I've been working with Alejandro since 2008 and in that time our relationship has gone from strictly professional to Ale being one of my closest friends. He became involved in coffee in 2008 as he had just relocated to El Salvador from New York where he'd been working as a city banker. With his first son on the way and the hustle and bustle of New York no place to bring up a family the draw of home and El Salvador was just far too strong to ignore.
While looking for work in El Salvador, Ale decided to help his father with some of his business interests and investments. His father had inherited several coffee farms from his grandfather and was unsure what to do with them, one of the investments pricked Ale’s intent and this was a farm called Finca Argentina. The reason it really got Ale's attention was that he saw the farm once yielded loads of coffee but was producing a fraction of its old productivity. His father gave him permission to see what could be done to make the farm successful again
Ale found out the farm had been classified for a Q auction back in 2005. Thinking there may be a specialty buyer out there he and his cousin (who lived in London) went about sending samples to coffee roasters anywhere they could. 1 of those samples arrived at Hasbean Towers just like a lot of other samples do, but unusually I liked the coffee and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then Finca Argentina has gone from strength to strength but not without bumps in the road. In 2013 they suffered the worst harvest on record, with only 70 bags harvested due to a massive issue with leaf rust. But with investment and hard work they have also bought a neighbouring farm and the future is amazingly bright for Ale, his father, his family and Finca Argentina.
The farm is based in the Apaneca-Ilamtepec mountain range, and is near the town of Turin in the Ahuachapán department. Sixteen people work on the farm during the non-picking season, maintaining and tending to the plants. This number of workers goes up to 50 people during the picking period. The altitude of the farm is 1,300 m.a.s.l.
This coffee is a washed process Catimor which I know some of you might raise an eyebrow at as the Catimor varietal can be a little on the controversial side. Catimor is a cross between Timor coffee (resistant to leaf rust – a big problem at the moment in Central America) and Caturra coffee. It was created in Portugal of all places, in 1959.
Catimor grows and produces fruit very quickly and has a very high yield. It's pest resistant and leaf rust resistant, and it will grow well at much lower altitudes – better, in fact, in comparison to many other commercial varietals. Sounds perfect, but problems come in the cup quality. Timor has its feet in the Robusta species (hence all these lovely benefits), but Robusta is not known for being tasty.
Luckily for us, this is one of the finest examples I have seen of this varietal, and it came about because of Alejandro wanting to experiment and try different varietals on different parts of the farm. One of the experiments involved Catimor. It's only a very small lot but it's a great example of tasting a coffee with your taste buds and not with what you think it might taste like. This coffee made me change my opinion of this varietal.
In the cup it starts off as a typical El Salvadorian coffee...sweet milk chocolate, a balanced acidity that reminds me of white grape, and oh so smooth. But then it takes a right turn and develops a black pepper taste that I never find in a coffee from El Salvador, except right here in this delicious Catimor.
- Country: El Salvador
- District: Ahuachapán
- Municipality: Ahuachapán
- Nearest city: Turin
- Farm: Finca Argentina
- Owner: Alejandro Martinez
- Altitude: 1,300 m.a.s.l.
- Varietal: Catimor
- Processing method: Washed
- Drying method: Patios