Finca Las Isabellas is situated on the southern face of El Salvador’s majestic volcanic mountain range that contains, among others, the active peak of Volcán Santa Ana (also known as Ilamatepec). The soil in this region is amongst the nation’s most fertile, and not coincidentally is where one may find the majority of the country’s coffee production.
Las Isabellas has maintained over 175 acres of natural forest on the estate, which includes natural spring water and waterfalls. The estate is also the location of the Taquendama beneficio, where the coffee is wet milled and dried on patios in the sun.
Among the more notable undertakings of Las Isabellas is its commitment to education. The farm attends to the local school’s water supply, pays the salary of its kindergarten instructor, and funded new blackboards, books, and overhauled the lighting and water systems. At the beginning of the most recent school year they donated 200 backpacks containing basic school supplies to the local school children. They are also undertaking a potable water system for the community of another local farm.
Pacamara is a fascinating and somewhat heavily researched cultivar, despite only accounting for about 0.22% of El Salvador’s coffee plants. It is a uniquely Salvadoran variety, developed internally by the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) over the course of nearly 30 years beginning in 1958. Pacamara’s parents are Maragogype and the native variant Pacas, a naturally occurring Bourbon mutation discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador. Maragogype is a naturally occurring (and well-researched in its own right) mutation of Typica, first discovered in Brazil’s rural mountainous Bahia region. Maragogype is a large seed variety, and it contributes this characteristic to Pacamara.
Pacamara is coveted for more than just its absurdly large screen size, however. The cultivar showcases an intrinsic, unique character typically dominated by the herbal and savory side of the coffee flavor family tree. This offering is no exception in this regard. It has a middle-of-the-road density, and while the moisture isn’t terribly high at 11.6%, the water activity might raise an eyebrow as it brushes up against 0.60. As a result, the coffee responded well to an elongated roast profile with an extended period of Maillard reactions.
Two very different profiles here – long and short, with identical time (1:36) spent caramelizing sugars after first crack. The longer roast (PR-0291, gray) was unanimously preferred at the cupping table with a lot of the commonly associated flavors of the variety, including fig jam, herbs, and a satisfying combination of sweet and savory.
The shorter profile (PR-0292, red) inverted my standard incremental changes, charging hot with high gas and gradually decreasing. It didn’t work out all that well for this particular coffee. I’d strongly recommend focusing on a slow and steady pre-crack development, really sussing the most out of the coffee as it changes color from green to gold to auburn.
Richard and I brewed a really delicious Kalita filter drip batch with the longer roast above (PR-0291) a few days off roast. Replete with sweetness and character, lots of sweet breakfast pastry (almond croissant, strawberry danish,) a myriad of baked fruits like peach cobbler and poached pear, and a hint of spearmint.
I took the same roast on a spin in the La Marzocco GS3, and found it fairly easy to dial in. The longer roast lent itself well to pressurized extraction and seemed to favor a wider ratio (at least in my opinion). Tighter shots were balanced with notes of salted caramel and butterscotch with a hint of grilled citrus. Looser shots yielded more herbal notes and brighter orangy acids. My two favorite recipes are above.