Malacara El Salvador SL-28 Limited Release
- July 2017
- Written by : Andy Atkinson
Regional Retail Manager of New Markets and East Coast / Green Coffee Buyer
Partnership, growth and continuous improvement at every link in the coffee chain are the fundamental building blocks of Intelligentsia’s Direct Trade program. The coffees we source from Finca Malacara in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador provide one of the clearest examples of these principles at work. And nothing embodies them quite like our yearly release of Finca Malacara’s SL-28 variety, a coffee that represents a truly collaborative partnership between three vital links on the chain: farm, mill and roaster. This season marks the fourth harvest and release of this Intelligentsia exclusive coffee that we have been excited to be a part of since its conception in the mind of Guillermo “Epe” Alvarez.
What makes this coffee especially unique is the context of its origins, and the departure Epe took from conventional practice in Santa Ana when he started this coffee variety adventure. El Salvador is a country of deep tradition, and the coffee industry in the country is no exception. Many of the farms in the country, especially in the historic Santa Ana region, have been owned by the same families since the late 1800s, and have been planted with traditional Bourbon variety coffee for nearly as long. Because of this history and tradition, varietal experimentation was exceptionally rare until the last decade. Even then, few growers strayed beyond three traditional Latin American varieties: Pacas, Pacamara and Catuai. But Epe was attuned to the broader trend beyond El Salvador toward varietal diversification, thanks to conversations at our Extraordinary Coffee Workshop and his participation in other international events. He saw opportunity in bringing a Kenyan variety to his farm. In 2010, he planted a small lot of the SL-28 variety towards the top of his farm.
A parallel story played out concurrently at the El Borbollon mill, owned by Epe’s cousin Eduardo Alvarez, where Epe processes all of his coffees. Like coffee farming, most coffee milling in El Salvador follows the historic traditions of the country with large cement washing tanks and expansive sun-soaked brick patios. At first glance, El Borbollon seems to cleave to this traditional approach, as it was built decades ago to process large amounts of coffee from farms across the region. However, as you venture further into the complex you see an expanse of raised drying beds that has been growing for the past few years. Much like the variety Epe planted on his farm, these beds were a non-traditional adoption picked up from a unique connection to practices happening around the world. Both originated in Africa, and their arrival in El Salvador was hastened by the contacts Epe and Eduardo made with our Direct Trade partners from East Africa during our Extraordinary Coffee Workshops.
Being very early adopters of these African imports, neither Epe nor Eduardo knew exactly how they would work in El Salvador. But as soon as we released the first harvest of this coffee in 2014 it became clear that the coffee’s quality was going to put it in high demand, so that tiny lot of coffee has expanded every year.
he 2017 edition of our Malacara El Salvador SL-28 delivers notes of cola, caramelized orange and dried apricot.