Where do we start? The Pacas family and Proud Mary have a long history, we’ve been purchasing coffee from them since 2012 – pretty much from the very beginning.
We buy more coffee from the Pacas family than we do from any other single producer. Their mixed variety, washed lot, under the ‘Familia Pacas’ name, is a component of Humbler (our house espresso blend), and accounts for a significant portion of the coffee we purchase.
But, to think of the Pacas family as ‘only supplying blend components’, is completely missing the point. We’ve developed our blends, to enable us to purchase more volume from producers that we have existing relationships with – and while these blend lots are certainly valuable, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the Pacas family's smaller single variety lots, that we get really excited about.
The Pacas family owns and operates multiple farms along the Apaneca-Llamatepec mountain range, and process all of their coffee at a centralized mill, Beneficio Vivagua, roughly half-way between San Salvador and Santa Ana. The farms are planted with a wide range of varieties, including Bourbon, Pacas, Pacamara, Mokka, and Bernardina.
The Pacas family have been growing coffee in El Salvador since 1905, when Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa established his first farm on the slopes around Santa Ana. Since then, two more generations of the family have tended the land – Fernando Alfredo, Alberto’s son – and his grandchildren, Maria and Juan Alfredo.
It’s no coincidence that one of the varieties grown by the Pacas family shares their name. The Pacas variety was first discovered on Finca San Rafael (another of the Pacas family’s farms), in 1956. Initially thought to be a variety know as San Ramon Bourbon, that had grown in popularity at the time because of its higher yields, after genetic testing revealed that it was yet to be unclassified, the variety was given the family name. The Pacas variety is now grown throughout Central America, and is known for its strength and resilience, cup quality, and resistance to disease.
When the Pacas family purchased Finca Los Bellotos, in 2012, they knew it was special. Work at the farm starts earlier in the morning than at most other farms in El Salvador, because of its unique micro-climate, a heavy fog rolls in early in the afternoon and covers the land in a dense blanket. It really is a magical place, farm manager, Ruperto Bernardino Merche, believes that you can taste that magic in the coffee that’s grown there.
Shortly after the Pacas family purchased the farm, Ruperto noticed 5 small trees on the farm that looked different from all of the others, the fruit the trees produced ripened at a different time, and the cherry tasted like tropical fruit.
We received an excited phone call from Maria Pacas, telling us they may have found Geisha at Los Bellotos. We had to have it! We bought it all! Geisha from the Pacas family, it was gonna be killer!
After genetic testing, turns out it wasn’t Geisha after all – but, another unclassified variety. This time, the Pacas family named the variety Bernardina, after Ruperto Bernardino Merche, the farm manager who’d discovered it.
(Finca Los Bellotos farm manager, Ruperto Bernardino Merche)
Anaerobic Honey Sunset:
(Juan Alfredo Pacas explaining Bernardina processing)
Maria and Alfredo Pacas have noticed something interesting, since the discovery of Bernardina. Taking their lead from Ruperto, the managers of the other farms have been paying closer attention to the coffee trees on the land they manage. Eager to spot something that looks different, with the hopes of discovering another new variety. As well as providing a little friendly competition, this added attention to detail has meant the farms and trees are healthier than ever, the picking more consistent, and if what we cupped during our recent visit is anything to go by – the coffee is tasting better and better.
It’s a little too early to say for certain, but, Maria, Alfredo, and the family might have a third new variety on their hands. On Finca La Esperanza, there’s one particular tree that’s distinct from the others; its shape and structure vary a little, from its neighbors, and the cherry has a unique taste.
While we don’t know for certain if this is indeed a new variety – the Pacas family already have a name picked out. On a lazy day at the farm, Don Fernando was reading Don Quixote, and was struck by one of the characters names in the novel – Dulcinea – the peasant woman who Quixote, in his madness, believes is a princess.
If it actually turns out to be a new variety, keep your eyes peeled the Dulcinea from the Pacas family, because we won’t be able to help ourselves – we'll just have to buy it!