Farm: Finca La Guachoca
Varietal: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed and sundried on clay patios
Altitude: 1,410 to 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: Maria Pacas & Family
Town / City: Canton Lomas de San Marcelino
Region: Cerro Verde, Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range
Overall: Pineapple, Mango, Vanilla, Complex
La Guachoca – El Gallinazo - El Salvador
Finca La Guachoca lies between 1410 to 1600 metres in the foothills of El Salvador’s extinct Cerro Verde volcano, in the fertile Apaneca Ilamatepec mountain range. It is owned and managed by the Pacas family, who have been farming coffee in El Salvador since 1905 and own several small estates in the area. They bought La Guachoca in 2009 - at the time the farm was known as ‘San Roberto’ but the family re-named it La Guachoca after the quail-like Guachoca bird that is native to this region of El Salvador and often sighted on the farm.
When the Pacas family took over the farm it was in poor shape and production was low - but they saw the land’s potential given its location, altitude and fertile soil. They have since worked hard to improve both the quality and volume of La Guachoca´s production, replanting many areas that were thinly populated and preparing the soil with organic matter to ensure the young trees have all the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Normally, they fertilise the soil four times over the course of the year and the foliage three times.
La Guachoca extends over 31.5 hectares, which are planted out with Red Bourbon varietal trees, as well as a few Pacas varietals. Its soil is very fertile - containing a high proportion of a nutrient-rich red volcanic rock known locally as ‘cascajo’. Maria Pacas told us that she had proof of how good this soil is for the coffee trees last winter, when there was a soil slide on the farm - “Some coffee plants were buried underneath the slide, but after a few days, they came out through the red rock looking as happy as if they had been showered with roses!”
The farm’s gentle slopes are interspersed with native shade trees - including Ingas, Jocote de Corona, Avocados, Cirin, Lengua de Vaca, Pimienta de montaña. These are pruned so that the coffee plants get 70% sunlight during the fruit’s growth period and 30% during the ripening period - allowing the coffee beans to slowly develop all their characteristics.
This particular lot was picked from tablón El Timbo - a small, designated area of the farm whose production was processed separately in order to maintain traceability. El Timbo is the name of small but poisonous snake that is sometimes found in this area of the farm. The El Timbo lot lies at 1,525 metres above sea level and extends over 5.9 hectares.
The farm’s Bourbon trees are pruned using the “agobio” method. This involves bending one of the tree’s main vertical stems over and tying its end to the ground - this widens the tree without harming it, triggering growth of new productive branches along the bent stem. This method can help to increase the life span of the plant up to 90 years, as well as increasing its yield.
The Pacas family have various soil conservation practices in place on the farm - such as planting native izote plants to prevent erosion, and digging “fosas” - large ditches that trap excess rainwater, helping to retain moisture in the soil and trapping organic matter. The family continues to plant new coffee and shade trees each year, and have introduced endangered native tree species to help protect El Salvador’s biodiversity.
The coffee cherries are handpicked only when fully ripe. They are then ‘semi-washed’ - after the coffee is pulped with clean fresh water, it is left to ferment for 12 hours, rinsed and put out to dry on the farm’s brick patios with part of the mucilage still on the bean. When 12° humidity is reached the coffee is then stored at the farm’s parchment warehouse for 30 days, giving the beans an adequate “reposo” (rest) before final milling and export. The Pacas family has also invested in an in-house cupping lab, which allows them to monitor the quality of each and every lot they produce.
La Guachoca provides 90 jobs per month during the harvest period and 50 during the non harvest period.