Finca Matalapa El Salvador
- March 2017
- Written by : Andy Atkinson
Retail Regional Manager of New Markets & East Coast / Green Coffee Buyer
Our yearly release of coffees from Finca Matalapa and Vickie Dalton Díaz is to me a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. It signals the beginning of the season in which our longest-standing partners send us the best of their current crops for us to release under our most tenured Direct Trade I-Marks.
Our relationship with Vickie and Finca Matalapa is one of our oldest Direct Trade relationships. It started almost 13 years ago at the first El Salvador Cup of Excellence when Geoff Watts tasted a coffee that piqued his interest -- a coffee with a different terroir and a different flavor than the Santa Ana region that dominated El Salvador’s coffee culture during much of the 20th century. Geoff’s search for the origins of that coffee led him to Vickie, the owner of Beneficio Paraíso, which processed the lot that grabbed his attention. The two found common cause in a mutual commitment to quality, and we have been working together ever since.
Beneficio Paraíso isn’t located on Finca Matalapa, but it mills Matalapa coffees exclusively. This is an uncommon arrangement in El Salvador, one that gives Vickie total control over every variable from her Matalapa farm to her Paraíso mill and does not allow the passion for quality at one to be undone by a disconnection from the other. That passion is the thread that weaves Vickie’s farming and milling operations together, and it is what drew Geoff to Beneficio Paraíso and Finca Matalapa to begin with. It is also what has allowed for the relationship to develop and flourish, and what has created so many truly phenomenal coffees over the years.
While Intelligentsia has consistently delivered feedback, guidance, encouragement and support, it is Vickie’s determination to deliver exclusively top-quality coffees that have brought us the coffees we are so proud to roast and brew for you. We have seen countless innovations in the name of quality over the years, including the introduction of lot separation and raised beds for drying, farm renovation and reinvigoration through replanting, worker pay incentives for quality picking, and plant variety experimentation, all of which have made this coffee a star in our line-up. But this year, it wasn’t the big sweeping changes that made the difference, it was the attention to the dirty little details.
This year on the cupping table, there was something distinctly different about the coffee from Matalapa. We traced it to a detail that rarely gets talked about in the discussion of coffee quality: soil. Innovations in wet-milling and drying may be more glamorous than soil health, but soil is quite literally the foundation of every coffee. Each farm, and each area of each farm, has unique soils with specific and often different needs. If a particular plot of land is going to produce quality coffee, those specific needs must be met. This year, Vickie used the results of soil testing to address the specific needs of her farm. She used lime to optimize the pH of her soil, changed her fertilizers to address its deficiencies, and cured the soil of nematodes to ensure the plants could benefit from their more nourishing home. The attention to these dirty details took Vickie’s coffees above and beyond this year.