Roaster’s tasting notes: I love naturals and this is no exception.
Big boozy notes of dark rum and a molasses sweetness are drawn together within a smooth body. Fruit notes of grape and melon linger on the finish.
Rolando Ramirez Moreno farms 35 hectares of prime coffee land at 1,400 above sea level in El Salvador’s Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range, one of Central America’s prime specialty coffee producing areas.
Finca Monte Urales – named after the Ural Mountains in Russia, due to the farm’s great elevation – has been in the family since 1969. Coralia Smith de Ramírez, daughter of an English immigrant to El Salvador who married a local boy, purchased the farm, thinking it a great investment for the future. When she passed away, she left the farm to her son: today, the farm is managed by him and her grandson (both bearing the name Rolando Ramírez). Between Rolando the Elder and the Younger, the farm benefits from more than 40 years of experience farming coffee. Rolando, the Younger, oversees much of the work on the farm, today, and is the third generation to farm coffee here. He does so with a passion for both cultivation and processing that is impressive.
Monte Urales lies in the heart of El Salvador’s main ‘protected highway’ of forest, a part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor System that stretches all the way from Mexico down to Panama. In El Salvador, where more than 80% of the country’s coffee is produced under shade, this eco-system is based mainly in the coffee forest. For this reason, coffee farms such as Urales play a vital role as a sanctuary for hundreds of the migratory and native bird species found in this part of the world.
Monte Urales is an extremely well-run specialty estate and is managed with scrupulous attention detail and the most current agronomic practices. The family employs 10 permanent labourers to help with year-round labours – and, of course, Rolando the Younger oversees all work. Four annual fertilisations are conducted, always with reference to soil and foliar analysis. Above all, environmental stewardship is of the utmost importance to the farm. Coffee at Urales is 100% shade grown to preserve wildlife and to help mitigate the effects of global warming. The farm has also recently launched an extensive program of ‘micro-terracing’ in order to prevent soil erosion – a very important step in this steep countryside. Water conservation is also of great concern, and the farm takes steps to preserve local aquifers.
Equally, great care is taken with the harvest. During the peak of the harvest season, the farm’s labour force burgeons to 105, as 95 day workers are brought on to help. Coffee is selectively hand harvested, with only the ripest cherries being picked. Once enough coffee has been collected, it is delivered to the ‘La Labor’ Wet Mill in San Antonio or Cayro’s own in Ahuachapán – about 30 minutes from the farm. (As a side note, the latter lies only 2 km away from the only geothermic electric plant in El Salvador, which is located in the middle of a bunch of geysers!)
This lot is composed of 100% Pacas coffee cherries that were harvested and processed separately from the farm’s other coffee varieties: they grow fairly equal proportions of Pacas, Bourbon and Pacamara.
This 100% Pacas lot has been kept separate for Natural processing. Naturally processed coffees are first hand sorted, again, to ensure that all under ripe or damaged cherries are removed. The cherries are then thinly spread on raised beds – usually at a layer of one cherry to start – to ensure even drying. The cherries are slowly dried, with shade cover being rolled out over the beds during the hottest parts of the day. As they dry, cherries are regularly turned and sorted to remove any damaged cherries that may have been missed. Total drying time usually is between 20 and 26 days, depending on the climate at the time.
Although the farm is already very advanced with regards to agricultural practice, Rolando still has great plans for the future and always maintains an innovative outlook. He plans to renovate 10% of the farm annually, replanting with high quality varietals. He has already established a nursery with Kenya and Pacamara seedlings for planting out in the coming year. The farm is always also always experimenting with new processing and hopes to conduct experiments with fermentation in the coming year as well as looking at the possibility of establishing a drying greenhouse, so the drying process is more uniform.