First I'd like to tell you a little about how we found this coffee and its great producer, Juan José Ernesto Menéndez Argüello, or simply 'Neto'. In 2007, we were lucky enough to buy coffee that came 8th it that year's Cup of Excellence competition from Neto's other farm, 'Alaska'. It was a wonderful coffee, and one that we subsequently tried to secure for 2008. Unfortunately, a mixture of politics and Has Bean not being a big enough company to buy the entire coffee crop meant that it went to the USA. Upset that we had missed out, I went to El Salvador in 2008 on a buying trip, visiting some of the farms from which we buy. I actually arrived the evening of the Cup of Excellence awards. After the ceromony, I was walking around when this guy who seemed very popular came over to me and introduced himself. He was Neto who had just won the Cup of Excellence competition with his 'La Ilusion' farm, the sister of 'Alaska'. Neto invited me to visit the fam the next day. It was so great to finally meet someone who I had communicated with many times via email.
A few weeks later, I got to taste the coffee and it blew me away. In the cup, I get fruit salad sweets on the front end (for those who don't know, these are very sweet fruit chews), and a lovely acidity to match that is not over powering but completely in balance with the whole cup. There is a lovely effervesence and clean taste like fresh lemonade mixed with Sherbet Dip Dabs, but it remains controlled and tight.
Neto bought La Ilusión four years ago. The farm has coffee trees averaging sixteen years of age and is grown 95% to Bourbon (70% is red Bourbon and 25% is orange Bourbon). The remaining 5% is a combination of other varietals and it is possible to spot some Typica and Kenya trees. The farm is run using environmentally friendly practices, trying to maintain a balance with the surrounding ecosystem, which is part of a natural fauna corridor crucial for migratory and native birds. This is very important for Ernesto, since La Ilusión is neighbouring one of the most important national parks in El Salvador, known as 'Los Andes'. It is nestled on the Santa Ana volcano and delimits his farm with dense pine and cypress forest which itself provides a special microclimate for La Ilusión.
So last year we bought this at auction for the highest price ever paid (at that time) for an El Salvadorian auction lot. In fact, we bought half the entire lot, more than any other member of the buying group. My number one priority at that time was to also secure this lot for this year and establish a strong relationship with Neto. That resulted in more records broken for us, this is a non-auction coffee with a high price, but it is worth every penny.