El Salvador Bourbon

barista_ian_081The other day I was preparing to go through the process of designing a new blend and I called my broker to request some samples. He said “I’ve got just the coffee for you! El Salvador Bourbon, she’s my new girlfriend!”  After introducing me to his new love I found myself to be a little confused as to why he had fallen so head over heels; I certainly didn’t share the same attraction. However, keen to find out why my broker had fallen so hard I decided to give her a second chance to leave an impression.

El Salvador is nestled amongst some of the world’s best coffee growing countries – Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua – and is roughly the size of Victoria, Australia. Squeezed inside the borders of El Salvador are over 40,000 coffee farms, which cling to volcanos and mountains in the regions of Santa Ana, La Libertad and Usulatan. However, the country’s coffee history has been somewhat shaky due to the civil war (1980-1992) which badly damaged its status in the market. Farms and mills were either destroyed or abandoned, and the remaining coffee being produced at the time was pooled together, creating a poor quality and inconsistent centralised product.

Thankfully, those times are behind El Salvador and the country has embraced sustainable programmes like Rainforest Alliance and fair trade initiatives. They have also been involved in the Cup of Excellence – a highly respected competition that recognises the best coffee a country has to produce – since 2003. Efforts like these are a reflection of how El Salvador is getting back its reputation in the specialty market, and farmers are choosing to produce coffee on small scale co-op estate farms. They are also putting their efforts into growing specific varieties like the low yielding Bourbon and the left-of-field Pacamara, which are able to flourish in its near perfect growing conditions.

So, the next day I made it my mission to get to know my broker’s new girlfriend a little better. With a clean pallet and a bit of focus, I finally figured the El Salvador Bourbon out – it’s all about patience. Her characteristics are well balanced and subtle, demanding your full attention in order to find her true colours; and once you have discovered them she will have you well and truly seduced. The first time you cup this coffee black you will need to take your time to savour the beautiful heady almond aroma, then, with your first sip you will be treated to a sweetness that fills your palate. Beyond this is where her subtleties lie: flavours such as peach, apple and even a little lemon can be found, and as the cup cools a caramel subtext emerges. As a flat white, this coffee has chocolate, almond and caramel flavours, but choose semi-skim milk instead of a full cream, as it won’t drown out the coffee’s flavours.

I truly believe that this coffee needs to be enjoyed as a single origin because this is where the rewards lie, but I find small amounts of Kenya AA will add boldness, highlight the choc notes and add some zing, or the Nicaraguan Maragogype for a citrus pop and acidity.

The Coffee

Origin:  San Emilio
Location: El Salvador
Region: Talnique, La Libertad
Plant type: Bourbon

Cup Profile

Fragrance/Aroma: Almond, cherries
Flavour: Peach and apple
Aftertaste: Clean
Acidity: Low to medium
Body: medium intensity

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