Farm: Finca Montevideo
Varietal: Mainly Bourbon and Typica, some Pacas, Pacamara and others
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on patios
Altitude: 1,200 to 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: Alberto Guirola
Town / City: Cantón Alvarez
Region: Central Belt/El Básalmo-Quezaltepec Mountain Range
Overall: Cherry, mandarin orange, roasted hazelnut, lingering acidity, clean
Finca Montevideo - El Salvador
Finca Montevideo occupies more than 140 hectares of prime coffee growing land in El Salvador’s ‘Central Belt’ coffee growing region – commonly known as the El Básalmo-Quezaltepec Mountain Range. Originally home to the Quetzalcotitán civilisation, this region includes San Salvador Volcano and its rich, volcanic soils. The region takes its name from the Salvadoran Balsam (an aromatic resin) produced there and benefits from altitudes of 500 to 1,900 meters.
Montevideo is located on Cantón Alvarez and can be quickly accessed from the capital city of San Salvador. The farm’s altitude ranges from 1,250 to 1,600 metres above sea level. The views are breathtaking, as from the farm’s coffee lined slopes you can oversee the pacific shoreline and the eastern part of El Salvador along with a chain of other awe-inspiring volcanoes. The cool climate allows for slow maturation and its rich volcanic soil makes a perfect condition for growing amazing coffees.
Montevideo is owned by Alberto Guirola, who manages the farm with the most diligent cultivation methods. The farm is mostly planted with Bourbon and Typica varieties, with some Pacas and new areas with Pacamara and Geisha varietals, as well as some lower-lying areas with rust-resistant trees such planted with Catimor and Sarchimor types. The trees are cultivated under native shade, which improves and conserves the soil and provides habitation for birds, and are managed according to a stringent pruning schedule that maintains the health of the trees and improves their resistance to diseases and insect damage. Workers are trained and supervised with expectations of stringent attention to detail. Preventive pest and disease control has enabled the farm to stay healthy despite coffee leaf rust outbreaks and has enabled excellent conditions to grow healthy and perfectly ripe coffee cherries.
Finca Montevideo has been growing coffee over many decades with the same passion and hard work of the Guirola family predecessors, and a renewed emphasis is being taking place to switch into specialty coffee production. To this end, Montevideo has recently partnered with El Borbollon mill to develop a specialty coffee program. They are focused on supplying exciting coffees for demanding markets and creating win-win conditions for the chain along the way.
After being selectively hand harvested, coffee cherries are delivered to the renowned Borbollon Mill in Santa Ana. El Borbollon 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 have won the COE Presidential Award for achieving scores in excess of 90 points.
Montevideo’s coffee is delivered and immediately pulped on the same day as harvesting. It is then fermented for 12 to 18 hours before being washed fully in clean water and delivered to dry at the mill’s pristine clay patios, where it s regularly turned. The parchment coffee will dry for around 12 days, after which it will be bagged and rested.
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 the local NGO www.librasdeamor.org 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.