Ramon Peaberry, El Salvador
Roast Level: Light
Varietal: Red Bourbon Peaberry
Roaster's Notes: This cool little bean has some delicate and buttery notes coming through. Floral rose and Highlander shortbread with a sugary meringue finish.
Producer: Magaña Family
Altitude: 1,150 metres
Situated at the tail end of the vast Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range sits San Ramon, one of the Magaña family’s 11 farms in El Salvador outside of the Ahuachapan town. For over 100 years and through six generations, the Magaña family has been growing coffee in El Salvador.
San Ramon, with its still rather high altitude, maintains a prime temperature and precipitation to produce high quality coffee in El Salvador. The Magañas have truly mastered the art of coffee production and that is exemplified at San Ramon.
As with many other Central American countries, Coffee Leaf Rust has impacted El Salvador and San Ramon in particular. In order to adapt, the Magaña family have begun to replant susceptible varieties with more resistant ones, equipped to maintain cup quality and yield. In areas where they wish to sustain production of these susceptible varietals, the trees are carefully monitored to ensure an outbreak does not spread or harm production.
Another issue faced at San Ramon has to do with labour. The immigration rate within the rural areas of El Salvador is quite high, so locating work has become quite difficult during the harvest season. To combat this issue, there are programs in place to employ workers year-round to guarantee constant work for the farm and fair wages for the workers.
Every three years, soil analyses are performed throughout the Magaña family farms in order to examine the various soil profiles within each lot. Once the results are collected, they are analysed in order to develop a unique fertilization plan for the soil profile sampled. This produces three formulas for each lot with primary, secondary, and micro-nutrient elements to complement and support the nutrients of each soil profile. With this intensive soil analysis and maintenance, the coffee trees within San Ramon are healthy , high yielding, and able to produce high quality cherries.
Within each Magaña farm, renovation projects occur whereby the trees are pruned, stumped, or undergo “agobio,” the process of bending the tree, a common method conducted throughout El Salvador. These processes occur to promote vegetative growth and improve yields over time. Pruning methods can vary, including the removal of suckers, or small branches, to ensure only the largest and thickest branches remain on the tree to maximize production. In shorter varietals, the growing tip is cut to influence lateral growth whereas in taller varietals, the tree is bent to influence the growth of vertical shoot on the main stem. Pruning and tree maintenance is an important aspect within these farms, especially at San Ramon.
When harvest season occurs, workers selectively hand pick the cherries and transport them to the family owned wet mill located on the farm, Beneficio San Ramon. Here, the cherries are submerged in water to remove the floaters in order to maximize quality. From here, the remaining cherries are pulped via machine and then fermented to begin the breakdown of the exterior mucilage for four to six hours. Rainwater is collected during the wet season and is utilized for the washing step of processing. After fermentation, the coffee is washed a final time before being evenly dispersed on clay patios to dry in the sun for 2-3 weeks. Once dried, the coffee is then hulled and rested prior to being exported.
The Magaña family values the environment and conservation, hence why nearly 3% of San Ramon is under conservation and 11% of all the family’s farms are protected as natural wilderness areas. Additionally, soil conservation practices are in place in order to prevent erosion, while hunting and tree felling are prohibited to promote biodiversity. Local mountain tree species are planted along creeks thanks to a replanting scheme initiated by the family. San Ramon is Rainforest Alliance-certified, and the family plan on taking more action to promote environmental protection.
Climate change has impacted San Ramon, especially when the rains arrive during the harvest season which can lead to ripe cherries falling to the ground to rot. Additionally, rains have impacted the flowering season, which may harm next year’s harvest. Alternately, dry periods during the wet seasons have caused purging amongst the coffee trees reducing cherry yields. In order to adapt to these changes, shade trees have been planted to give coffee trees more protection from the changing climate.
With regards to social programs, the Magaña family care deeply about the well-being of its staff. Specifically, at the mill, there is a clinic available to the workers and community members to meet with doctors during various times of the year. Educational programs are also in place thanks to a partner project with ECOM and Starbucks to build computer rooms at schools within the Apaneca town to provide access to online class material. There have also been other social projects such as the construction of a soccer field within the vicinity of the mill where tournaments are promoted within the community.
The Magaña family have truly left a legacy within El Salvador with regards to coffee production. With their continued efforts and support to the environment and their workers – there will be a bright future for coffee in El Salvador.