Farm: Finca San Jose Limar
Varietal: Bourbon, Typica & Pacas
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios & African Beds
Altitude: 1,480 metres above sea level
Owner: Angel Ernesto Magaña Torres
Town / City: Jicalapa
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range
Overall: floral, vanilla, balanced, green grape, sweet, cocoa, milk choco
San Jose Limar - El Salvador
Finca San Jose Limar has been in Angel Ernesto Magaña Torres’s family since the 19th century. Interestingly (and something of a rarity in Central America), the farm has a strong matriarchal heritage and has been passed down over the years purely through the maternal line. Angel’s mother, Judith, inherited the farm from her mother, Martha Rodriguez de Torres, in 1976, who in turn inherited from her aunt, Transito Rodriguez, in 1954. Transito inherited the farm from her mother, Josefina, who was the original owner of the farm dating from the mid 1800s. In fact, the farm takes its name from Josefina (and also her husband Jose!). Angel breaks the female-run tradition but holds with the heritage of this lovely, small farm, which forms a small jewel on the southern tip of El Salvador’s famous Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range.
San Jose’s small but perfect 4 hectares are cultivated with Bourbon, Typica (85%) and Pacas (15%). The farm has long utilised environmentally friendly practices to maintain equilibrium with the natural ecosystem which is part of a natural fauna corridor, crucial for migratory and native birds. The shade trees of the farm are primarily Ingas, Pepeto, Cuje, Gravilea and native fruit trees. The farm itself, with its rich cover, is home to a variety of wild animals that can be seen in their natural habitat such as gray foxes, agouties, wildcats, owls, snakes, hawks, etc. It is completely forbidden to trap or hunt these animals on the farm.
The farm does apply some chemical fertilisers to the soil annually, which is necessary in this region in order to maintain the resilience of the Arabica varieties that are so important for cup quality. However, no chemical herbicides or pesticides are used. Shade trees and pruning off-cuts provide abundant organic matter for composting. Foliar fertiliser is composed of bio-fermented mountain microorganisms combined with mineral salts, which provides all the minor mineral elements that the plants need to be well-nourished. In addition, the farm uses a system of live plant barriers that ensures that the abundant rain during the rainy season does not erode soil and crucial nutrition.
Also helping to preserve the health of the plants is regular renovation of the coffee plantation. Plants are replaced regularly, with the average tree age currently at only 8 years old! Because it is a small farm, selective pruning and selective replacing of old trees yields very good results. The goal is to replace 10% of the total number of trees of the farm each year. All new trees planted are Bourbon variety.
Climate change and crime are the biggest challenges that the farm has to overcome. Crime (in particular the theft of coffee) is endemic to El Salvador these days, says Angel. It is something that one hast to guard against. Climate change, while also unavoidable, is something the farm feels it can mitigate. Changes to weather patterns have brought plagues and diseases such as rust and anthracnose that are virulent in the varieties of coffee grown on the farm. Angel is committed to keeping the heritage Arabica varieties on his farm, but he knows that the farms planted with Arabica coffee in the region have been attacked by rust and anthracnose and that at least half of them have been abandoned due to this. Good fertilisation and responsive pest control are crucial aspects of maintaining plant health.
Furthermore, Angel suspects that climate change will bring stronger winds to vulnerable areas of the farm, so he has begun planting new tree barriers of suitable varieties to protect the coffee plantation. He also makes sure that farm staff, including him, attends seminars and implements improvements every year in the cultivation and management of the farm. In the near future, they hope to begin processing using honey and natural processes so as to expand their specialty offerings.