Vanilla, Orange and Sugar Cane
The Los Pirineos farm has been in the Baraona family for 135 years. The farm is named for the Pyrenees mountain range that separates France and Spain; the Baraonas thought the landscape was very similar. The family ran the coffee farms for generations, and they were a fairly steady source of income until the brutal Salvadoran Civil war forced the family to leave their land for 12 years between 1980 and 1992. During this period they lost 90% of their land. Gilberto Baraona was the only cousin that returned to the farms in 1992, against the wishes of his grandparents, who wanted their descendants to avoid the hardship they had been through during their time producing coffee. From this point on, fourth-generation coffee producer Gilberto sought to rebuild and refocus efforts on the farm. The family now owns and runs 5 farms, a coffee milling and exporting company, and a company who builds mills for other farmers. The farms are all located between 1200 and 1550 masl on the Tecapa volcano, just outside the town of Berlin in the Usulutan region of south-eastern El Salvador. Los Pirineos is the flagship of the project, with the highest altitude and widest selection of varietals, many rather rare. They specialise in Bourbon and Pacamara, and own some of the oldest heirloom Bourbon varietals still existing in El Salvador. The varietal garden is home to more than 17 varietals, and is a World Coffee Research accredited centre for testing experimental new varietals, and for genetic blueprints for iconic varietals such as the Bourbon and Pacamara.
All of the coffee from these farms is processed at the Tecapa mill, located just down the slopes from the Pirineos farm, at 1400 masl on the volcano from which it takes its name. Tecapa was built in 2014, specially designed to process high quality micro lot coffees, and takes cleanliness and systems very seriously. Gilberto compared the operation to a fine dining restaurant, where preparation and systems in the kitchen help to deliver the highest possible quality of final product with minimal stress during service (or harvest) time. This level of control and precision requires a well trained staff, so Gilberto makes sure of high pay and good conditions, meaning even the seasonal workers tend to return year after year. The mill is equipped with all stainless steel tanks and a unique location creates the perfect conditions for fermenting and drying to exacting standards. It is placed in a valley which runs from east to west, giving optimal sun exposure and creating a natural wind tunnel, aiding in drying coffee efficiently. This is also one of the highest altitude mills in the country, so temperatures are comparatively low, leading to longer controlled drying times and better shelf life for the coffees. All of this hard work leads to some of the best coffee in El Salvador, Gilberto’s farms are a mainstay in the top ranks of the El Salvador Cup of Excellence.
This lot of Pacamara is part of a new set of experiments at Pirineos. Gilberto often made analogies with food and restaurants, and compared experimentation in fermentation to experimenting in a kitchen; constantly trying new variations in order to find new and exciting flavours. In fact, before this year’s harvest the number of raised beds at the Tecapa mill was increased from 600 to 1000, in order to give extra capacity for separation of experiments during peak harvest. It has been popular in coffee recently to add yeast to fermentation tanks, in order to take more control over the cultures driving the fermentation.
This lot has been fermented with a variation on the washed process, when the coffee is first de-pulped without the use of water, before floating and sorting, making sure only the densest and hardest seeds make it into the final lot. The depulped coffee is then put through Pirineos’ ‘demucilaginator’, which mechanically removes much of the sticky mucilage layer, without the use of water or fermentation. The seeds are transferred into open stainless steel fermentation tanks with water, and an off-the-shelf yeast strain from the Saccharomyces family is added. Water is a scarce resource in El Salvador, so Pirineos have installed a one million gallon rainwater harvesting tank which can often be seen on pictures of the farm, storing water during the rainy season to use during the drier harvest season. The addition of water creates a slower and cooler fermentation, allowing time for complexity to build in the coffee and creating a fruity and rich cup profile, with slightly more influence from the fermentation. Here this is coming across as round vanilla-like florals and fresh notes of orange on a sweet sugar cane base.
When we choose to share a coffee, it’s because we feel it showcases clear character in the cup, the origin of which can be traced back through the coffee chain. We are inspired not only by sharing this carefully created raw material, but by conveying how each step of the coffee’s journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.
We roast with a gentle touch in order to unveil these characteristics with the highest level of clarity. Be it a dense, high-grown heirloom varietal from Ethiopia, or a lower-grown Bourbon from Brazil, we always aim for this same clarity, and write taste notes as an introduction as to what to expect from the raw material. We would expect higher acidity and a lower body from Ethiopia, so would use notes such as citrus fruits and tea to describe this. From Brazil, we are more likely to use notes such as chocolate and nuts; to convey the heavy, sweet character and pleasant dryness we expect from lower-grown coffees.
|Process||Yeast Fermentation Washed|
When the coffee is first de-pulped without the use of water, before floating and sorting, making sure only the densest and hardest seeds make it into the final lot. The depulped coffee is then put through Pirineos’ ‘demucilaginator’, which mechanically removes much of the sticky mucilage layer, without the use of water or fermentation. The seeds are transferred into open stainless steel fermentation tanks with water, and an off-the-shelf yeast strain from the Saccharomyces family is added. The addition of water creates a slower and cooler fermentation, allowing time for complexity to build in the coffee and creating a fruity and rich cup profile, with slightly more influence from the fermentation.