous attention to detail shown at every stage of production – from harvesting to wet milling to cupping – has enabled the family to survive the many struggles that the coffee industry in El Salvador has suffered in the last 20 years and even to inspire neighbouring farms to invest in the quality of their production. According to Eduardo, there is no other option – coffee runs ‘in his blood’ and he and his family could never leave it, so this is the only way forward. However, as El Salvador’s coffee industry and production continue diminishing in the face of coffee leaf rust and lack of governmental support, efforts such as his may prove to be crucial to the survival of some of the most notable coffees that Central America have to offer. His son certainly thinks so. The third consecutive Eduardo Alvarez, 29 years old, has recently joined the company as Operations Manager and looks forward to carrying the torch through to the sixth generation!
The Alvarez family’s farms and mill offers considerable social support to local communities and have recently been working with a local NGO to help tackle child malnutrition in rural communities. The family is also committed to developing sustainable practices in order to protect and preserve the natural environment.