El Salvador Day 1

It seems strange to jump back to day one since I have been on the road for a week now, but El Salvador is a whole new world compared to Nicaragua. We arrived yesterday and stayed in the capital city of San Salvador before heading up north to the Apaneca region in Northern El Salvador today. We hit the road early and drove 2 hours north, 7 of us packed like sardines in a truck. The drive was extremely easy for an origin trip, partially because El Salvador is such a small country, so nothing is all that far from each other, and also because El Salvador has great infrastructure, and all of the roads we were on were newly paved.

Once we arrived in Apaneca, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed to Finca El Rosario, one of the Menendez family’s 8 farms in this region of El Salvador. El Rosario is 40 hectares, and is planted in neat rows of bourbon and pacamara trees. The farms is plotted out with an intricate maze of wind barrier trees. There is a prediction of rain this week, so they started picking the pacamara trees today instead of later next week. The cherries were enormous and deep purple and red. The pickers here are paid more than the average price to entice them to only pick the ripe cherries, and the results were astonishing. Huge piles of cherries were sorted through by the pickers to remove any green or partial green cherries before there are bagged to be driven to the mill later that afternoon.

After we had a quick lunch, we headed down south to the Menendez’s mill, Beneficio Piedra Grande to check out his operation. The Menendez only process their own cherries at the mill and do not buy cherries from other farmers to process for them. The mill is gigantic, and every lot is kept separated throughout the whole process. Instead of fermentation tanks, they use a demucilizer to remove the mucilage and then immediately rinse the coffee and lay it out to dry that same night. They also use an elevator pre-drying system to dry the coffee before it is put into large motorized drum dryers.

After we saw the milling operation, we picked some oranges and drank some cervezas on the front porch of the small house there and waited for cherries to arrive from El Rosario. The truck pulled up around 6:30, filled to the brim with 150 pound burlap sacks of coffee. One by one, two men emptied the sacks of coffee into large concrete tanks, which were then flushed by running water through the wet mill. It was really cool to see the whole process from start to finish, especially since we had seen the cherries picked that morning! (and later that same day….)

After watching the unloading, we headed back inside for a delicious dinner of pupusas, corn tortillas filled with cheese, then topped with refried black beans, cabbage in vinegar, sour cream and tomato salsa. YUM!

That’s about all, folks. The photos from today are much more impressive than my words can be. Time to call it a night!

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