El Salvador Las Mercedes
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This is a great coffee bean for beginners to roast because it tastes nice at pretty much any roast level and any roasting profile. My favorite roast on this one is right before the 2nd cracks. And then, let it cool a little bit because the coffee becomes sweeter and smoother as it changes temperature. At that point, it is a velvety-milk-chocolate with honey sweetness, vanilla, and subtle orange, low acid, clean aftertaste, really comforting mug of coffee. But if you take it as a light roast, say, 30 seconds out of the 1st cracks (less if using an air roaster), then you get more citrus, more acidity. It has more character than a Nicaragua --- less than a nice Costa Rican -- more body than a Costa Rican, less acidity than a Costa Rican -- you could flavor it at this level but wouldn't have to. It stands alone, it just doesn't wow anyone. Now on the other end of the spectrum, you can take it all the way 20 seconds into the 2nd cracks (hear a few snaps of the 2nd cracks and start counting). At that point you get a coffee that has a slightly bitter chocolate taste, mellow, sweet. Something like a dark Peru or dark Colombia but sweeter and not earthy like those would tend to be.
In short, we almost never carry a washed process El Salvador because it isn't different enough from a Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Peru, or Guatemala to differentiate itself. However, this one has a great story behind it and actually did impress us in its taste -- going into it blindly I would have guessed it to be a high end Panama that would cost quite a bit more (don't have TOO high of expectations now -- these coffees are not expensive because they are complex like an African, but rather because they are sweet and smooth and altogether "normal" tasting in the best of ways)
The Las Mercedes Estate has been growing coffee since 1940, and the average age of the coffee trees are 27 years old and are of the highly regarded Bourbon varietal. The neighboring El Imposible national forest blends into the farm as a naturally high dense shade grown cover. It is almost inaccessible due to the intense topography and features a breathtaking view of the landscape of mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The workers have immense passion for their coffee, and the farm routinely grows awards for their beans. But even better than the coffee is the mission of the farm. It is Rainforest Alliance Certified and uses strict organic methods. They founded and sponsor sports teams and athletes in the country, they help fund the Los Ortiz medical clinic, they are taking steps to preserve the integrity of their heirloom varietals of coffee and keep them from mutating (in addition to Bourbon, they also grow the esteemed Pacamara and Pacas varietals), and of course they take steps to preserve and protect the national forest that borders their land. Usa Arrival August 2015