After hosting the El Manzano Project - Three Way cupping in their cafe last October, Brandon Smyth of Water Avenue Coffee Company, Port. OR, made a trip down to El Salvador, to visit Finca & Beneficio El Manzano; to observe the various processing methods and cup some of the new experimental coffees.
Arriving Wednesday morning, Brandon, along with other Portland based Coffee specialists, including Dan Leif from Fresh Cup Magazine, and Sarah Mykkanen of Heart Coffee; spent the morning and afternoon, cupping over 20 samples of some of the best coffees of this year’s harvest.
They then took a break for lunch, before returning to the lab for another round of cuppings, and an introduction to some of the experiments taking place at the mill; including an experiment with processing and coffee variety, that would measure the influence of natural processing on different varieties of coffee, grown at the same elevation.
Brandon spent Wednesday evening and Thursday, visiting a nearby farmer and miller, before returning to El Manzano Friday afternoon for another flight of 28 samples of coffee in the lab.
After, he and Emilio were able to visit much of the plantation, and view the picking and sorting of the coffee at Lot 4B - La Cascajera, after which they toured the milling operation. While observing the de-pulping station, the decision was made, at Brandon’s suggestion, to process the days SHG coffees through the pulp-natural processing method; meaning that the pulp would be removed from the cherries, however, the mucilage will remain on the parchment throughout the drying process.
The day’s activities presented an exciting opportunity for both Brandon, a roaster, and Cuatro M, the processor, where, within his visit to the plantation, was able to experience the picking and sorting of coffee, from an exclusive lot, individually select the processing method he preferred, and personally observe the process of washing, spreading, and drying of the coffees on the patios.
Events came to a close Saturday morning, with a final cupping, one measuring the results of the most recent experiment with coffee varieties.
Four varieties of coffee were harvested from Finca El Manzano; (Yellow Bourbon, Red Bourbon, Kenya, and Pacamara), the first taking place on December 5th, and the second on January 6th. The first batches of varieties were processed with the Natural Method, while the second, through the Machine Washed Method.
The table including all eight of the coffees, each variety representing two processing methods; and was performed blind, testing the common perception that the Natural method mutes the terroir of a coffee.
It was one of the most exciting cuppings of the harvest, and provided a challenge to everyone, to identify which coffee matched up with its own variety.
We cannot ruin the surprise of a potential cupping at one of this years coming events, by releasing our own notes, but will say that the experience was unique, conclusive, and unmatched by any other cupping we’ve performed in the past.
Hopefully, if you are in the Portland area, you can come out to attend a workshop Cuatro M will be hosting for speciality coffee importers, roasters, and enthusiasts; or you could host an event of your own, by ordering sets of the variety experiment.
All in all, it was a great time visiting with Brandon. We are grateful for his time with us, and wish him well, as he heads home to Water Avenue Coffee, in Portland.