Just back from being part of the international judging panel at the El Salvador Cup of Excellence. It was held near the town of Concepcion de Ataco, in the heart of the Apaneca-Ilamatepec region in the western part of the country, not far from the Guatemala border. Twenty four judges were in attendance from eleven countries.
Of the top ten coffees, half were Bourbon and half were Pacamara. One of the attractions of going to El Salvador was a personal fondness for the Pacamara varietal. This varietal is a cross between the Pacas natural mutation of Bourbon, and the large Maragogipe, an offspring of Typica known primarily for its size but also with fans for its flavor. When all is right with Pacamara it exhibits dramatic, dark fruit flavors, layers of them. El Salvador is perhaps the place where more Pacamara is grown and experiemented with. While only 5% of coffee grown is Pacamara, it is often in the top group of competition winners as was the case here.
Here are some photos on Flickr.
El Salvador is a unique origin and in some ways the value of its coffee is not really well known. Unique in Central America, mainly two varietals make up the entirety of the country’s production, Bourbon and Pacamara, with the vast majority Bourbon. Some of the Bourbon is Pacas. Bourbon itself is grown in Red, Pink and Yellow varieties. In much of Central America one comes across a dominance of Caturra and Catuia but not here, where the Bourbon is heirloom. The only real derivation is with Pacamara, the relatively new coffee, that is itself a star in the making. A dozen years of war set this country’s reputation as a dominant coffee origin backward; once it was the world’s third largest, but the re-establishment of that fame is now beginning to emerge again.
In all, a wonderful experience with good coffee friends, old and new. And a chance to savor some of the truly world class coffees from an origin that is still under the radar compared to the quality offered.