Farm: Finca El Retiro (Pacas)
Altitude: 1,300 to 1,400 metres above sea level
Owner: Café Pacas
Town / City: Santa Ana
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range
Overall: Peach, lemon, sweet, creamy, notes of cinnamon, delicate
El Retiro Pacamara SW - El Salvador
Finca El Retiro was founded in 1927 by Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa, and some of the Bourbon trees that he first established here still yield fruit to this day. The farm has since passed down four generations and is now owned and managed by Alfredo Pacas and his family: it is one of several small estates that the family owns and manages in this privileged location high in El Salvador’s rich, cool Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range.
Alfredo has passed this heritage and a love for coffee farming to his children – Alfredo and Maria – who bring an energy and modern approach to coffee production that is passionate and quality focused. They have a clear vision for the specialty coffee sector in El Salvador and, specifically, their own farms and are continuously pushing the boundaries to improve quality, mixing traditional best practice (like using the agobio method of pruning, implementing careful soil and shade management, & use of older varietals) with cutting edge quality control systems and techniques. Management and record keeping from harvest to harvest are notable for their stringency and scientific approach.
El Retiro’s Pacamara trees cover around 20% of the farm’s total hectarage. Other varieties include Bourbon and very small sections of the ‘mysterious’ Bernadina Variety, which was discovered and cultivated by the family on their Finca Los Bellotos and has since been planted on several other Pacas Family farms. All these varieties grow under a protective canopy of shade, made up of indigenous tree varieties such as the leguminous balsam and ingas. Both of these trees are chosen for their heavy leaf fall, which provides a rich, natural mulch that both inhibits undergrowth and fertilises the trees. The farm is also home to many different animals including squirrels, armadillos, wild cats and quails.
The coffee is hand-picked only when perfectly ripe and is delivered to the Pacas’ family wet mill, Vivagua, on the same day that it is picked. The coffee is then flotated, pulped to remove the skin and then left to ferment in tanks for 2 to 3 hours. During this time, around 30% of the mucilage is loosened from the parchment.
Following this brief fermentation, the coffee is rinsed in clean water and then spread on patios to dry in the sun, where it is turned regularly to ensure even drying. When the coffee reaches 11% humidity, it is bagged and then moved to the warehouse, where it is rested until ready to dry mill.
The farm employs 24 permanent workers and provides seasonal work for a further 105 temporary workers at the peak of the harvest. Free medical care is offered to all of the farm’s employees.
In addition to these measures, Café Pacas knows that a company must contribute more widely to society in order to be fully sustainable. Beginning in 2012, they developed a social responsibility strategy in conjunction with two non-profit organisations - FUNPRES and FORJA – which includes a series of social different programs, many of which focus on education.
Furthermore, the family has prioritised violence prevention programs on their farms, including workshops in: Emotional Intelligence, Assertive Communication, Interpersonal Relationships, Resilience, and Teamwork, among others. Psychological help is available for team members and their families to help them cope with specific situations. Twenty people have already directly benefitted from the program at Finca San Joaquin (another family farm) and have gone on to be agents of change in their communities. At the end of the programme, more than 250 people will have been directly impacted by the project.
El Retiro was a finalist at the Cup of Excellence in 2006.The farm is certified under ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9001-2000, which helps to ensure traceability and further improve quality.