Farm: Finca Miravalle
Processing: Fully Washed & sun dried
Altitude: 1,700 to 1,800 masl
Owner: Jaime Ernesto Riera Menendez
Town / City: Palo de Campana
Region: Santa Ana Volcano
Finca Miravalle - El Salvador
Finca Miravalle is located in the fertile foothills of El Salvador’s Santa Ana volcano, at an altitude of 1,700 to 1,800 metres above sea level. This small farm is owned and managed by Dr. Jaime Ernesto Riera Menendez, whose family has been producing coffee in El Salvador for several generations. Although Dr. Menendez has a full-time job as a Gastroenterologist, he still maintains the love for coffee farming that runs deep in his family. His legacy, in turn, is some stunning coffees produced on Miravalle’s high slopes (the farm has placed in the Cup of Excellence for the last three years running) and a passion for farming coffee that he has been passed on to his son, Jaime, as well.
Dr. Menedez’s father, Amadeo Riera y Solsona, purchased this farm in 1980, naming it Miravalle (Look at the Valley or Overlooking the Valley) for its spectacular view. When Don Amadeo first started working the land, some of the Bourbon trees were more than 2.5 metres high, and the coffee plantation was virtually wild; he set about pruning back the trees and renovating, establishing the great foundation for quality coffee that has benefited the farm today. Dr. Menendez inherited the farm from his mother after his father passed away. Today he manages the cultivation of its 10 hectares with the help of farm field manager, Luis Flores, and his son (also Jaime). Luis has worked on the farm for 7 years and managed it for the last 4, and his meticulous execution of Dr. Menendez’s farming plan has resulted in a farm that not only has won the Cup of Excellence 3 years running but is also nearly untouched by the rust that has ravaged other areas of El Salvador.
Some 6.7 hectares of the farm are planted out with a mix of Bourbon and Pacas variety trees, which are grown in the shade of native Ingas, Cypress y Gravileo species. The rest of the farm is planted in a virtual cornucopia of varieties. Dr. Menendez likes to experiment and believes that variety diversity strengthens the plants as well as the coffee. Although varieties are grouped in planting, the farm currently doesn’t do lot separation during harvesting and processing. It is an unconventional approach in today’s trend towards microlots, but Dr. Menendez and Sr. Flores think that the mix of varieties are what give Miravalle’s coffee its unique and fantastic profile. According to Dr. Menendez, when they’ve separated individual varieties out for cupping in the past, the coffee loses its magic.
The farm’s first picking is Mid-February through March. At this time, the farm’s year-round staff of 2 expands to about 35 to accommodate the 3 passes necessary to complete the harvest. Workers are paid up to 40% above the legal minimum wage due to the scarcity of labour resulting from migration after the eruption of the Santa Ana volcano in 2005. The farm produces approximately 300 sacks of cherry per year or about 250-300 quintales of green coffee (yields of about 20 quintales per hectare). This relatively high yield despite the farm’s altitude, which contributes to slow cherry development, is a testament to the farm’s careful management.
La Miravalle has participated in COE for the last 6-7 years and has been very successful in the competition, which has helped them to reach new specialty markets. Their winning strategy is simple. They simply enter the same coffee that they produce ‘every day’ rather than selecting out a special or unique lot. Their COE lot & sample is representative of their entire production.
All coffee from Miravalle is selectively handpicked and then delivered on the same day to the Coop Cuzcachapa mill in Chalchuapa. The coffee is then pulped, fermented and washed according to the mills stringent standards. It is then sun dried on the mill’s extensive clay patios.