Finca Bosque Lya achieved fame in specialty coffee circles when it took first place in the 2004 Cup of Excellence. Whilst he competition’s focus is all about cupping, if extra points were awarded for a farm’s beauty then Bosque Lya would be in an even stronger position. This is a 96 hectare farm - 64 of which are dedicated to coffee, the balance being left as natural rainforest. However, in many parts of the farm it is difficult to recognise what is pure forest and what isn’t, since so many shade trees are used. There is an abundance of wildlife including birds such as humming birds, orioles and hawks and many migratory species. Mammals include wild cats, armadillos, deer and possum. There are endless beautiful flowers including colourful rare orchids and epiphytes that grow on the branches of the trees. The views from this farm are also jaw dropping, with the mountains and volcanoes of west El Salvador and Guatemala on the horizon. The towering El Chingo Volcano takes centre stage in this dramatic scene.
Finca Bosque Lya is situated in the municipality of Santa Ana on the foothills of the Ilamatepec Volcano (or Santa Ana Volcano as it now more commonly known) in the Apaneca Mountain range of western El Salvador. The farm was established in 1932 when Gustavo Vides Valdes named his property in honour of his newly born daughter, Lya. The farm name Bosque Lya translates to - Lya’s forest.
Bourbon is the most prevalent variety on the farm – mainly red though but there is a little orange and yellow too - though there are many other varieties grown for experimentation and diversity, including Pacamara, Caturra and Typica. An altitude range of 1,473 to 1,650 metres above sea level brings about coffees of great complexity that are sweet and lively with nuances of berries, tea rose and dark fruit, such as plums. There is a little chocolate on the finish too.
Ripe red cherries are handpicked between January and March and taken to a collection point to be hand-sorted by pickers before being taken to the El Borbollon mill. On arrival, the cherries are emptied into separate tanks for different lots from farms around the region. Water is used to move the cherries up a pump and into a ‘Pacas’ depulper (of El Salvadorian origin) which works using a cylinder pushing against a metal wall to remove the skin of the cherry from the beans. The pulped cherry is composted with calcium and then re-distributed between farmers using the mill as fertiliser for the next harvest. The sticky beans are then moved in channels to fermentation tanks where they will rest for 13 to 15 hours and naturally present bacteria and microbes break down the sugars and alcohols in the mucilage of the bean.
The fermented beans are then moved to a washing machine where fresh water is used to remove any remaining mucilage and prepare the beans for the drying patios. All water is recycled and is used to move fresh cherries around the wet mill. The washed beans are then taken to the drying patios and kept separate by lot. They will dry there for around 8-10 days, though El Borbollon are experimenting with extending drying periods by laying the beans densely and covering them for parts of the day. It is believed that extending the drying time will result in more complex nuances in the cup.
The dried parchment is then left to rest for around a month and a half before being hulled to remove the parchment. Once hulled, the beans are hand sorted by a group of around 40 women who remove any defects. The women work in shifts, are paid above minimum wage and are highly skilled at their work - our lot from Bonanza will be left with 0-1% of defects. The mill owner, Eduardo, told us he could source a machine to sort the beans but it would result in the loss of many jobs. Once the hand sorting and defect removal is complete, the sorted beans are then packed into GrainPro and 69kg jute bags ready for shipment to the UK.