El Salvador Bosque Lya achieved world fame in coffee circles when it took first place in the 2004 Cup of Excellence. The farm 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 at El Salvador Bosque Lya, and is grown at an altitude range of 1,473 to 1,650 metres above sea level. This brings about coffees of great complexity, that are sweet and lively with nuances of berries, dark fruit and honey.
El Salvador Bosque Lya performs careful selection where 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 Bosque Lya 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.