During El Salvador’s civil war and in the land redistributions that followed, many families either abandoned or were forced to leave their farms, and this was the case for Mauricio’s mother Carmen Elena.
While the history of coffee at Finca Santa Rita dates back to the 1940s, it was after the this upheaval in 1990 that Carmen Elena bought Santa Rita, bringing coffee farming back into the family.
The farm has 45 hectares of coffee along with 25 hectares of cypress forests, high in the Ilamatepeque mountain range. Santa Rita is buffeted by very strong winds, so they grow a protective buffer of Ingas trees, which are carefully pruned every year to offer shelter to the more fragile coffee crop.
Mauricio has also introduced the Pacas varietal to the farm, as it is a smaller and more wind-resistant tree, while still offering the good cup characteristics of its parent bourbon, (which you can read about at World Coffee Research).
The coffee competition Cup of Excellence (COE) started in El Salvador in 2003, recognising the best crops grown in the country that year.
On average, Mauricio maintains approximately less than 3,000 coffee trees per hectare at Santa Rita, with good spacing between rows. Giving the plants this generous space means they don’t have to compete for scarce resources and that the mountain air can still circulate between the plants – both important details as both the Bourbon and Pacas varietals are susceptible to leaf rust and other diseases, unlike the Pacamara varietal which was bred to better withstand disease.
All the coffee from Santa Rita (and Mauricio’s other farms) is processed at his nearby Cafescal Mill. The small beneficio is carefully run and produces coffees using not only washed process (such as the one you’re brewing in this delivery) but also other types of processing.
During the harvest, Santa Rita’s cherries are delivered to the mill to be pulped the same day. After fermentation and washing, the coffee is spread out on clay patios to be sun dried, and is moved every half-hour – up to sixteen times a day. This continues until the coffee is ready for storage and transport.