In My Mug

Episode 430 on Monday the 6th of February, 2017. El Salvador Finca La Ilusion Washed Bourbon.

February 5, 2017
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One of my all-time favourite farms returns! We welcome it back with the widest of arms, it's so, so special. I often get asked what my favourite coffee of all time is but I will never say exactly (although my friends know the true answer). However, I do narrow it to three coffees, and this is one of them.

I went to El Salvador in 2008 on a buying trip, and I was visiting some of the farms that we buy from. I actually arrived the evening of the Cup of Excellence awards, and after the ceremony I was walking around when this guy who seemed very popular came over to me and introduced himself. He was Ernesto or, as I would come to know him, Neto. He'd just won the Cup of Excellence competition with his 'La Ilusión' farm, the sister farm of 'Alaska'. Alaska is a farm we had bought from via the Cup of Excellence the year before. Ernesto invited me to visit La Ilusión the next day, and it was so great to finally meet someone I had communicated with so many times via email!

Neto bought La Ilusión nine years ago. The farm has coffee trees averaging nineteen years of age and is growing 95% Bourbon (70% is red Bourbon and 25% is Orange Bourbon). The remaining 5% is a combination of other varietals, and it is possible to spot some Typica and Kenya trees.

The farm is run using environmentally friendly practices because they are trying to maintain a balance with the surrounding ecosystem, which is part of a natural fauna corridor crucial to migratory and native birds. This is very important for Ernesto because La Ilusión neighbours one of the most important national parks in El Salvador, known as 'Los Andes'. It is nestled on the Santa Ana volcano and delineates his farm with dense pine and cypress forest, which itself provides a special micro-climate for La Ilusión.

The naturally processed version of this coffee was used by the 2011 World Barista champion, Alejandro Mendez. He caused a bit of a stir in the world of barista competition by using the naturally processed lot in his milk drinks and his signature drink, and then using the washed version (this coffee) as his espresso. He caused such a stir that he won! That year I had roasted the coffee for Alejandro, and it had been grown by Neto. There was a magical moment backstage in which I was stood, polishing glass, with Alejandro and Neto; the grower, roaster and barista all stood together, preparing for the presentation. It's not too often you get such wonderful things happening! Aah, the wonders of barista competition. :)

In the cup I get Fruit Salad sweets, a lot of white sugar, and candied lemon. A very clean, sweet and delicious coffee.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range
  • City: Santa Ana
  • Farm: La Ilusión
  • Farmer: Juan Jose Ernesto Menéndez Argüello
  • Altitude: 1,750–1,850 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing system: Washed


Fruit salad sweets, white sugar, candied lemon.

Clean cup: (1–8): 8
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7.5
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6.5
Balance: (1–8): 8
Overall: (1–8): 8
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 94

Roasting Information
Medium – just before second crack starts.

"Quick Look" Guide
Fruit salad sweets, white sugar, candied lemon.