By Nanelle Newbom
Three Drops of Honey. That’s all it takes to pick perfectly ripe coffees. Rodrigo Dumont demonstrates by squeezing that prized sweet liquor onto the palm of his hand from the gorgeous orange bourbon cherry he has selected.
Orange Bourbon, especially from Malacara B, holds a special place in my heart. Since my earliest years in coffee I just liked it. The fabulous name caught my imagination, visits to the farm yielded great stories of really interesting people and on top of all that it was uniquely delicious.
Flash forward ten years and here I am standing right there in Malacara grinning like a fangirl. Its no secret that I love El Salvador. I’ve never been able to fully explain why, maybe it’s the awkward contrast of how gorgeous the place can be compared to the dismissive or nervous way people talk about the place. Maybe I side with the little guy. OR maybe I just like pleasant places with gorgeous coffees. Take your pick. I freakin love El Salvador. Standing in the middle of Malacara B I just wanted to shout it out.
So, what does that B (as opposed to A or B) represent? The fastest summary is division of inheritances and such. The Malacaras, A, B and C are still associated. They share a co-sponsored soccer field, a clinic and a school. They share security concerns and I guessing most holidays, but I’ve always been a fan of Malacara B in particular.
Here are some details about the farm.
The Finca stretches across 70 manzanas of land, that if I do say so myself, is quite an accomplishment to navigate even on foot….and I managed to not slide down the hill (this time).
They’ve got some pretty old grandpa trees up in this Finca. Like 70 years old. And some solid old school farming. A good percentage of the trees boast pits just uphill, which allows for the collection of organic matter, the retention of water, and direct access of nutrients directly to the root systems. Might I add, that the regular digging of organic pits on your farm also serves as an excellent network of what I like to refer to as “gringo traps”. These pits are a couple feet deep and tend to fill rapidly with leaves, which, I may need to remind you are not very dense. I’m lucky to have both strong ankles and a good sense of humor. Nuff said.
Agovio Para. Big time. A good percentage of the bourbon trees on this farm have been bent over toward the ground in a process that causes them to generate a series of upward growing trees. The resulting system is one which supports multiple “trees” based in one root system. Its an efficient system that reduces the number of root systems on a hill, increases yield and for the same yield less fertilization is required. What is required is expertise. Which the family has plenty of.
As the ongoing problem of leaf rust continues to challenge Malacara B, with it’s high percentage of Bourbon trees they have been experimenting with more resistant trees such as Castillo, and have been replacing older trees at a faster rate than in the past. Because the farm maintains the health of their trees well, they have not been devastated, but have still experienced significant changes in both quality and yield that are forcing them to adapt like everyone else.
As always I will have to wait and see if I can get my hands on the trifecta….rev, orange and yellow bourbon all from the same farm. Production is wonky. Competition is stiff.